OCD often causes distress in not only the person affected but also the family. It, oftentimes, starts in adolescence or young adulthood and involves both thoughts and behaviors that are hard to control. The obsessions are unwanted and intrusive thoughts that occur over and over again. They can lead to extreme distress and anxiety. Compulsions are behaviors that the child does to relieve the distressing thoughts. The problem is that the compulsion may provide an immediate relief in the moment but never any sustained relief because the intrusive, repetitive thoughts continue to return.
Common obsessions might include:
- Worrying about germs or health
- Feeling that things have to be perfect or just right
- Images or thoughts about hurting others
- Fears of bad things happening or of doing something wrong
Compulsions could include:
- Cleaning or washing repeatedly
- Ordering things or putting things together so everything is just right
- Doing things over and over
- Use of special numbers or words, such as always having to read a paragraph three times or get up from a seat twice before finally sitting down
- Asking for reassurance excessively.
Often, children may involve parents or siblings in this cycle of obsession and compulsion. Since interfering with them causes distress, families may support these obsessions in order to reduce the level of distress. There is not a cure for OCD but there are treatments that can help restore children and families to participating in the world with less of a response to the intrusive thoughts and actions. Treatment may include a form of cognitive behavioral therapy known as exposure response prevention in addition to medical treatments.