What Is Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition that causes kids to have unwanted thoughts, feelings, and fears. These are called obsessions, and they can make kids feel anxious. To relieve the obsessions and anxiety, Obsessive-compulsive disorder leads kids to do behaviors called compulsions (also called rituals).
What Are Obsessions?
These are fears that kids with Obsessive-compulsive disorder can’t stop thinking about. They may realize their thoughts don’t make sense, but they still feel anxious about certain things.
These fears might include whether:
- they, or someone else, will get sick, hurt, or die
- they said a bad word, had a bad thought or made a mistake
- they have broken a rule, done a bad thing, or sinned
- something is clean, dirty, or germy
- something is straight, even, or placed in an exact way
- something is lucky or unlucky, bad or good, safe or harmful
What Are Compulsions?
Compulsions (rituals) are behaviors that kids with OCD do repeatedly. OCD causes kids to feel they have to do rituals to “make sure” things are clean, safe, in order, even, or just right. To kids with OCD, rituals seem to have the power to prevent bad things from happening.
Rituals include things like:
- washing and cleaning
- often erasing things, re-writing, re-doing, or re-reading
- repeating a word, phrase, or question much more than necessary
- going in and out of doorways several times in a row
- checking to make sure a light is off, a door is locked, or checking and re-checking homework
- touching or tapping a certain number of times, or a set way
- having things in a specific order
- counting to a certain ‘good’ number, avoiding “unlucky” numbers
Why Do People Get OCD?
Scientists don’t yet know why people get OCD, but they know biological factors play a role. Kids may get OCD because it’s in their genes or they had an infection. There may be differences in brain structures and brain activity in people with OCD. But whatever caused OCD, it’s not the child’s or parent’s fault.
What’s It Like for Kids With OCD?
Kids don’t always talk about the fears and behaviors OCD causes. They may feel embarrassed or confused about their fear and keep it to themselves. They may try to hide rituals they do. They may worry that others will tease them about their fears and rituals.
Kids with OCD feel unable to stop focusing on their obsessions. They feel like they have to do the rituals to guard against bad things they worry could happen. For some kids, doing a ritual is the only way they feel “everything’s OK.”