OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is an anxiety disorder that is common in both children and adults who have a tendency to be anxious. A child who suffers constantly with frightening and worrying thoughts to the point that it affects their life in a negative way is usually a victim of child anxiety. OCD is another disorder that is common in children who are anxious. No matter how much a child wants to stop worrying, they cannot seem to control it.

Child Anxiety and OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects both the thought process and physical tendencies. For example, a child who suffers from anxiety may often become almost obsessed that something could be wrong, dangerous, or dirty. Scary or upsetting thoughts become so severe that the child cannot shake them; they are literally obsessed with the thought that plays over and over in their mind.

If your child already suffers from child anxiety, you know the constant fear and worry that controls your child; he/she may avoid school or social situations when possible. Things that are a normal part of other children’s lives pose a threat to your child, such as making new friends or talking to a teacher. With obsessive-compulsive disorder, a child has a need to put everything in order. They try over and over to put their thoughts in order; this often spills over in to the physical sense where children feel a need to constantly straighten a crooked rug, wash their hands, or even collect items that are of no use.

Children with OCD often perform these “rituals,” such as straightening items or cleaning things, because they are trying to comfort themselves with the thought that if everything is “just right,” bad things won’t happen.

Do All Children With Anxiety Issues Suffer From OCD?

Child anxiety is a condition that many children deal with today, but whether or not a child develops obsessive-compulsive disorder depends on a number of factors. The level of anxiety is one thing that is considered; children with OCD have an extremely high level of anxiety that makes him/her dwell on thoughts or actions over and over again to the point that it almost controls their life. These children often feel that repeating thoughts or actions over and over again will somehow do away with an uncomfortable or worrying thought, although they usually realize this won’t remove the thought or feeling that is making them anxious. Even so, they cannot seem to stop the thoughts or actions.

Levels of serotonin in the brain are often related to child anxiety, but children and adults experience anxiety on different levels. OCD is thought to be hereditary, and it is estimated that in the United States approximately 1% of children suffer from the disorder. The rituals associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder often cause an already anxious child to become even more distressed, and often interferes with everyday life.

While children who already suffer from anxiety issues are at an increased risk of developing OCD, not all do. There are certain obsessions/compulsions that will become obvious if your child begins to suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What Triggers OCD, and How Can You Tell if Your Child Has It?

There are several things that can trigger obsessive-compulsive disorder in children; really anything that raises their stress and anxiety level. With child anxiety, children tend to worry about or become frightened of everyday, ordinary events such as playing at recess or that a parent will forget to pick them up from school. However, OCD is usually triggered by changes in life that are more significant, such as parents divorcing, the death of a loved one, or moving to a new neighborhood.

Children often have other disorders that occur with OCD, such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), depression, or even learning disabilities. Some of the other symptoms that may alert you to a problem include:

  • Compulsive hair pulling (trichotillomania)
  • Constant fear that someone will become sick, or that something bad will happen to someone
  • Repetitive hand washing and chapped hands from the frequent washing
  • Grades or test grades suddenly drop
  • Unusual need for order and symmetry
  • Fear of dirt or germs, which often leads to constant hand washing
  • Becoming obsessed with cleaning – rituals may include cleaning items or objects in the home
  • Child may ask parent or sibling to answer the same question or repeat something over and over

Child anxiety and OCD do not always go hand-in-hand, but when they do, you need to know what type of treatment your child needs. Today, many doctors are quick to give out prescription medications, but this simply masks the problem and does nothing for the underlying issues.

In order for a child with OCD to get over their obsessions and compulsions, it is necessary for the child to first change the behavior, then change the thoughts and feelings about these behaviors. Behavioral therapy is the most positive way to reduce the anxiety and help children develop positive thought patterns that are not frightening or worrisome. When children realize that no disastrous outcome will manifest from the scary thoughts and feelings they have, they will begin to recognize that there is no reason to worry about or be frightened of many of the “monsters” that have caused them to be anxious.

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