Certain rituals and behaviors are a part of normal childhood development, especially between the ages of 3-7. For example, kids normally have certain foods they will and will not eat, go to bed at a certain time or have a specific after school routine. These rituals are normal and should not be confused with OCD.When it becomes a problem is when the behaviors do not go away, become more intense or distressing. When OCD obsessive and compulsive behaviors inhibit them from living normally, it’s time to get some help for that child.
Take for example when a child packs and re-packs their school bag. You will know when it gets out of hand because they must count all of the objects and get upset if you come to correct or interfere with that ritual. Furthermore, if it takes the child a long time to do it, if they get frustrated while doing it and have to start over, you know that the child has some underlying OCD compulsions.
It is not uncommon for OCD to go undetected for some time. Some of this is because it is not normally seen as compulsive or out of control from someone in the situation. Many times it takes an outsider or a confession from the person with the disorder to make it a reality. Children are often embarrassed and secretive in regards to telling a parent the kind of thoughts and obsessions they have. They are afraid of ridicule, or being misunderstood. Parents, teachers and family friends may pick up on the problem if the child shows unhappiness or is impaired by symptoms. If it is brought to your attention by a teacher or outsider, it is always good judgment to get it checked into. It is very easy to have blinders on when you are in the middle of the behaviors. We all make excuses for what behaviors we deem acceptable or normal to us, but OCD behaviors to the point of impairment are not normal. Without help, the child could face a very long and unstable life.
Did you know that at least 50% of adults with OCD remember that their disorder started as a child? It’s true, yet many simply failed to get help as a child. According to studies, the average diagnosis was twelve years after the onset of the illness. What is distressing is that there is evidence that early detection and positive treatment outcomes go hand in hand. It should be treated like any other illness, the earlier it is detected the better chance of success with treating it.
Diagnosing OCD in children usually involves asking a child direct questions about the obsessions and compulsions that they have. Most kids do not reveal them without being asked questions. Doctors will usually consider diagnoses such as depression, other anxiety disorders, developmental disorders such as autism or tic disorders such as Tourette Syndrome. If OCD is discovered, there are several options for the child when it comes to treating the symptoms of this disorder.