OCD Symptoms in Children [Video]

Symptoms of OCD in children are not different from those of adults, and they are often marked by obsessive thoughts and fears, such as fear of achievement. Find out why OCD behavior is designed to ward off fear with help from a licensed mental health counselor in this free video on psychological disorders.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) in which a person engages in repetitive behaviors (compulsions) aimed at reducing anxiety. It is important for individuals and family members to understand what the compulsions are to reduce the obsessive-compulsive symptoms and increase treatment success. Experts believe that OCD is related to levels of insufficient serotonin. The evidence is strong that OCD is also caused by biology or environmental stressors. Research suggests that OCD does run in families and that genes play a role in the development of brain disorder. Factors that may increase the risk of developing or onsetting obsessive-compulsive disorder include family history, stressful life events, brain illness or injury, and pregnancy. Obsessive-compulsive disorder may accompany anxiety, perfectionism, guilt, phobias, anger and aggressive behavior. If OCD is not treated, symptoms of OCD can progress to the point that the sufferer’s life becomes consumed, debilitating their ability to keep a job and maintain important relationships. Evidenced-based treatment consists of exposure-response prevention therapy.

Different forms obsessions

  • Contamination obsessions
  • Religious obsessions
  • Morbid obsessions about sex or harm
  • Obsessions of harm, loss, or embarrassment
  • Superstitious or magical obsessions
  • Body-focused obsessions
  • Perfectionistic obsessions
  • Neutral obsessions

Contamination obsessions

  • Concerns of disgust with bodily waste or secretions
  • Excessive concern with environmental contaminants like asbestos or radiation toxic waste
  • Excessive concern with household items
  • Excessive concern with animals
  • Bothered by sticky substances or residues
  • Concerned will get ill because of contaminant
  • Concerned will get others ill by spreading contaminant (aggressive)

Religious obsessions

  • Excessive concern with right/wrong, morality
  • Concerned with sacrilege and blasphemy

Aggressive obsessions

  • Fear of harming self or others
  • Fear will harm someone because not careful enough like hit/run accident
  • Violent or horrific images
  • Fear of blurting out obscenities
  • Fear will steal things
  • Fear of doing something embarrassing
  • Fear will be responsible for something else terrible happening like a fire
  • Images of hurting your children

Sexual obsessions

  • Sexual images or thoughts of forbidden or perverse thoughts, homosexuality, or involving children/incest
  • Sexual behavior towards others (aggressive)

Somatic obsessions

  • Excessive concern with body part or appearance
  • Concern with illness or disease

Obsession with the need for symmetry or exactness

  • Having things orderly and symmetrical
  • Putting things in order or arranging things until it feels right
  • Obsessions related to perfectionism and concern about exactness or fear of losing things

Miscellaneous obsessions

  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Lucky/unlucky numbers
  • Fear of losing things
  • Bothered by certain noises or sounds
  • Fear of not saying the right thing
  • Colors with special significance

Compulsions are performed to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessions

  • Decontamination compulsions
  • Hoarding compulsions
  • Checking compulsions
  • Mental compulsions
  • Magical/Undoing compulsions
  • Perfectionistic compulsions
  • Counting compulsions
  • Touching or movement compulsions
  • Body-focused compulsions
  • Grooming impulsions, compulsions
  • Protective compulsions
  • Self-Mutilative compulsions

Cleaning & washing compulsions

  • Excessive or ritualized showering or toilet routine
  • Excessive or ritualized hand washing

Checking compulsions

  • Checking that they did not make a mistake
  • Checking locks, stove, etc.
  • Checking that nothing terrible happened
  • Checking that they did not or will not harm self or others

Hoarding & saving obsessions and compulsions

  • Collecting items which result in significant clutter such as mail, newspapers, sentimental items or other  items and/or garbage

Other compulsions

  • Need to ask, tell, or confess
  • Ritualized eating behaviors
  • Trichotillomania, hair loss or bald spots because of hair pulling
  • Self-damaging or self-mutilating behaviors
  • Excessive list making
  • Mental rituals other than checking/counting
  • Need to tap, touch, or rub
  • Rituals involving blinking or staring
  • Skin lesions because of picking at your skin
  • Demanding reassurances & telling, asking, or confessing to get reassurance
  • Superstitious behaviors
  • Counting

It is necessary to get help when you recognize that the symptoms take up more than one hour a day or cause marked distress or significant impairment in your life.