Does your child have "sticky" repetitive thoughts, urges, or images that really bug him or her?
Does your child feel like he or she cannot control these thoughts, urges, or images?
Are these thoughts, urges, or images followed by repetitive behaviors or mental acts that your child feels like he or she has to do according to rigid rules?
Do these thoughts and behaviors get in the way of your child's normal activities at home or at school--or cause a lot of distress?
Does your child try to impose rules related to these thoughts and behaviors on other members of the family?
If you answered yes to one or more of the questions above, your child might be suffering from OCD.
What is OCD?
OCD stands for obsessive-compulsive disorder. The O, or obsession, is a disturbing, doubt-inducing, or scary thought. It enters your child's mind and sticks there becoming a real pest.
The C or compulsion is a repetitive behavior or mental act, which is your child's "answer" to this "pest". The behavior seems like a good "solution" to the disturbing O thought because doing it eases your child's mind temporarily. But, the C or compulsion, is a very short-term solution, and is, in fact, a dangerous trap that only makes the OCD grow!
The Content Doesn't Matter At all
The "classic", or most well-known OCD presentation, revolves around germs and hand-washing. But this is just one presentation among many others, some of which can sound unusual, or even shocking.
Some of the more dramatic sounding presentations can create shame and secrecy in a child or family. An uninformed person might think that a scary, bizarre, or "immoral" presentation is a more severe form of OCD. But that is simply not the case.
Like all anxiety, the only thing that determines the severity is the degree in which it negatively effects your child's daily functioning and well-being.
If a child's OCD revolves around fears that they will stab someone, kill themselves, draw the wrath of God, or any other dramatic or strange sounding presentation ...that in and of itself does not make the OCD more serious than the classic germ/hand-washing presentation.
The severity of OCD cannot be judged by its content! The content in OCD doesn't matter at all. And paradoxically, it is usually based on something that the child really values.
For example, if a child highly values peace, their OCD could bother them with violent thoughts, urges, or images. These thoughts in no way would reflect the child's essential nature--quite the contrary. The child would, in fact, be the least likely person to act on such content and be most disturbed by it. And that would be the very reason this particular child's OCD would have grabbed onto such content.
The O or obsession is merely a disturbing thought, urge, or image that has gotten stuck in your child's brain. We all regularly think random "crazy" or disturbing thoughts. Those without OCD merely let these types of thoughts drift right on by, paying them little heed. But OCD makes such thoughts stick, repeat, and regularly disturb the sufferer.
How is OCD treated?
OCD is treated using Exposure and Response Prevention or ERP. For more on ERP, see the FAQ'S page. The goal is to disrupt OCD's rigid pattern by responding differently to it. Your child and family will be given cognitive and behavioral tools to help you do that. As in any anxiety disorder, there is no "magic wand", but with know-how, family support, and determination, your child can manage OCD!
Helping Anxious Kids is here to support your family. If you are seeking anxiety treatment for your child and my approach resonates with you, schedule an appointment today.