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OCD in Children and Teens

What is Life Like for Children and Teens Who Have OCD?

Treatment: Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Children and Teens

Treatment: Medicines for Children and Teens

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What is Life Like for Children and Teens Who Have OCD?

At least 1 in 200 children and teens in the United States have OCD. Understanding the special impact that the disorder has on their lives is important in helping them get the right treatment. Some common issues with OCD in children and teens follow:

Disrupted Routines: OCD can makedaily life very difficult and stressful for kids and teens. In the morning, they feel they must do their rituals right, or the rest of the day will notgo well. In the evenings, they must finish all of their compulsive rituals before they go to bed. Some kids and teens even stay up late because of their OCD, and are often exhausted the following day.

Problems at School: OCD can affect homework, attention in class, and school attendance. If this happens, you need to be an advocate for your child. It is your right under the Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to ask for changes from the school that will help your child succeed.

Physical Complaints: Stress, poor nutrition, and/or the loss of sleep can make children physically ill.

Social Relationships: The stress of hiding their rituals frompeers, times spent with obsessions and compulsions, and how their friends react to their OCD-related behaviors can all affect friendships.

Problems with Self-Esteem:Kids and teens worry that they are "crazy" because their thinking is different than their friends and family. Their self-esteem can be negatively affected because the OCD has led to embarrassment or has made them feel "bizarre" or "out of control."

Anger Management Problems: This is because the parents have become unwilling (or are unable!) to comply with the child's OCD-related demands. Even when parents set reasonable limits, kids and teens with OCD can become anxious and angry.

Additional Mental Health Problems: Kids and teens with OCD are more likely to have additional mental health problems than those who do not have the disorder. Sometimes these other disorders can be treated with the same medicine prescribed to treat the OCD. Depression, anxiety disorders and trichotillomania (compulsive hairor skin picking) may improve when a child takes anti-OCD medicine. On the other hand, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), tic disorders, and disruptive behavior disorders usually require additional treatments, including medicines that are not specific to OCD.

By S. Evelyn Stewart, M.D.
Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School
International OCD Foundation Scientific Advisory Board
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