15 Common Signs of OCD in Children

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be a destructive disorder, particularly among children. OCD can creep up on someone, especially when caring for a child who doesn’t understand what is happening or a parent who may not understand what to look for. Here is the best way to protect your children, with common signs of OCD in children.

1. Repetitive behaviour

If a child is washing their hands too often, locking or unlocking doors, or hoarding toys, these are all early signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. This sort of behaviour can begin to encroach on other aspects of a person’s life.

2. Overreacting

OCD comes with a lot of rituals. If you’re putting your child to bed and they insist on your completing all these rituals beforehand, and you refuse one day and they react in an emotionally violent way, this may be a sign there’s something wrong.

3. Not turning in schoolwork

Some children will complete their schoolwork and then refuse to turn it in, instead choosing to hoard it or keeping it so that they can fix what they perceive to be wrong with their assignments. When confronted, they may become angry, agitated, or inconsolably upset.

4. Rules

A child may begin developing rigid systems in their behaviour. For example, this can be something as simple as counting grapes on their plate or eating certain foods for good luck. Talk to your child if you suspect this is happening as this sign of OCD may be more difficult to spot.

5. Doesn’t want to leave the house

OCD is something that can gradually wear a person down to the point where they don’t want to leave their home. If a child refuses to leave the home and behaves like this consistently, and/or if they insist on leaving only after ‘a’, ‘b’, and ‘c’ are done, this is a sign they may be suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder.

6. Touching their possessions

If they appear overwhelmed or anxious at the idea or event of someone touching their possessions, that’s a sure-fire sign something’s wrong. If you find this is the case with your child, speak with them about why they feel the way they do and why they react in the way they do.

7. Spending time worrying

If your child appears to be setting time aside to worry, be obsessed, or be compulsive, that’s a definite sign of OCD and should certainly be worrisome. When obsession is beginning to overtake a child’s day, it can start gradually however can get worse in time and should be addressed immediately.

8. Unable to make decisions

If you ask your child what kind of snack they want and they respond with upset, this might be insight into potential OCD. They may be struggling to make decisions, even if they have a favourite and even on something as trivial as a snack.

9. Taking a long time to do chores

If your child is continually re-checking and re-doing their chores or taking way more time than would be expected to complete a basic task, it may be because of OCD. Some children spend hours completing the same task again and again, like making their bed or organizing their rooms because they are unsatisfied.

10. Quirkiness

Sometimes, quirkiness is just quirkiness and at other times, it’s not. Pay close attention and if you notice quirkiness getting worse or beginning to affect a child’s everyday life, that’s when to become worrisome and ask the question.

11. Unable to stop thinking

This may be more difficult to observe however a child with OCD may be experiencing intrusive, unwanted thoughts. They can repeat and are oftentimes about being neat and organized, eliminating germs and dirt, being fearful of intruders or violence, or fearing one of their parents or family getting hurt, or behaving in a way that goes against a family’s beliefs.

12. Obsession with contamination

You may notice your child keeping separate the food on their plate, overreacting when food is touching another, or keeping things in neat categories. In behaviour, this compulsion can exist on a spectrum however it’s important to know when something is crossing the line into OCD territory.

13. Not wanting to get their room cleaned

Sure, a child may just not want you in their room. Other children however may not want you touching their things or moving them around, and this desire may be strong enough to qualify as obsessive.

14. Unexplained aggression

A child may be aggressive, frustrated, or agitated a lot of the time, and without explanation. In most cases, this might be a sign that their habits or rituals are being interfered with, and/or they are obsessed with completing tasks like checking, counting, cleaning, repeating, and ordering. There’s not enough time in a day to get everything done and as OCD worsens, aggression can understandably increase.

15. Sensory issues

A child may appear bothered by certain clothing materials or by the feeling of the tag on their clothing. This sort of overstimulation or bother through the senses is common among children displaying traditional signs of OCD.

Ronald Ryan

I'm a self-proclaimed science geek and all-around nerd. Useless fun trivia seems to be my forte. If you ever need to hear a good dad joke, I'm your guy!

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