A person with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) experiences frequent upsetting thoughts. In an attempt to relieve the anxiety and fear these obsessive thoughts produce, the person is driven to repeat certain rituals. Over time, these complicated rituals may interfere with their job, school, family responsibilities or social activities and make daily activities of life difficult to perform.
About 2.2 million American adult have OCD, with about one-third of them reporting the onset during their childhood. Most children with OCD are diagnosed around age 10, although it can start as early as age two. Boys are more likely to develop OCD before puberty, while girls tend to develop it during adolescence. OCD seems to affect roughly the same number of men and women.
For some, the OCD symptoms may come and go, or ease over time, but a completely symptom-free period is unusual. The good news is that OCD is highly treatable.
Common obsessions include:
- Sickness, germs, dirt, infections, contamination, bodily functions
- Order, precision, symmetry
- Accidentally or deliberately harming self or others
- Household items or items of little value
- Offensive sexual or religious thoughts
- Magical thinking such as lucky numbers and superstitions
Common compulsions include:
- Cleaning (grooming, bathing, toilet habits, laundry, cleaning)
- Checking (doors locked, appliance off, homework completed)
- Counting, touching, tapping or rubbing things in a specific sequence
- Ordering and arranging objects
- Hoarding and collecting things of no value
- Mental (endless review of conversations, counting, praying)
Signs of OCD in Children
It’s common for children to ask parents or other family members to also perform their rituals. Refusal can trigger crying, tantrums, other behavioral issues. This often prompts the family to pursue assessment and treatment.
In other cases, children can be adept at hiding their compulsive behavior since they fear being judged for their thoughts and rituals.
Possible signs of OCD are:
- Raw, chapped or bleeding hands from constant washing
- Long, frequent trips to the bathroom
- Unusually high rate of soap or paper towel usage
- Avoiding touching certain things because they are contaminated
- Holes erased through test papers or homework
- Unproductive hours spent on homework
- Unusually long amount of time getting ready for bed
- Persistent fear of illness
- Constantly checking health of family members
- Reluctance to leave the house at same time as other family members
- Refusal to throw away used items such as gum wrappers or soda cans
- Hiding food in or under the bed or other furniture
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