The following article addresses the reality of children who are impacted with OCD. The article is taken from the International OCD Foundation. Their web site is located HERE.
What Is Life Like For Children Who Have OCD?
OCD can make daily life very difficult and stressful for children. OCD symptoms often take up a great deal of a child’s time and energy. This makes it difficult to complete tasks such as homework or household chores. Children worry that they are “crazy” because they are aware their thinking is different than their friends and family. A child’s self-esteem can be negatively affected because the OCD has led to embarrassment or has made the child feel “bizarre” or “out of control.”
Mornings And Evenings Can Be Especially Difficult For Children With OCD
In the morning, they feel they must do their rituals right, or the rest of the day will not go well. Meanwhile, they are rushed to be on time for school. This combination of factors leads to feeling pressured, stressed, and irritable. In the evenings, they feel compelled to finish all of their compulsive rituals before they go to bed. They know they must get their homework done and take care of any household chores and responsibilities. Some children stay up late because of their OCD, and are often exhausted the following day.
Children with OCD frequently don’t feel well physically. This may be due to the stress of having the disorder, or it may be poor nutrition or the loss of sleep. Obsessions and compulsions related to food are common, and these can lead to irregular or “quirky” eating habits. Many children with OCD are prone to stress-related ailments such as headache, or an upset stomach.
Children with OCD have episodes in which they are extremely angry with their parents. This is because the parents have become unwilling (or are unable!) to comply with the child’s OCD-related demands. For example, children with obsessions about germs may insist that they be allowed to shower for hours, or demand that their clothes be washed numerous times or a particular way. Even when parents set reasonable limits, children with OCD can become anxious and angry. However, this anger does not justify physical or verbal abuse between parent and child. If violence or abuse occurs within the home, it should not be tolerated. Professional help should be sought.
Friendships and peer relationships are stressful for those with OCD because they try hard to conceal their rituals from peers. When the disorder is severe, this becomes impossible, and the child may get teased or ridiculed. Even when the OCD is not severe, it affects friendships because of the time spent preoccupied with obsessions and compulsions, or because friends react negatively to unusual OCD-related behaviors.
Children with OCD appear more likely to have additional psychiatric problems than those who do not have the disorder. Comorbidity means having two (or more) separate psychiatric diagnoses at the same time. Below is a list of psychiatric conditions that frequently occur along with OCD:
- Additional anxiety disorders (such as panic disorder or social phobia)
- Disruptive behavior disorders (such as oppositional defiant disorder, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder)
- Learning disorders
- Tic disorders/Tourette’s syndrome
- Trichotillomania (hair pulling)
- Body dysmorphic disorder (imagined ugliness) Sometimes comorbid disorders can be treated with the same medication prescribed to treat the OCD. Depression, additional anxiety disorders, and trichotillomania may improve when a child takes anti-OCD medication.
On the other hand, ADHD, tic disorders, and disruptive behavior disorders usually require additional treatments, including medications that are not specific to OCD. A booklet of this size cannot address all the possible comorbid conditions a child with OCD could have, nor all the possible medication approaches used for these comorbid disorders.
In general, using the smallest amount of medication effective in controlling symptoms, starting low and going slow are common sense approaches. In unusually complicated situations, or in situations where the OCD appears resistant to drug treatment, a consultation with an expert in the area of childhood OCD is warranted.
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