Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder involving obsessions, compulsions, or both.
Obsessions are recurrent thoughts, urges, and images that are intrusive and unwanted. Obsessions also involve attempts to suppress or ignore the thoughts, urges, or images or to get rid of them by performing a compulsive behavior.
Common obsessions include (from March and Mulle, 1998):
- Thoughts about contamination from germs
- Hurting onself or other people
- Sexual themes
- Religious themes
- Forbidden thoughts
- Need to tell, ask, confess
- Urges to make things symmetrical
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels driven to do in response to an obsession or according to rigid rules. These behaviors are aimed at preventing anxiety or a feared situation.
Common compulsions include (from March and Mulle, 1998):
- Washing behaviors
- Checking items
- Touching things
- Ordering or arranging
- Compulsive praying
For most children, a combination of pharmacological treatment in the form of SSRIs as well as participating in a specific form of Cognitive behavior therapy called Exposure and response prevention are recommended for treatment of OCD. In Exposure and Response prevention, your child’s therapist will help them to learn coping skills for the anxiety related to their OCD symptoms. Then, they will jointly create a hierarchy of anxiety provoking situations related to their OCD symptoms. Afterward, their therapist will help your child to move through the hierarchy by facing each of the things that they fear while practicing their coping skills AND preventing your child’s typical response.