Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children & Teens
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that is characterized by the presence of obsessions and compulsions:
- Obsessions: intrusive, distressing, and repetitive thoughts, images, or impulses
- Compulsions: behaviors or mental acts that are aimed at reducing the distress of an obsession
There are many different types of obsessions including, but not limited to:
- Violent or harming obsessions – fear of causing harm or abuse to others.
- Contamination obsessions – fear of germs, contaminants, and serious diseases.
- Sexual obsessions – intrusive fears of sexually abusing one’s children, being gay, etc.
- Religious obsessions (i.e., scrupulosity) – fears of blasphemy, unfounded doubts and fears about salvation, etc.
- Obsessions with the need for symmetry or exactness – ‘just-not-right’ feelings about things not being orderly.
In conjunction with the obsessions, the compulsions:
- Mental Neutralization – analyzing, replaying, trying to think a good thought to try to replace a bad thought, etc.
- Compulsive Behaviors – checking, washing, repeating, etc.
- Avoidance – of places or things that provoke obsessions, etc.
- Reassurance Seeking – repetitive questions or confessions, asking others to make sure things are safe, etc.
People of all ages can be affected by OCD. It is important to note that occasionally having an unwanted, intrusive thought or checking something too many times is something that occurs to nearly everyone that doesn’t mean someone has OCD. However, when the obsessions and compulsions start taking a significant amount of time, create a lot of distress in someone’s life, or keep the person from participating in their normal activities, it is important to seek help. OCD is considered a chronic disorder with a ‘waxing and waning’ course. That means that the symptoms of OCD tend to go through periods of being more and less significant and severe. In fact, sometimes the symptoms may seem to disappear while other times the symptoms can be completely consuming to the person.
The good news is that there are good treatment options for OCD. Learning about OCD and the obsessive-compulsive cycle is the first steps to beating it. Depending on the subtype(s) of OCD someone has and the severity of the OCD, there are a number of evidence-based treatments that can be used.
Information for Parents
Parents’ Guide: How to Help a Child with OCD [Child Mind Institute]
OCD in Kids
This site provides information on the treatment of OCD for children and teens. [IOCDF]
Helpful Videos for Parents on Childhood Anxiety Disorders
In these brief videos, Dr. Aureen Pinto Wagner discusses separation anxiety, generalized anxiety, school refusal, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Help for Family Members and Friends of Someone with OCD
Understanding OCD and how to be helpful support person is the first step toward helping your loved and yourself. [ACCFS]
Freeing Your Child from OCD: A Powerful, Practical Program for Parents of Children/Adolescents
Author: Tamar Chansky
This 354-page book is a very practical resource that is highly recommended to parents of children/adolescents with OCD. It helps parents make sense of the symptoms, become aware of treatments that are beneficial, and helps parents avoid accidentally becoming a part of the obsessive-compulsive cycle.
Breaking Free of Child Anxiety and OCD: A Scientific Proven Program for Parents
The first and only book to provide a completely parent-based treatment program for child and adolescent anxiety. Parents will learn how to alleviate their children’s anxiety by changing the way they themselves respond to their children’s symptoms–importantly, parents are not required to impose changes on their children’s behavior. Instead, parents are shown how to replace their own accommodating behaviors (which allow anxiety to flourish) with supportive responses that demonstrate both acceptance of children’s difficulties and confidence in their ability to cope.
Information for Kids with OCD
Videos for Kids with OCD [Peace of Mind Foundation]
Up & Down the Worry Hill
Author: Aureen Pinto Wagner, Ph.D.
This 48-page book describes OCD from a child’s perspective. It attempts to give children with OCD a sense of control and hope in their lives.
What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck
Author: Dawn Huebner, Ph.D.
This 95-page book is to help guide children ages 8-12 and their parents through the cognitive behavioral techniques used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. This What-to-Do Guide is the complete resource for educating, motivating, and empowering children to work toward change.
Blink, Blink, Clop, Clop: An OCD Storybook
Children can relate their own experiences to a group of farm animals who have obsessive thoughts and compulsions that turn out to be caused by a bullying and mischievous insect named O.C. Flea. O.C. Flea represents the little, intrusive, and worrying voice that often troubles children with OCD. The use of this character makes this complex condition understandable and provides something more tangible for children and their families to fight back against. Without understanding what is happening to them, children with OCD often suffer from difficult feelings like guilt, depression, frustration, or anger.
Information for Pre-Teens and Teens with OCD
This helpful guide is designed specifically for teens and pre-teens. It provides an overview of the causes of this disorder, treatment, and how to talk about it. The brochure also includes stories of kids with OCD. [Beyond OCD]
Take Control of OCD: The Ultimate Guide for Kids with OCD
Author: Bonnie Zucker
A unique guide just for kids ages 10–16 with obsessive compulsive disorder to help them take control of their disorder and find success in school and in life. Using a cognitive-behavioral therapy method to challenge obsessive thinking patterns and promote gradual exposure, the book takes kids step-by-step through a ladder-based process to conquer their fears and demolish their worries.
The Act Workbook for Teens with OCD
This workbook, based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), teaches teens with OCD new skills to handle the stream of pesky obsessions that show up in their mind.
What to Do When Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough: The Real Deal on Perfectionism
Author: Thomas S. Greenspon, Ph.D.
This 137-page book can help parents and children alike in managing the pros and cons of perfectionism. Designed for children around the ages of 9-14 to be able to read themselves; this book can also be an effective parent user manual by helping parents know how to understand and appropriately guide their perfectionist type child.