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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in childhood: common symptoms

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in childhood: common symptoms

November 27, 2021

Although movies and series sometimes present us with OCD in a funny or funny way, the truth is that it is a difficulty that thousands of adults and children have to deal with every day.

Most of the information we know about this alteration comes from adults, although the problem usually appears, in almost half of the cases, during childhood. Why? Very few children who have an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ask for help . They think they are like that, that they can not do anything to solve it. In addition, they often hide the symptoms because they feel confused or ashamed.

  • Related article: "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): what is it and how does it manifest?"

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in boys and girls

Children suffering from OCD suffer obsessions or compulsions that cause them enormous anxiety and discomfort, interfering with their development and their day to day. Their behaviors are egodistonic, preventing the child from reaching their goals and objectives.


But let's define those concepts. Obsessions are disturbing thoughts or images (generally violent) that the person, in this case the boy or girl, can not ignore, and that they generate in him fear and anxiety. They are repetitive and involuntary, interrupting the child's mental activity over and over again.

Compulsions are repetitive, mental or motor acts , which aim to alleviate the anxiety and discomfort caused by obsessions. Children self-generate this "solution" that causes only momentary relief, but in the long run what it does is reinforce the obsession, increasing its intensity and frequency.

In some cases, obsessions and compulsions are related, for example, feeling dirty and washing hands constantly. Other times, it only seems to have a relationship in the child's mind, such as fearing that his family will suffer damage if not all the fingers of the hand are clicked.


  • Maybe you're interested: "The 6 stages of childhood (physical and psychic development)"

Examples of obsessions and compulsions

Some obsessions or frequent compulsions in childhood are: pray a lot of times, to prevent something bad from happening; Constantly ask relatives if something has happened, for fear of hurting someone; or the feeling of dirt and the washing of the whole body constantly . Regarding this last obsession, a case that can help us understand the way in which OCD hinders the child's life can be the following.

Real practical case an OCD in childhood

Alfonso is an 11-year-old boy who comes to a consultation brought by his mother, due to the fact that he perceives a decrease in his academic performance this last year. His parents are separated and Alfonso lives with his mother. Alfonso's mother states that he spends the afternoon doing the lazy (she can not prove it, she works and does not arrive home until 8); He also says that he goes to bed very late watching YouTube videos. Up to here everything normal.


The truth is that deepening much in the case, after many sessions, it was found out that Alfonso did not "lazy" in the afternoons, nor watched Youtube videos, did not take advantage of study time because in reality Alfonso had the obsessive thought of that every time I went to the bathroom to defecate, it was never completely clean, so began to initiate a stereotyped series of compulsive cleansing rituals that lasted between 2 and a half hours and 3 hours. The videos that I saw on the Tablet were nothing more than the search for information to find ways to go to the bathroom with which to stain as little as possible.

Can we imagine the physical and mental tiredness for an 11-year-old child to repeat a series of behaviors of 3 hours each day, all surrounded by thoughts that cause him strong anxiety and from which he can not escape ?

A more difficult disorder to detect

One of the differences between the obsessions of a child and those of an adult, lies in the development of them. An adult knows how to explain them in detail, has built a story around them. On the other hand, the child can only express "because yes", "I can not bear it", "it appears because".

Parents may not know the symptoms of your child in its entirety , because many of them occur in the mind of the child and others hide or disguise easily. A mom or dad may notice that the child avoids certain things, seems distracted, inattentive or irritable, repeatedly seeks approval or confesses minor transgressions, or can not tolerate uncertainty. But usually it does not manifest itself clearly, the child usually tries to hide it.

Why do the symptoms appear?

It is a neurobiological disease caused by the imbalance of certain substances in the brain, among which serotonin. There are several variables that make a child more vulnerable to suffer from this difficulty, although still we do not have enough information to know the weight of each one in the genesis of the problem : the genetic predisposition, a parenting style based on the constant demand for perfectionism, a stressful life event, such as the death of a relative ... However, the data at present are not conclusive.

In children it usually appears around 7 and 12 years, although in cases where there is a family history of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, it can arise even at 3 years of age. On the other hand, in girls the problem usually originates in adolescence .

The normal child population can also have obsessive thoughts and doubts, the difference is that when there is a change in the maturational stage, these thoughts are conceived as bizarre and most children dismiss them, while a very small segment gives them a Relevant and central value in their lives.

I hope this article helps to understand a little better the characteristics of OCD in childhood, and to make visible this difficulty with which thousands of children have to struggle in their day to day.



Psychological Disorders : OCD Symptoms in Children (November 2021).


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