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OCD in Children - A Child's Story and How Parents Can Help

Updated on February 15, 2013

Many people use the term OCD without really understanding what it actually means, or what OCD stands for (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Some believe that being “OCD” means being a neat freak. Others, in their effort to describe their “perfectionist” personality, refer to themselves as OCD’s. If they only knew!

OCD is horrible! It has the potential of destroying lives. OCD in children is especially disturbing.

My OCD started when I was about 8 years old. At that age, I couldn’t really explain what was going on. I just knew I felt an immense anxiety if my rituals were not performed. By rituals I mean things such as closing the door 16 times, washing my hands 16 times, picking up a fallen object 16 times, etc. Sixteen was the number chosen to do almost everything (4 x 4). The anxiety mostly came from thinking that, if my rituals were not performed, something bad would happen to me, or to anyone I loved. This was hell! At my young age, I felt responsible for my whole family’s well being. I thought that if anything bad happened, it was because I must have done something wrong.

Did you ever see the movie “As Good As It Gets”, with Jack Nicholson? I felt somewhat identified to his character. I couldn’t step on any cracks on the ground. If I did, I would feel a burning sensation on my feet until I went back and retraced my steps in order to avoid the crack.

I knew doing this wasn’t normal. I didn’t see any of my friends doing this type of thing at school. Therefore I would hide whenever possible to do this. I didn’t want people to think I was weird. Thankfully, my mother noticed there was something wrong when she saw my hands bleeding from all the washing I would do. She knew something wasn’t right. She talked to me, but at that age, I didn’t really know how to explain what was going on. My mother, frustrated with my newly acquired activities, started watching my every step. Whenever she saw me engage in any of these behaviors, she would stop me right away. I am so thankful for that! My odd behaviors stopped significantly.

Parents, if you see your child struggling with any behaviors that appear to be OCD (repetitive activities, extreme washing of hands, retracing steps), help them! Don’t let them continue! At first, it will be painful, and they may even cry, because the anxiety felt is incredibly high (It’s similar to a burning sensation inside the chest). But, believe me, they want the help, and they will thank you their whole life for helping them. Of course, all this blocking has to be done in the most loving way possible. Explain to them that things don’t need to be done more than once in some cases. If they cry, hug them and try to redirect their attention to another activity.

People with OCD realize their behaviors are odd, and are ashamed to reveal the reasons behind these behaviors. We know they make no sense. If we say them out loud, they sound ridiculous (Such as: “If I don’t wash my hands 16 times, my best friend is gonna die.”) Therefore, encourage your child to talk to you as much as possible about what is going on in his head. Ask him to tell you why he is doing such things, and assure him that you won’t think his reasoning is ridiculous. This serves as therapy. I went through that, and my mother’s patience helped me tremendously during this difficult time.

I can’t say I’m completely cured. If I had to use a number, I would say 95% of my OCD is gone. However, I still struggle with some of these recurring thoughts and behaviors. Sometimes, when terribly stressed, I do go back to doing things more than once. But life is a lot more livable now!

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    • yankeeintexas profile image

      yankeeintexas 6 years ago from Lubbock, Texas

      Excellant! My stepson has OCD, and ODD (Oppositioal Defient Diorder) which can make living with him a struggle at times. I am glad that their individual talking about their OCD so parents can help their children!

    • Silver Q profile image
      Author

      Silver Q 6 years ago

      Thank you yankeeintexas! I know first hand that OCD can make life very difficult at times for the individual as well as for the family.

    • jm72writes profile image

      jm72writes 6 years ago from Missouri

      A great article about something that most people can't understand. Thank you for giving us a look at what it's really like. Hopefully, it will help everyone be more understanding.

    • Silver Q profile image
      Author

      Silver Q 6 years ago

      Thank you for your kind words, jm72writes!

    • OCDKids profile image

      OCDKids 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Thank you for writing such an informative article introducing people to OCD. It is so vital for parents to recognize the symptoms, seek treatment and provide emotional support as soon as possible. OCD is a horrible, terrifying disease which is poorly understood by the general population. I have a 12 year old with severe OCD and each day is a struggle for our family. Your article will raise that awareness and for this I am grateful.

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