Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in A Child From IL

By: Mike Shery

Sadly, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is seen in as many as 1 in 200 of our children. It usually begins in the teenage years or the early 20s, but it can sometimes be diagnosed in kids who are still in grade school.

OCD thinking is mentally very intrusive, sometimes causing people to question the very notion of freedom of thought. It manifests itself by the presence of intrusive, recurrent and intense thoughts (obsessions) and/or compulsions (behavior) that the sufferer does not want to have because they are so irrational that they make the sufferer feel like he or she is crazy.

These obsessions and compulsions are unwanted by the sufferer and interfere with his or her day-to-day functioning and quality of life. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are unwanted and cause intense anxiety or distress. They are pathological,involuntary,unrealistic and irrational and are not just excessive real life day-to-day worries.

Compulsions, on the other hand, are repetitive actions or rituals (like checking something over and over, hand washing, over-cleaning, hoarding, keeping things in order etc.) or mental acts (like counting, repeating words silently, etc.) that are unnecessary and often, very time-consuming. Usually, the obsession and compulsion are linked; I fear this bad thing will happen if I stop checking or hand washing, so I can't stop, even though it doesn't make any sense. The compulsions are often failed attempts to allay the anxiety induced by the obsessions.

Because these obsessions or compulsions cause very intense and compelling anxiety, they can interfere with the childs normal routine, academic functioning, social activities and relationships. Consequently, if the disorder is not treated early enough, it can have long term psychological consequences.

The thoughts, themselves, may vary with the childs age and even change over time. For example, a younger child may have unyielding thoughts (obsessions) that harm is going to come to himself or a member of his or her family because of an intruder coming through an unlocked door or window. Even after the childs parents may have methodically shown him or her that each area is locked, the child may still compulsively check all the doors and windows (the compulsion) after his parents are asleep.

The fear and urge to check is so compelling and abnormal, that the child may then fear that he may have accidentally unlocked a door or window while doing his last checking, so that he has to compulsively check over and over again. The actual evidence does little to allay the sufferers anxiety. Only the checking itself will do so, albeit for a very short time, until the dread re-surfaces and causes another round of checking.

As another example, an afflicted older child or teen may fear that he will become ill from contaminated knives or forks. To cope with these feelings, he is likely to develop rituals (repetitive behaviors or actions), such as methodically and repetitively wiping off his utensils before he eats, even though the healthy part of his mind tells him it is not necessary.

Research does show that OCD is an actual brain disorder and can run in families. However, a person may also develop it, having no previous family history. Invariably, OCD sufferers feel shame and embarrassment about their symptoms. The anxiety is so irrational and compelling; that kids fear it means they're crazy. Consequently, they can be very reluctant to talk about their very abnormal thoughts and behaviors.

Education and sensitive dialogue between parents and their afflicted children can increase understanding and help parents appropriately support their child. Most kids with OCD can be treated effectively with a combination of cognitive and behavioral counseling and certain medications.

Family support and education can also be central to treatment success. Seeking treatment from a clinical psychologist or other mental health professional is important to better understand the complex problems created by this strange disorder and to get an appropriate evaluation.

Psychology
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