Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that is typified by uncontrollable and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitious and set behaviors (compulsions) that one feels forced to carry out. If your child is diagnosed with OCD, you will see that his obsessive behavior and thoughts are irrational, yet you surely want him to shrug them off and move on to natural and common behaviors.
OCD makes the brain stop at a particular thought or feeling. For instance, one would keep checking and rechecking to see if the iron has been switched off.
Causes of OCD in kids
Though experts don’t know yet the causes of OCD among kids, yet studies say it could be a mix of biological and environmental reasons.
Biological factors: Children with OCD have low levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter. This causes OCD to develop.
Environmental factors: Certain incidents in the life of a child can trigger OCD who are prone for this disorder. Some of them are:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Significant changes in lifestyle
- Death of someone dearly loved
- Problems or changes related to school
- Parental divorce
- Any other singular traumatic incidents or experiences
Recognizing OCD symptoms in children and teens
Parents and teachers are often perplexed by the strange thoughts and behaviors of children with this condition. It may be tough to recognize the symptoms of OCD as parents may see it as stubbornness. Children and teens who realize that something is wrong with them might also try to hide their symptoms or may not know how to express their secret worries. Parents only see the oddness of their day-to-day behaviors such as spending far too long in the bathroom, or wanting to spend a lot of time on their own in the bedroom or throw tantrums when the child cannot have his or her way.
These symptoms could well vary with time and may also change in the way they make their appearance, thereby complicating diagnosis. At home, kids may find they cannot resist their obsessions and compulsions, though at school they might. Symptoms may also waver, with more symptoms being displayed when the child goes through stress and fewer in peaceful times.
Some of the symptoms of obsessions are germ contamination, worrying endlessly that a particular family member may fall sick or over emphasis with tidiness. Symptoms of compulsion include washing hands over and over again and repetitive thoughts like counting silently, repeating words that the child feels he must complete.
OCD should never be left untreated, as it could lead to serious limitations in the child’s life, such as friendships with school mates, day-to-day functioning in the classroom and his or her role in the family. It’s not uncommon for depression to develop now.
When the child is under extreme anxiety, is isolated from society and confines himself or herself to just a few activities, he or she may consider self-harm or suicide. In order to make a detailed diagnosis, a trained child psychologist, psychiatrist or pediatric neurologist should collate all relevant information from home, school and the clinic visit.
Medical treatment of OCD in kids
If doctors catch OCD in children early enough, it can be treated well. With a judicious combination of medication and therapy, doctors can treat this condition. Therapy includes using cognitive behavioral therapy. For medication, doctors diagnose selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
A mental health doctor may also suggest family therapy since parents have their own important role to play in treating their child of OCD. Often, children are found to have a co-morbid disorder that also needs to be treated.
Treating OCD at home
Tolerance, patience and sympathy are three huge virtues that parents must exhibit towards their OCD-stricken child. Such an environment may encourage the child to come out of his obsessions and compulsions.
How Parents Can Help
- By understanding what the child is going through:By understanding all that the child is going through and its results will help parents understand the child’s struggles with himself or herself.
- Listening empathetically: When parents listen to all that their children experience can have a powerful impact on the child. Parents truly wanting to help their kid should set their worries aside and wholeheartedly lend their support to their OCD child.
- Praise him for trying hard to resist OCD symptoms: Children with OCD feel disappointed that they hear from their parents only about the mistakes they make. So, if parents can offset that by praising children with OCD for every small good attempt at resisting OCD symptoms, it would go a long way.
- Planning for transition times: An OCD child may want to first complete compulsive behaviors rituals. If family members and parents can anticipate such behaviors, it can help the OCD child to reach school in time and get into bed at night on time.
How School Can Help
An OCD child’s school can go a long way in helping to treat such students so that they form part of the school’s mainstream.
- If parents, teachers and nurses get together to collaborate on developing a nurturing environment for OCD children, it would help.
- The school can also check to see if the child can work successfully in all periods on a particular day.
- Give such children more time to finish their assignments.
- Let the child come late to school, in case he has had episodes at home.
- Outline ways by which teachers can help such children come out of their obsessions or compulsions.
- Teach OCD kids to deal with uncomfortable thoughts.
- If the child refuses to touch pen and pad, let him record his homework.
- Let the child choose from a variety of projects if he cannot begin a task.
- Reduce the quantum of the child’s homework so that he does not feel overburdened as this might bring on the symptoms of OCD.
- If the child has some unresolved academic issues, the teacher must expect him to bunk school.
Dealing with a child who suffers from OCD, is far from difficult. All you need to do is be patient and endearing. Remember that even a child who has OCD, is still a child, and needs all the love and nurturing that he deserves!