Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Also known as: OCD.

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a common chronic mental health disorder in children, most being diagnosed in adolescence or young adulthood, characterized by the almost uncontrollable urge to repeat the same behaviors (compulsions) or have the same thoughts (obsessions) or emotions over and over again such that they interfere with day-to-day functioning.

What causes obsessive-compulsive disorder?

While the cause of OCD is unknown, risk factors include genetic predisposition (first-degree relatives of a patient with OCD are at higher risk), brain structural changes, environmental factors (like physical or sexual abuse or other traumatic events) and a possible role for streptococcal infection (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder with Streptococcal Infection -PANDAS).

What are the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Children with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions or both.

Common obsessions include: a fear of germs, having things in perfect order, unwanted thoughts about religion or sex and aggressive thoughts towards others.

Compulsive behaviors include: excessive cleaning and handwashing, repeatedly checking things, repetitive counting and other symptoms. These compulsions go beyond the range of what is normal and consume a good portion of a child’s time.

What are the care options for OCD?

OCD is typically treated with medications, and/or psychotherapy (including cognitive behavioral therapy). Other newer forms of treatment may be effective e.g. brain stimulation techniques. Children with OCD may have other mental disorders like anxiety or depression and these need to be addressed when therapy is considered.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 11/19/2019 11:24:03 AM

Psychiatry for Children

The Pediatric Psychiatry team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital uses a multidisciplinary and family centered treatment approach for a variety of behavioral disorders and conditions.

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8 week program. This group therapy program is designed for children ages 7 to 17 with behaviorial issues, including but not limited to ADHD. The weekly sessions teach innovative techniques to assist children with managing feelings, developing organization skills, maximizing their concentration abilities and socialization skills. Learn more.

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8 week program. Children and teens ages 7 to 17 are invited to join this small discussion group to learn how to make, cultivate and maintain friendships. Participants will learn basic conversational skills, and discuss the use of appropriate humor, how to electronically connect with others, and how to manage disagreements. Learn more.

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8 week program. Calm Kids is a weekly group therapy course designed to teach children strategies on how to take control over anxiety symptoms. Children will learn how to cope with fears and worries, identify anxiety triggers, how to relax the mind and body and maximize their self-confidence. Learn more.

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8 week program. This program is specifically designed to empower children ages 7-18 through complex sensory experiences. Each session is created to teach participants evidenced-based techniques to better manage pain and improve overall quality of life. Learn more.

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8 week program. This program is designed for teens ages 13-16 experiencing difficulties related to sleep, including daytime sleepiness, trouble waking in the morning, difficulty falling asleep and waking in the middle of the night. The goal of this group is to give teens the tools and strategies they need in order to get more sleep and better quality sleep. Learn more.

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