The onset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in children is qualitatively different from the onset of OCD in older teens and adults. Preschool children with Obsessive Compulsive disorder and elementary age children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder present very differently than adults because the daily experiences of these young children take place in environments corresponding with their developmental stages (for example, home playing with sibling vs. at workplace).
Parents of children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may not see traditional OCD symptoms like hand washing, triple checking to see if stoves/irons are turned off and quadruple checking to verify that the garage door is closed. Rather, parents of young children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may observe that the child has an intense need to always have “one up” or the better position when relating with a younger sibling. A parent of a child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may witness severe tantrums when the parent asks the child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to stop playing and to pickup her backpack and shoes. A parent of a child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may wonder why the child has wardrobe choices that include only two or three tagfree, soft, very worn clothing items paired with one isolated pair of shoes. As one may see, these situations are developmentally different from older teens and adults.
Parents of Children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may notice that their child’s food preferences include only limited ala carte items among which white flour carbohydrates and white sugars are prevalent. This child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may only wish to eat items like macaroni and cheese, crackers, cheese pizza, chicken nuggets and candy. Under conditions of anxiety, the body does have this tendency to crave these foods, even though such choices are not healthy and may make anxiety worse in the long run.
Playtime for children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder often involves routines, patterns, line-ups, intolerance for interruptions, solitary styles, and intense focus and attention. The child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may not play with her dolls in a traditional way by taking time to feed, hold, talk to and teach her doll. Instead, the child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may repeatedly line her dolls in a strait pattern for an extended time, while focusing very intensely on the task and having a tantrum if interrupted.
Bedtime for the child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may follow a very well planned and meticulous schedule that must stay the same every night. One child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder had to pick up her pajamas and place them at the sink, brush her teeth, put on her pajamas, put her doll in bed, say a prayer 4 times, kiss her doll, have her mom read her a story, kiss her mom 3 times and then have her dad turn off her light. Coupled with tiredness and exhaustion, bedtime can be a very stressful time for parents and children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Certainly, one must keep in mind the world of a child when identifying if that loved child is getting “stuck” in compulsions and rituals. Cinnamon shares in Stuck what a child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder actually experiences. From saying “goodbye” to her mom before work, to playing with her dolls, to doing crafts and art, Cinnamon shares her daily experiences of getting stuck. Stuck will give you the look and feel of what OCD is like from looks like from 3 feet 9 inches, the world-view of a small child.