OCD isn’t just about being squeaky clean.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, more commonly known as OCD, is a mental health condition that affects children, adolescents, and adults around the world. OCD is quite common, as this review found that 0.25%-4% of children and adolescents may develop symptoms.
An official diagnosis is usually made by a mental health professional or licensed healthcare provider. You’ll need a clinical evaluation first because it is unlikely anyone can diagnose themselves with OCD.
OCD is usually accompanied by thoughts, images, or ideas that just won’t go away. These are called obsessions, and they often lead you to act a certain way or complete behaviors known as compulsions. Most of the time, anyone with OCD feels like acting out their compulsions will make them feel better or reduce the obsessive thoughts that is causing them stress.
Evidence tells us that the cause of OCD is unknown. However, some factors have been linked with OCD development in children and adolescents.
These factors include; genetics, brain structure and functioning, and the environment. People who have an immediate family member (e.g., parent, sibling, or child) with OCD are at risk of developing OCD themselves. These people could develop OCD, especially if that family member was diagnosed with OCD as a child or teen.
The connection is still unclear, but some research has linked abnormal brain structure (of the frontal cortex) with OCD symptoms. The environment may also play a role, especially for children who have faced trauma. Children who experience high levels of stress at school and teens who experience stress from their relationships may also develop OCD symptoms.
If there’s anything you should learn right away about OCD, it’s that there’s much we still do not know about its origin. While research continues to discover more details about OCD, there are some cases when OCD can occur suddenly without any warning.
Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) describes a child developing OCD symptoms after a strep infection. PANDAS-form of OCD can be easily identified in children because it happens very suddenly, with no previous symptoms. What’s really happening with the PANDAS-form of OCD is that as a child’s immune system fights off the strep infection, it can grow confused and start attacking a part of the brain called the basal ganglia.
We’ve split up OCD into its main components; obsessions and compulsions. Children and adolescents may experience compulsions from time to time or the urge to double- or triple-check stuff; this does not always mean that they have OCD. The table below shows you a list of the obsessions and compulsions associated with OCD.
|Always repeating words, sounds, or numbers to yourself||Disturbing thoughts about harming others or being violent|
|Frequently arranging things in one particular way||Feeling stressed when things are not arranged a particular way.|
|Completing a ritual (e.g., before bed or every morning) in an exact way every day||Feeling that things should always be “just right”|
|Repeatedly counting things||Extreme worry that you may be sick (a.k.a hypochondria) or get other sick|
|Repeatedly checking the door to see if it’s locked||Extreme worrying that bad things will happen to you or your family.|
The most recommended treatment for OCD is cognitive-behavioral therapy. In other cases, a doctor may recommend a combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
I was diagnosed with OCD at age 8. My obsession was related to breathing and swallowing. I was so obsessed with thoughts of swallowing my tongue at some point. Now, it is almost impossible to swallow your tongue just for the record….
But I was sure I would swallow my tongue any day now.
So what is my go to strategy? I started making fun of my worry out-loud and reminding myself I am NOT my obsessions. When the thoughts occurred, I would tease myself as far as I could without hurting my own feelings “really your gonna swallow your tongue, watch out, maybe you will swallow you whole head, it will just collapse into itself”. I tried to find the humor in my thoughts, and saying them aloud also helped.
So, when you’re anxious, tease yourself a little bit, say the worst of your anxious thoughts out loud. When you hear yourself say it, there’s a high chance that you’ll realize it’s ridiculous and probably won’t happen.
I hope this helps!