OCD in children
1% of children are thought to have OCD in the UK. The average age of onset is ten years old and it affects girls and boys equally.
What is OCD?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a serious anxiety related condition where individuals experience frequent obsessional and intrusive thoughts (or obsessions), often followed by uncontrollable urges and compulsions.
The frustrating thing about OCD is that very often the child will know that their fears are irrational, but simply can’t control them.
The World Health Organisation have classified OCD in the top 10 of disabling illnesses because the condition can be so powerful that normal daily life can be impossible.
If you think your child or teenager is struggling with OCD, it can be a deeply upsetting and frustrating time. We can help. Our team of child and adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists have the knowledge and training needed to help treat OCD and successful help families like yours every day.
Call 0203 761 7026 to speak to one of our clinical advisors today.
Obsessions are persistent thoughts or worries that can be disturbing in nature and interfere with a child’ ability to perform daily tasks. The obsessions can be so powerful that are impossible to ignore and children with OCD can feel compelled to act out the compulsions (see below).
A key part of obsessions is that they are accompanied by extreme anxiety, making the child experience:
- Nausea / vomiting
- Racing heart beat
- Low mood / depression
Common obsessional thoughts and fears in children include excessive:
- Fear of contamination from other people, objects, clothes, books or food
- Fear of harming someone else
- Concerns about the appearance of homework or themselves
- Doubts about shutting doors, switching off lights, packing school bags etc
- Superstitions that something bad will happen if a certain behaviour is not carried out
- Arranging of item such as shoes, food, toys, items in bedrooms
Compulsions are the second component of OCD and are repetitive physical actions or behaviours, which once carried out alleviate the extremely anxious feelings that the obsessions create.
Common compulsions in children and adolescents include:
- Repetitive washing of hands, hair or the whole body
- Touching certain parts of their body in a ritualised or specific pattern
- Avoiding certain situations
- Cleaning religiously and often starting again if the individual believes they haven’t done a good enough job
- Arranging objects in a certain manner or pattern – disruption of which can be hugely traumatic
- A ritualised bed time routine
- Repetition of certain words, phrases or counting (this can be in audible or silently to themselves)
- Seeking continuous reassurance
OCD is considered a vicious cycle
One of the reasons OCD can be so hard to tackle without professional help is that compulsive behaviours provide only temporary relief from the obsessional thoughts and may end up reinforcing the anxiety cycle.
This is because the reinforce the idea that if the compulsion is carried out, the obsessional fear won’t happen. This cycle is very hard to break without support, which is why we would always urge parents who have concerns about their children to seek help.
Treatment can help children with OCD
The good news is that treatment for OCD in children is available and does work.
It’s important to get a full idea of the struggles your child is going through, as sometimes the anxiety cannot be dealt with properly until any other conditions are being managed.
CBT, talking therapies and medication can all be used to help children and teenagers with OCD. Parenting a child or teenage with OCD can be very stressful and can even cause conflict within the family group. We offer parenting support and family therapy to help support the whole family through the treatment process. Research has shown that this can significantly improve the recovery rate for the child or teenager.
Clinical Partners help hundreds of families, like yours, every year in overcoming anxiety disorders. Call 0203 761 7026 to speak to someone today about how we can help.