Obsessive compulsive disorder in children. Childhood OCD

Obsessive compulsive disorder in children. Childhood OCD

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The obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder, in which children generally present obsessions and compulsions, although these two characteristics do not always occur, but only one.

Obsessions are recurring ideas, impulses or mental images that the child has inadvertently (he cannot avoid them even if he does not like them) and that cause him great anxiety. These are not just worries about problems in everyday life. The child tries to ignore or suppress these obsessions and generally recognizes that they are a product of his mind and are not real.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors: washing hands, ordering things, making sure of things; or mental actions: counting, repeating words or praying that the child feels compelled to do to reduce the anxiety generated by the object of his obsession.

Compulsions, unlike tics and manias, are carried out consciously: the child fights against them, but is assailed by the fear that, if he does not do them, something terrible will happen to him. The compulsions or rituals are totally out of his control and completely dominate the child, who feels, over and over again, the need to repeat them.

In order to diagnose obsessive compulsive disorder, the child must recognize, at least on some occasion, that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or absurd.

The most frequent obsessions are those that are accompanied by laundry behaviors. OCD in children is very similar to that in adults. In fact, there are more similarities than differences.

In a study carried out in Spain on a large sample of children, they found that the most frequent obsessions were those related to the fear of contamination, the fear of hurting oneself or others (usually a close relative), aggressive obsessions , and those of symmetry and order. The most frequent compulsions, on the other hand, were those of excessive or ritualized cleaning or washing, checking, repetition rituals, and counting, ordering or fixing.

In addition, in childhood, atypical obsessions and compulsions frequently occur: rituals when writing or reading, moving and speaking (repeating sounds, words or phrases), etc. These rituals can be mechanical or neutralizing.

Compulsions that resemble tics (repetitive or mechanical, on impulse or to discharge energy) such as touching, brushing, hitting, breathing in a certain way, and winking or grimacing with the face or eyes are also common.

Obsessive-compulsive behaviors are very strongly associated with Tourette syndrome, tics, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, behavior problems, and specific developmental problems.

In this sense, several studies have validated the relationship between obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents. The presence of OCD in a child with ADHD often complicates the course of ADHD.

Alicia López de Fez.
Child psychology
Founder and Director of the López de Fez Psychology Center, in Valencia.
Center website:

You can read more articles similar to Obsessive compulsive disorder in children. Childhood OCD, in the category of Mental Disorders on site.

Video: Parent Video: Treating Childhood OCD (August 2022).