When Worry Becomes an Obstacle: Addressing OCD in Children

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that affects both children and adults. It’s characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that can be extremely distressing and interfere with daily life. Children with OCD often feel trapped by their thoughts and rituals and find it difficult to function normally. As a result, it’s important for parents, teachers, and healthcare providers to recognize the signs of OCD and provide the necessary support for children affected by this condition.

What is OCD?

OCD is a chronic mental health condition that involves unwanted, intrusive thoughts, and repetitive, ritualized behaviors. Children with OCD may experience obsessions about germs, contamination, safety, or harm to themselves or others. They may also fixate on symmetry, orderliness, or exactness, and perform rituals such as washing hands, counting, or organizing items in a particular way. The obsessions and compulsions are often time-consuming, interfere with normal activities, and cause significant anxiety and distress.

Why is OCD a concern for children?

OCD can be a debilitating condition that interferes with a child’s ability to function normally. For example, a child with OCD may refuse to touch anything that may be contaminated, which makes it difficult for them to participate in school or social activities. They may also spend excessive amounts of time washing their hands or checking things, such as doors and locks, which can cause them to be late for school or miss out on activities. OCD can affect a child’s self-esteem, cause them to feel ashamed or embarrassed, and lead to social isolation.

What can parents and caregivers do to help a child with OCD?

The first step in helping a child with OCD is to recognize the symptoms and seek professional help. OCD is a complex condition that often requires a combination of medication and therapy to manage effectively. Parents and caregivers can support the child by being understanding and patient, reassuring them that their thoughts and feelings are valid, and helping them to develop coping strategies to manage their anxiety.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that is often used to treat OCD. CBT focuses on changing the child’s thinking patterns and behaviors to reduce their anxiety and improve their functioning. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a specific type of CBT that involves gradually exposing the child to their fears and teaching them ways to manage their anxiety without performing rituals.

In addition to therapy, medication may also be prescribed to manage symptoms of OCD. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant that is often used to treat OCD in children. These medications work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, which can help to reduce anxiety and improve mood.


OCD is a challenging condition that can negatively affect a child’s life. However, with the right treatment and support, children with OCD can learn to manage their symptoms and live a full and happy life. It’s important for parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers to recognize the signs of OCD and provide the necessary support to help children overcome this obstacle. Remember, the most important thing is to be patient, supportive, and understanding towards children with OCD as they work towards managing their anxiety and moving forward.