On the spectrum of mental health concerns, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) does not generally send off alarm bells. However, this disorder can have a major impact on a person's ability to enjoy a normal life, especially when it comes to children. People most often associate OCD with an increased obsession for cleanliness and order, but the condition goes well beyond these elements.
Consistent, Repetitive Actions
A child displaying a pattern of consistent, repetitive actions could be cause for concern. People diagnosed with this disorder typically practice certain rituals over and over. Rituals vary but can include actions like walking back and forth through every door three times or touching the door handle two times before opening it.
The primary characteristic to look for is repetition. Children are naturally adventurous and creative, so occasional behavior that is outside what you consider the norm might be harmless. However, your level of awareness should rise when this behavior becomes a normal pattern they display all the time.
People with OCD often have an intense worry that is linked to whatever ritual it is they perform. Consider the previous example of someone who must walk through a doorway three times. In this instance, the individual might have a fear that if they do not walk through each doorway a certain number of times, they might be harmed or have bad luck.
In this type of situation, the underlying fear somewhat triggers their actions. If you notice your child performing rituals, sit down and try to figure out if their actions are linked to fear or worry. However, it's important to note that even if the child tells you no, the situation might still warrant a closer look.
Disruption of Life
In media, OCD is sometimes portrayed as a lighthearted disorder or a joking matter. However, for people with this condition, it can cause a complete disruption of their lives. In a child, the need to perform rituals might prevent him or her from playing with other children or might cause the child to be late to school.
In more severe cases, a child might even start to show signs of aggression if they are unable to perform certain actions. Any disruption in your child's daily life is cause for concern.
If you have concerns about your child's behavior; it's important not to diagnose them yourself. Make an appointment at a children's mental health clinic for a professional evaluation and assistance.