Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterised by the presence of persistent and unwanted thoughts, known as obsessions, and repetitive behaviours or mental acts, known as compulsions. These symptoms can significantly interfere with a person's daily life, causing distress and impairment. OCD can affect people of all ages, including children.
However, the presentation of symptoms in children may differ slightly from that in adults. Here are the general symptoms of OCD and how they might present in children:
Obsessions are intrusive and distressing thoughts, images, or urges that repeatedly enter a person's mind. Common obsessions in children may include fears of contamination, harming others, making a mistake, or experiencing a tragedy.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or mental acts that an individual feels driven to perform in response to their obsessions. The purpose of these compulsions is to reduce anxiety or prevent a feared event. In children, compulsions might manifest as behaviours like excessive handwashing, checking locks, counting, repeating phrases, or arranging objects in a specific order.
Need for Symmetry and Exactness
Children with OCD might also display a strong need for things to be symmetrical or arranged in a specific way. For example, they might feel compelled to align their belongings perfectly or to complete tasks in a particular order.
Children with OCD may attempt to avoid situations that trigger their obsessions or anxiety. For instance, a child with contamination obsessions might avoid touching certain objects or people or may avoid situations [e.g. playdates, birthday parties]
Distress and Impairment
OCD symptoms can cause significant distress and interfere with a child's daily activities, school performance, and social interactions. They may spend a considerable amount of time engaging in their rituals or obsessions, leading to disruption in their routines and functioning.
Children with OCD may experience a range of emotions, including anxiety, fear, guilt, and shame, in response to their obsessions and compulsions. They might be aware that their behaviours are irrational but, out of fear, still feel compelled to perform them.
Onset and Course
The onset of OCD in children can occur gradually, and it often becomes more noticeable when the child reaches school age. Symptoms may vary in frequency and intensity over time. However, if left untreated OCD symptoms can persist into adolescence and adulthood.
It's important to note that some level of ritualistic behaviour or repetitive thoughts can be typical in childhood, but what differentiates OCD is the intensity, frequency, and distress associated with these symptoms. If you suspect that your child is exhibiting symptoms of OCD, it's recommended to seek help from a qualified mental health professional who can provide a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment options, which might include Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and, in some cases, medication. Early intervention can be crucial in managing and alleviating the impact of OCD on a child's life.
At NorthStar Counselling & Therapy Centre we have a team of therapists who can help support your child or teen with OCD symptoms to work through their anxieties. Check out our team-https://www.northstartherapy.ie/about
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