OCD in childhood: tips for parents

OCD in childhood: tips for parents

If you are the father of a child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), you may feel alarmed and confused. Your child's behavior is meaningless, and you may not know how to respond to OCD symptoms.


  • 1 What is OCD in childhood?
  • 2 Children's OCD and the family
  • 3 5 tips for parents with children with OCD
  • 4 Effective treatment

What is OCD in childhood?

OCD is a medical condition, such as asthma or an allergy. Its origin is unknown and it is believed that a biological factor is involved in it, specifically an imbalance of serotonin, a brain chemical.

Approximately one in 100 children develops this disorder. When a child has OCD, he processes the information differently, which results in a series of uncontrollable concerns and doubts that we call obsessions. The child perform compulsions (repetitive rituals or habits) in an effort to decrease anxiety caused by those obsessions. But the decrease in anxiety is only temporary, since compulsions reinforce and strengthen obsessions, creating a vicious circle that results in the worsening of OCD.

OCD is diagnosed when obsessions and compulsions are time consuming, cause significant distress, and interfere with daily functioning at school, social activities, family relationships or normal routines. Frequently, obsessive compulsive disorder is difficult to diagnose, because children tend to hide their symptoms due to feelings of confusion and shame.

The children's OCD and the family

When a child has an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, symptoms usually affect the whole family. Siblings may feel confused, guilty, poorly understood and resentful at the same time. Parents often experience feelings of frustration and blame, as your obsessions and compulsions of the child do not respond to reason or common sense.

As a parent, you are in a privileged position to help your child:

  • Understanding the disorder
  • Talking to your son about the subject.
  • Learning to recognize your symptoms.
  • Helping your child gradually change his response to obsessions and compulsions.
  • Finding the right mental health specialists to provide treatment for your child.
  • Supporting your son, not the OCD.

5 tips for parents with children with OCD

1. Learn about OCD

You can help your son explaining what the TOC is and how it affects your thinking. If you do not know what the disorder is, you can learn by looking for information about it. There are excellent books that help children understand it. Some parents avoid using the word TOC, but children are relieved to know that their problem has a name and that there are more people who have the same thing as them.

2. Name the TOC as Mr. Mandón

Often children do not know how to talk about OCD. They are embarrassed by their thoughts, and when you tell them to stop doing a ritual, they may feel that you are attacking them, not the OCD.

Help your child outsource the TOC by giving it a name. You can call him Mr. Concern or Mr. Mandón. Some children like to be creative and create their own names. Some children call him Bug or Mr. Nightmare.

3. Don't be too demanding and don't show all your child's rituals

When your child has a problem, you want to help and fix it immediately. This can cause you to become too enthusiastic in your efforts to beat your child's OCD. Nevertheless, this is the battle of your son. You can offer your help and guidance, but you cannot fix the TOC.

In fact, if you point out every ritual behavior you see in your child, you may unintentionally cause your child to become more reserved about OCD. The OCD is not overcome overnight, but it is a time-consuming process. For example, it may be an achievement at first that your child can identify an obsessive thought and may briefly delay the ritual.

4. Don't be part of their rituals

An area over which you do have control is your participation in the rituals. Some children involve their parents in their rituals, asking them to do certain behaviors. Whenever possible, don't participate in their rituals. You can tell your son: “I will not help Mr. Mandón. You can listen to what Mr. Mandón tells you, but I will not participate. ”

5. Stay alert for new rituals that may arise

Children often get defensive about their rituals, and it is possible that they do not want you to notice a new ritual. Therefore, it is important to be aware of strange or irrational behavior. Often it happens that when one type of TOC behavior has been eliminated, another obsession and compulsion replace it.

That is why it is important to give your child the skills to beat OCD, and not just the specific or ritual behavior he is manifesting at a specific time. If you discover that your child is doing a new ritual, let him know that you are willing to help him beat Mr. Mandón.

Effective treatment

The most effective treatment for childhood OCD is the exposure and response prevention, or a combination of this with drugs.

Exposure and prevention of the response is to expose the child to his obsessions and at the same time, prevent him from performing the compulsion he uses to relieve the anxiety generated by the obsession. Although this technique deliberately induces anxiety, it always does so in a controlled and gradual way in order to help the child control his obsessions and compulsions.

Some children can learn to manage their disorder only with exposure technique and response prevention. Although, many experts consider that the most effective treatment consists in the combination of exposure and response prevention with drug treatment. In many cases, the medication is used temporarily to relieve the symptoms of OCD, and give the child enough time to successfully launch the exposure and prevent response.