Is it ADHD or something else?

36: What is OCD?

Most people think they know what obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is when they don’t. Their misconception is that it’s as simple as someone washing their hands to eliminate germs.

Most people think they know what obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is when they don't. Their misconception is that it's as simple as someone washing their hands to eliminate germs.

In a general sense, washing hands and constantly checking something are both manifestations of OCD. But what we don't talk about is fear which is at the core of OCD.

So this episode is crucial as we'll tackle everything about OCD for the first time in this podcast series.

What is OCD, and how does it develop?

People diagnosed with OCD experience no rationalizing. They fear something terrible will happen if they don't complete an act of thought. So, nothing makes sense to them.

Their thoughts don't make sense, and it doesn't even matter that these thoughts don't have any form of reality. But there's an irrational fear. A compulsion makes them want to complete an act of thought because of that irrational fear.

At some level, OCD is considered anxiety. So, your kid diagnosed with OCD acts in irrational ways to cope with their anxious thoughts and irrational fear.

When these thoughts and irrational fear become too much, there are different ways people use to be able to cope. Some people go to the gym and work out, while some try meditation or neurofeedback to help calm their brains. The coping mechanisms to get through the stressors differ in so many ways. This is what OCD is like, except that it's maladaptive.

With OCD, intrusive worries, thoughts, and compulsions occur daily for an hour or more. As a result, it interferes with one's daily functioning. Its manifestations appear at home, school, or anywhere else.

Kids are good at hiding stuff. Sometimes, they even hide what they're feeling or the changes that happen to them. They're masters at disguising even their OCD. Thus, we must learn about the symptoms and how OCD shows up.

How does OCD show up with kids?

OCD can be seen in a range of behaviors. To correct the misconception, just because you're organized and clean doesn't mean you have OCD. The case usually is this irrational fear that something terrible will happen if you're not clean or organized, for example.

The most common observation associated with OCD is excessive questioning. Kids with OCD always need reassurance, so they keep asking you questions even though you have already answered them once or twice. It doesn't matter how many. They'll come up with more questions every time.

OCD has nothing to do with feelings

One of the biggest misconceptions about OCD is that it starts with intrusive thoughts. No, that's not always the case. OCD has nothing to do with feelings.

OCD is about uncomfortable sensations and uncontrollable, fearful, intrusive thinking. But unfortunately, some therapists misdiagnose OCD, which happens all the time. So, when they misdiagnose, they work on a feelings level.

Instead, what we want to do is to help our kids to understand what those obsessions are about. We have to treat it and stop accommodating it.

Parents usually accommodate all the questions since, as we've mentioned, these kids have a high need for reassurance. Hence, that's what parents need to do – break the accommodation reinforcement cycle.

OCD thoughts are dark and disturbing

Sometimes with OCD, one's thoughts become dark and disturbing, which is why kids of all ages usually don't want to talk about what's happening in their heads.

These thoughts also make our kids embarrassed because they make no sense. So when your kid says these things out loud, they're not crazy. Instead, it is OCD taking over their thoughts; these are intrusive thoughts that have run amok, and the OCD has taken over the brain.

How OCD is different from anxiety

Whereas anxiety is rooted in something that actually or suddenly happens, OCD just shows up. It could have started with anxiety or something real. Then it becomes hijacked. And what we do is accommodate it and tell the kids that it will be okay.

As parents, we keep telling them everything will be okay. But, at some point, we must teach our kids coping skills that will benefit them in the long run.

How do you know if your child has OCD?

Look for the signs that your child has OCD. They may be shown in the repetitive behaviors or questions or their insistence on making you sleep with them because of their fear that something wrong will happen if you don't stay and these things happen often.

We have to be careful and observant because OCD is wholly misunderstood. Remember that just because your kid is showing these behaviors doesn't mean they have OCD. However, bedtime rituals with a pattern of seeing other things and anxiety throughout the day could strongly indicate OCD.

You can also consult a mental health professional who is vastly experienced in identifying OCD. In addition, some people attend talk therapy, while some do exposure response prevention to help their kids.

No matter where you are in your journey, we have resources to help you:

Links and Resources:

➡️ Join our FREE Natural Parenting Community to receive science-backed resources for your child and family. Join here.

➡️ Get help from Dr. Roseann and her team. Apply here. 

➡️ “Is it ADHD or something else?” Take the quiz. 

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