Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)The Reynolds Clinic LLC
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Behavioral Challenges Blog

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts which are followed by compulsive behaviors intended to quell the obsessive thoughts. The thoughts are commonly irrational–and seem so even to the sufferer—but they feel helpless because to try and stop the behaviors inevitably triggers massive and overwhelming anxiety. These obsessions and compulsions can take up much of the individual’s day thus interfering with normal functioning.

Recently, actor and comedian Howie Mandel wrote a book about OCD which he has in conjunction with ADHD and although funny in parts (after all, he is a comedian) his story becomes especially poignant when he describes the guilt he feels when he thinks of how his illness has impacted his loved ones. When a child in a family has OCD it can put parents in a difficult position not knowing when to intervene and when to go along with the compulsive behavior in order to avoid a major behavioral meltdown.

Obsessive thoughts frequently lead to predictable compulsive behaviors. Obsessions with dirt and germs or germophobia (what Mr. Mandel frequently suffers from) predictably leads to frequent hand washing or refusing to shake hands. Fear of thinking evil thoughts can lead to excessive religiosity. Excessive doubts can lead to seeking constant reassurance (think of Woody Allen). Fear of losing things can lead to hoarding behaviors.

In children, OCD often finds expression in the need for orderliness or symmetry, in other words, things, particularly objects of some kind–toys, soldiers, cars, etc., need to be organized or lined up in some exact manner often only apparent to the child. Or when playing with peers, he may come across as controlling since things have to be done according to his rules or he will refuse to participate or have a tantrum until everyone complies. Such behavior often leads to social ostracism but the child seems unaffected, since the need for control dominates his consciousness.

Other common OCD behaviors in children have more to do with repetitive behaviors such as repeating specific words, phrases or prayers. Sometimes they need to perform a certain behavior some pre-determined number of times or to reach a certain score or level on a video game and if prevented from doing loses emotional control (see video game addiction).

OCD is another sign that the child is having trouble regulating himself and needs help, not punishment. The treatment of OCD can be greatly enhanced through interventions such as Neurofeedback training since the goal of such treatment is to teach the child self-regulation.

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