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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Children

​People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may be preoccupied with repetitive thoughts or actions that, to the outsider, may seem foolish and illogical. These recurring ideas (obsessions) and repeated actions (compulsions) are uncontrollable, and can upset their lives. Ultimately, they can disrupt the normal functioning of their families. In about one-third to half of people with obsessive-compulsive disorders, symptoms begin in childhood and adolescence.

OCD symptoms in children

Children with obsessive-compulsive behavior may excessively wash their hands or brush their teeth. They may be driven to check things repeatedly, making sure they have packed their homework assignments or their lunch in the morning. They may repeat certain rituals, perhaps entering and exiting a room a particular number of times. They may arrange and rearrange a table setting with great attention to detail, or become concerned with germs, dirt, crime, violence, disease or death in an overly dramatic way.

Most children and adults show similar behavior from time to time. However, with OCD these habits interfere with activities of daily living and relationships. Even at their young ages, these children often recognize that their behavior is unusual. However, if they attempt to control it, they are usually overcome with anxiety and revert to their peculiar rituals for relief.

Knowing that their OCD behavior is not normal, they often try to hide it from family and friends. Many children have these unusual behaviors for many months before they are discovered.

What causes OCD?

Researchers investigating the causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder describe it as a neurobiological disturbance that seems to run in families.

If your child is showing compulsive behavior, talk with your pediatrician, who may refer you to a child mental health professional. Behavioral therapy or medication may be recommended

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12, 3rd Edition (Copyright © 2018 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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