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  • Writer's pictureDr. Tarra Bates-Duford

OCD & Children: 6 Potential Causes

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized as a psychiatric disorder in which a person experiences obsessions or recurrent, persistent thoughts or images that are intrusive, inappropriate, and cause distress. OCD is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages, gender, racial/ethnic backgrounds, religions, and walks of life. OCD typically occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Persons struggling with obsession experience marked challenges or an inability to stop thinking about a particular issue or feeling a certain emotion without a high amount of anxiety. Individuals struggling with obsessive thoughts or actions do so (unconsciously) in order to avoid the consequent anxiety. Individuals diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder may not have both obsession and compulsions; they can have one or the other, or both. Unlike obsessions, compulsions are characterized as behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.

OCD can present itself in different ways in different people, e.g., repetitive washing of hands, checking to ensure you have turned the stove off, taking the same exact route to work or the day will not end well, repeatedly checking the from door to make sure it is locked, etc. OCD can range between mild, moderate, to chronic. OCD not only affects the individual sufferer but those that love them. OCD can be extremely terrifying and difficult to understand for the individual sufferer as he/she struggles to understand why they experience intrusive thoughts, engage in repetitive behaviors, and are unable to stop despite multiple attempts. Family member of persons struggling with OCD often feel powerless to help, intervene, or stop their loved ones distressing behaviors. From the outside looking in many partners and family members of persons with OCD struggle with understanding why the individual “won’t simply stop the repetitive behaviors”, “act normally”, or “think more positively”. The belief that the sufferer can just “will” himself/herself into stopping the behaviors or changing their thoughts can lead to familial conflict and discord. However, one of the most important things to remember is that while OCD is a chronic illness, it is equally a very treatable medical and psychological condition that can be treated with success. Family members and romantic partners can play an integral role in treatment process by providing understanding, compassion, love, and support to persons that are struggling with the disorder.

Unfortunately, many partners and family members do not know how to help their loved ones; many do not have understanding of the disorder to intervene in a meaningful way. The illness can be very confusing for all involved and can put a strain on family relationships. OCD can lead to challenges in the sufferer’s family life, social life, work life, and individual functioning. It should be noted, working with individuals struggling with OCD depends on the relationship you have with the individual, the age of the individual sufferer, and cognitive abilities of the sufferer. Child sufferers of OCD can be especially difficult for parents as many report feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, anger, resentment, frustration, and embarrassment with both understanding as wells as assisting their children with managing the disorder.

Symptoms of OCD in Children Can Include:

  • Frequent thoughts that his or her parent will be hurt or killed

  • Excessive preoccupation with germs, dirt, illness

  • Expresses repeated doubts, such as whether the stove is turned off

  • Unreasonable attention to detail

  • Excessive preoccupation with symmetry, order, and exactness

  • Intrusive thoughts of something bad happening

  • Frequent thoughts to remember details or trivial content

Examples of OCD in children may include:

  • Excessive hand washing, hand wringing

  • Constant checking to ensure the door is closed or the stove is off

  • Rigidly follows self-imposed rules of order like arranging personal items in room in a particular way and becoming very upset if someone disrupts the arrangement

  • Repetitive counting

  • Excessive need for order

  • Repeating words spoken by self or others

  • Repeating sounds, words, numbers, or music to him- or herself

Potential Causes OCD in Children:

  • Abuse/trauma

  • Parental divorce

  • Death of a close family member or friend

  • Drastic changes in living environment

  • Significant illness

  • School-related changes or issues

Treatment for OCD in children depends upon the physician’s assessment of the child which may include:

  • Physical examination

  • Symptoms/ severity of symptoms

  • Cognitive ability

  • Tolerance level for certain medications

  • Childs overall health/healthy

  • Tolerance for certain therapy strategies

  • Expectations for future course of the disorder

Educating yourself about OCD is essential for helping parents, partners, and loved ones manage negative feelings associated with the disorder. When a child or a partner suffers from OCD, it can place an enormous strain on the familial and romantic relationship. Rather than enjoying one’s time together, creating happy memories and experiences couples and parents struggling with OCD often drift a part, experience resentment, confusion, and disappointment with partner and the relationship. Unfortunately, some families and partners find the stress caused by OCD simply too much to bear, leading to dysfunctional communication or a breakdown of the relationship.

Treatment for OCD must be delivered with compassion, consistency, and patience. There is no quick way to deal with OCD; hence, the reason exposure therapy works so well with managing symptoms related to anxiety that maintains the disorder. Exposure therapy is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy technique that is often used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD) and phobias. Exposure therapy is a safe and proven technique when used by an experienced, licensed therapist who specializes in these kinds of conditions and treatments. When used properly, scientific research has shown that it can be a powerful method to help a person overcome the anxiety and fear associated with PTSD, OCD, and other phobias.

Exposing someone to their fears or prior traumas without the client first learning the accompanying coping techniques — such as relaxation, mindfulness, or imagery exercises — can result in a person simply being re-traumatized by the event or fear. Therefore exposure therapy is typically conducted once a secure psychotherapeutic relationship has been built with a therapist that is trained and experienced with the technique and the related coping exercises.

When looking to engage in exposure therapy to help treat your PTSD, OCD, or phobia, look for a psychotherapist with experience or a specialty in this kind of psychotherapy. Because of the potential for harm with this specific kind of therapy technique, it is not recommended that a person to be treated by a therapist or other professional who isn’t specifically trained and has a lot of experience in these techniques. It is not something that is as conducive to self-help, or help from a well-intentioned friend to try. When used properly, professionally, and skillfully, exposure therapy is a safe and effective psychotherapeutic technique.

To learn more about OCD, track anxiety levels, as well as develop techniques to manage the disorder you can down the following app:

#ObsessiveCompulsiveDisorder #Children #Symptoms #Communication #Families

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