OCD is tricky and can sometimes go undetected. The good news is that the treatment, especially if started when the child is young, is highly effective.
Treatment for OCD is very specialized. It is very important that your child gets help from a licensed professional who has specific training in the treatment of OCD.
How Do I Know if My Child Has OCD?
It may help to review the list below and assess whether your child experiences any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent, disturbing worries, doubts, or fears?
- Unreasonable, repetitive religious rituals?
- Uncontrollable, inappropriate thoughts or mental images?
- Habits or patterns of behavior that interfere with daily life?
- A tendency to ask repeatedly for reassurance?
- A need to do things “just right?”
- Problems with frequent lateness or slowness?
- Repetitive urges to wash, organize or check?
- Urges to hoard useless objects?
- A tendency to avoid certain places or activities?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, please consider making an appointment to have your child further assessed by one of our therapists.
OCD is not a result of poor parenting, or a disorder that the child can easily control. OCD is a health condition that requires treatment (just like asthma) and the parents (or guardians) play an important role in helping their child feel better.
So what exactly is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent obsessions or compulsions that are severe enough to be time consuming (more than one hour per day), cause distress, or interfere with a child’s normal routine, academic functioning, social activities or relationships.
Obsessions are persistent fears or doubts and upsetting thoughts or images that a
child cannot ignore or dismiss. These thoughts are not simply excessive worries.
Compulsions are repetitive actions or rituals intended to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessions. The relief is temporary, however, because performing compulsions ultimately reinforces the obsessions. Some compulsions are physical, such as washing, checking, tapping, or walking in a certain pattern. Others are mental, such as silent counting or compulsive praying.
OCD usually involves both obsessions and compulsions, but it is possible for a child with OCD to have one or the other. OCD consists of an ongoing cycle of performing compulsions to reduce anxiety, but the anxiety will always come back without learning and using effective techniques to address it.
The signs and symptoms of OCD vary in both type and severity among children and
can begin as early as age two. Younger children may not recognize that their beliefs or actions are illogical; those who do are often secretive about their symptoms. For this reason, OCD often goes unrecognized and therefore undiagnosed. Without treatment, OCD is usually a lifelong problem with symptoms improving and worsening periodically.
What is the cause of OCD?
OCD is a neurobiological illness. Although the precise cause is not fully understood, the disorder appears to be at least partly genetic. Scientists are studying the ways that specific structures in the brain of people with OCD communicate differently. Stress does not cause OCD, but it can trigger its onset, or make it worse.
Research shows that for some people with OCD, brain functioning can be improved with the correct treatment.
What kind of Treatment Will Help My Child?
The good news is that there is an effective treatment that works!
At CFCE, we specialize in treating people of all ages who have OCD utilizing Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy also known as ERP or EX/RP.
Many of our therapists have completed intensive training in the use of Exposure and Response Prevention (EX/RP) Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at the Behavior Therapy Training Institute through the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), and The Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania, in addition to other advanced trainings. We also provide education for other therapists about working with children with OCD.
ERP is a structured, paced approach to helping children understand and manage their OCD. It involves helping children approach their fears through planned exposures. With children, we use playful strategies to accomplish the exposure therapy. These are activities that initially trigger anxiety but with time help the child experience less anxiety. We work at the child’s pace and put them in charge of their treatment. We find ways to motivate them to do the work so that they can feel better.
For example, for a child with contamination fears, we might work on touching ‘contaminated surfaces’ such as doorknobs. The designed exposures respond directly to what the child worries about (the obsessions). We involve the family in planning to practice exposures at home.
We also help the child to NOT respond to the compulsions by doing them differently and/or reducing the time they engage in these behaviors, with the goal of helping them stop altogether. For example, if a child believes that they need to check the lock on the door 5 times before bedtime (harm obsession), we might start out by having them reduce the number of times they check it.
Another important aspect in the treatment of children is family involvement. Children with OCD often rely on their parents to reassure them or to accommodate them by doing special things to reduce their anxiety. Of course, all parents want their child to feel less worried, so this makes total sense until you better understand OCD.
An example of this is when a parent of a child with ‘contamination’ OCD washes the child’s utensils several times before eating because their child is anxious about the germs. We help the parents with how to respond to the child positively while not ‘giving in’ to the OCD. Treatment usually involves all of the household members so that everyone can offer support to the child.
What’s the next step in getting help?
Our goal is to help your child return to a fun, less stressful life where they can play, learn, and spend time with family without feeling distressed. We will work together to develop a treatment plan that meets your child’s needs. Please write or call us today to get the help your family deserves.