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: November 19, 2019 10:40 AM

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