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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder & Children

Also called: OCD & Children

- Summary
- About child OCD
- Risk factors and causes
- Signs and symptoms
- Diagnosis methods
- Treatment options
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Steven A. King, M.D.
Tahir Tellioglu, M.D., APA, AAAP


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) occurs in people who have persistent thoughts they cannot control (obsessions) and/or perform certain actions repeatedly (compulsions) in an attempt to relieve anxiety. OCD causes severe discomfort and interferes with day-to-day functioning. This condition typically begins in early childhood or adolescence. About one in every 200 children has OCD, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

OCD is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by two major symptoms: obsessions and compulsions. Some children experience both of these symptoms, whereas others experience just one.

An example of OCD occurs when a child repeatedly worries about someone breaking into a bedroom and checks over and over to make sure the windows are locked. Or, a child may become paralyzed by fear of contracting a disease and may repeatedly wash the hands to get rid of germs.

Scientists do not completely understand the exact cause of OCD. However, growing evidence suggests that chemical imbalances in the brain play a major role in the disorder. Heredity is also believed to play a role in the development of the disorder.

Typically, parents or caregivers do not seek medical attention until their child’s behavior becomes disruptive to the child’s life. If a physician suspects OCD, the child may be referred to a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professional.

Although there is no cure for OCD, certain treatments – such as a combination of psychotherapy and medications (e.g., antidepressants) – are important to help control symptoms. A form of cognitive behavior therapy known as exposure and response prevention involves gradually exposing patients to stimuli that trigger obsessive or compulsive thoughts and teaching new ways to deal with these thoughts.

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Review Date: 06-27-2007

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