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Early Identification and Treatment of Childhood OCD Is Key

Therapy can be key to helping children control their obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Study of childhood OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) is a recent development, as the disorder is often thought of only as an adult problem, but new research now suggests that 1% to 2% of school-aged children suffer from the disorder. If that figure is correct, according to an article in USA Today, that means there are “at least a few in every U.S. elementary and high school.”

OCD is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “an anxiety disorder characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions).” A common fear for OCD sufferers is the fear of contamination, which leads the person to wash their hands so often that they become raw, but the fears can be about anything that can be viewed as harmful, dangerous, dirty.

It is known that there is a genetic component to the disorder, but environmental factors that bring about a lot of stress, such as a divorce, moving, or puberty, can also cause a child’s fears to get overblown and pathologized. According the the article, experts say that most OCD kids don’t have to grow into adults with OCD, though, because treatments are effective up to 85% of the time.

The treatment for OCD is “exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants, such as Zoloft or Prozac” in combination or on their own. Therapy, however, has the most profound effect, with only children suffering from anxiety or depression issues needing the introduction of medication. The good news is that almost half of the children who present with OCD will “achieve a complete remission after a few months of appropriate treatment,” observes Eric Storch, an associate professor at the University of South Florida.

Since many of the most common signs, such as the extreme ritualized behaviors, take years to develop, it may be helpful to know some of the early signs and rationale behind children’s OCD.

Per KidsHealth.org:

“All kids have worries and doubts. But kids with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) often can’t stop worrying, no matter how much they want to. And those worries frequently compel them to behave in certain ways over and over again.”

According to the site, some things to look for that might indicate your child has OCD tendencies are:

• Does your child get upsetting or scary thoughts or images “stuck” in their head that they can’t shake?
• Does your child worry constantly about things being out of order or not “just right”?
• Does he/she worry obsessively about losing “useless” items, sometimes feeling the need to collect these items?
• Does he/she feel the need to do certain things repeatedly in order to make their obsessive thoughts go away, or to make extra sure that something is just right, safe or clean?

I think most parents would recognize harmful patterns in their children’s behaviors, but some specific knowledge about OCD may help a parent discern between a harmless peculiarity and a sign that a deeper issue might be at play. When the success rate of behavioral therapy is so high, a “the more you know” approach makes perfect sense. If you are interested in reading more on childhood OCD, you can find great information on KidsHealth.Org and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry site.

Photo Credit: © Elenathewise – Fotolia.com

Read more of Amy’s writing at Bitchin’ Wives Club.
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