The term “OCD” is often misdiagnosed for someone who has a strict morning routine or keeps an organized office.
According to Irina Gorelik, a child psychologist at Williamsburg Therapy Group.
“If one of us has a disturbing thought, we could potentially move on,” she says. “But for someone with OCD, it causes a really distressing response and so they want to engage in thought-busting behavior.”
Think of the two-part trouble, Gorelik says:
- Obsession: intrusive thoughts, urges or images, which cause distress and are unwanted
- Compulsion: the behavior used to reduce the level of distress caused by the obsession
In children, it is usually easy to diagnoseshe says, because he shows up in a noticeable way.
Here are two signs that your child might have OCD and tips on how to support them.
2 signs your child has OCD
They need to be reassured about their safety and yours
Your child may repeatedly ask you if they are okay, even though they are in no obvious or immediate danger. The same goes for their loved ones.
“I’ve had patients who were worried that something bad was happening to their family, so the compulsion is to check in on their family repeatedly,” she says. “They might say ‘I love you’ but not in a normal way, in a way that makes it seem like they need to say it.”
Some other symptoms to watch out for include:
- A fear of germs and compulsive hand washing
- Constant worry about getting sick
- Excessive adhesion. For example, they don’t want to go to a slumber party because they think something might happen to you or them if you’re not together.
They need to be reassured that they didn’t hurt anyone
Just as a child with OCD may worry about themselves or hurting their family, they may also worry about hurting others.
Some specific symptoms may include:
- Confessing a bad thought, like swearing or hurting someone.
- Asking “Do you still love me?” Many times
I’ve had patients who feared something bad would happen to their family, so the compulsion is to check in on their family repeatedly.
Some Parents Actually Nurture OCD Anxiety
For diagnosis, Gorelik says these obsessions and compulsions usually take time. They can take an hour or more a day.
The compulsion acts as a “band-aid” on the obsession, Gorelik says. And as a parent, you might want to comfort your child.
“It may come naturally to parents to reassure their children and say, ‘You’re not hurt. No one is hurting you,’ but that actually fuels the anxiety,” she says.
It would be more helpful to tell your child that it’s okay to be worried and that you can sit with that worry and choose not to engage in a compulsion.
For example, the thought that your parents might be in danger is obviously anxiety-provoking. But that doesn’t mean you have to call your parents every 10 minutes. Let the feeling pass.
“Learn to sit with the thoughts and tolerate the thoughts,” she says.
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