Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder that has a neurobiological basis. This brain condition affects how children think. It is characterized by obsessions and compulsions that take up at least an hour a day. For many children, however, obsessions and compulsions consume several hours a day. Obsessions are involuntary intrusive thoughts, images or impulses that cause unbearable worry, fear or discomfort. To cope with the obsessions, children usually devise processes or actions called compulsions, or rituals. In some cases, rituals are observable: a child washes his or her hands excessively or checks locks for extensive periods of time. In other cases, compulsions may be completed mentally and cannot be detected by an outside observer: the child is mentally saying a prayer to prevent something terrible from happening. These repetitive, ritualistic acts make a child feel better, but the relief is only temporary. Some children with OCD may have a motor tic, a repetitive movement, such as eye blinking or shoulder jerking, or a vocal tic, repetitive throat-clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds.
Specifically, with children, treatment of these symptoms at an early stage is important in preventing later issues, although some children with OCD recognize that what they are doing doesn’t make sense, most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary. Symptoms may come and go, ease over time, or worsen. Children with OCD may try to help themselves by avoiding situations that trigger their obsessions, or involving themselves in maladaptive activities to calm themselves, but seeking professional help is almost always necessary.
Our network has staff of clinicians that are experts in working with children that have OCD. IDCC’s healthcare professionals are also given advanced training on scrupulosity, or guilt about moral or religious issues, with an emphasis on cultural awareness. Using this deep understanding and specialized training, our clinicians help create treatments that can help children with OCD live normal lives.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is often the first treatment recommended by specialists at IDCC, for children and adolescents with OCD. This type of therapy aims to change the child’s beliefs or behaviors, helping to ease symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy has two components. The cognitive part helps a child change how they mentally view a situation, and the behavioral part helps them learn how to physically react differently. The goal is to teach children a variety of coping skills to help them manage difficult situations.
Medication can play a role in treating children and adolescents with OCD. Many children and teens with OCD find that a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication is helpful in overcoming the Anxiety related to the condition. Younger children tend to respond well to the therapy alone. Medication can be a short-term or long-term treatment option, depending on your child’s response to it and the persistence of symptoms. In some children, doctors can eventually taper the dose, until medication is no longer needed. IDCC clinicians will monitor the tapering process during regularly scheduled follow-up visits.