Most parents have heard of ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s a condition that’s common in kids and widely recognized.
Far fewer parents know about OCD – obsessive-compulsive disorder. But it can pose just as many difficulties for kids and their parents.
What is OCD? It’s a mental condition that causes children or adults to repeat tasks, such as washing their hands, over and over. They can’t seem to make themselves stop.
Other repetitive actions would be walking through the house to make sure the lights were turned off or re-checking each door to make sure it was locked.
To people who don’t have OCD, these actions can seem inexplicable or even funny. To the sufferer, they are not.
“Historically, OCD has been viewed as an adult anxiety syndrome, but research now suggests it often begins in childhood,” says an expert quoted in a recent USA Today article. “Estimates suggest 1 percent to 2 percent of children and teens have the disturbing condition – at least a few in every U.S. elementary and high school.”
A new website, The International OCD Foundationc, seeks to educate families about the disorder.
It has several helpful articles, such as “OCD’s Roots in Children Beginning to be Explored,” “New Research on Effective OCD Treatments in Kids,” and “Teens Talk about the Importance of Treatment for OCD.”
In a video on the website, several teens talk about their obsessive-compulsive actions. One girl said she washed her hands over and over – and was afraid to stop.
“It was no longer about being clean, but I was afraid something bad would happen to my friends or family or myself,” she said.
Treatment offers hope
Experts say medication and therapy can be effective in most cases. Understanding and recognizing the condition are the first steps.
“A lot of parents don’t understand,” said John Piacentini, director of the UCLA Childhood OCD, Anxiety and Tic Disorder Program. “They think kids are oppositional or manipulative and blame the kid.”
I’m especially attuned to mental disorders in kids because my 11-year-old son, Connor, has ADHD. He’s been diagnosed for five years and has been in therapy and on medication.
Connor has made tremendous progress. He now attends a special school for kids with learning differences, such as ADHD, OCD and dyslexia. He’s much happier and better adjusted socially.
Like a lot of parents, I wasn’t particularly understanding when Connor’s ADHD symptoms first appeared. Some of my comments:
- “Pay attention.”
- “Calm down.”
- “Why do you keep misplacing things?”
After a lot of education myself, I’m more understanding of Connor’s behavior and capabilities. I don’t let him use his ADHD as a crutch to avoid taking responsibility. Instead, I remind him he needs to learn to cope with his ADHD.
Thankfully, Connor hasn’t exhibited symptoms of OCD, although it’s been diagnosed in other family members. I’m on the lookout for it.
As parents, we often wish our kids were “normal.” But, really, what does that mean? Every child and adult has some obstacles, whether they be physical or mental.
To be successful, we must face our limitations and find ways to compensate. Parents of kids with OCD, ADHD or other disorders need to be especially proactive in helping them adapt.
If your child is having behavior or academic problems, don’t take them lightly. And don’t assume he or she is intentionally acting out. Your child may have a mental condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, that can be effective treated.