While movies and series sometimes present us with OCD in fun or comical ways, the truth is that it is a challenge that thousands of adults and children face every day.
Most of the information we know about this disorder comes from adults, although the problem usually appears, in almost half of the cases, in childhood. Because? Very few children with obsessive-compulsive disorder seek help. They think they are like that, that there is nothing they can do about it. In addition, they often hide their symptoms because they feel confused or embarrassed.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder in boys and girls
Children with OCD suffer from obsessions or compulsions that cause them tremendous anxiety and discomfort, interfering with their development and daily life. Their behaviors are egodistonic, preventing the child from achieving his goals and objectives.
But we define these concepts. Obsessions are disturbing thoughts or images (Usually violent) that the person, in this case the boy or the girl, cannot ignore, and which generates in him fear and anxiety. They are repetitive and involuntary, interrupting the child’s mental activity over and over again.
Compulsions are repetitive, mental or motor acts, Which aim to relieve anxiety and discomfort caused by obsessions. The children themselves generate this “solution” which causes only momentary relief, but in the long term, it reinforces the obsession, increasing its intensity and frequency.
In some cases, obsessions and compulsions are linked, for example, feeling dirty and washing your hands constantly. Other times, he just seems to have a relationship on the child’s mind, such as the fear that his family will suffer badly if all the fingers are not clicked.
Examples of obsessions and compulsions
Some common childhood obsessions or compulsions are: praying several times to prevent something bad from happening; constantly asking relatives if something has happened, for fear of having hurt someone; o feeling dirty and washing the whole body constantly. As for this latest obsession, a case that can help us understand how OCD interferes with a child’s life may be as follows.
Real case study of childhood OCD
Alfonso is an 11-year-old boy who goes to the consultation brought by his mother because she perceive a drop in their academic performance this past year. His parents are separated and Alfonso lives with his mother. Alfonso’s mother states that he spends his afternoons lazily (she can’t verify this, as she works and doesn’t come home until 8am); he also says he goes to bed very late while watching YouTube videos. So far, so good.
The truth is that by going deeper into the case, after many sessions, it was discovered that Alfonso did not “lazy” in the afternoon, watch Youtube videos, take advantage of study time. because in fact Alfonso had the obsessive thought that every time I went to the bathroom to defecate, I was never completely clean, so began to launch a stereotypical series of compulsive cleaning rituals which lasted between 2.5 and 3 hours. The videos I watched on the tablet were nothing more than researching information to find ways to go to the bathroom with as little as possible.
Can we imagine the physical and mental fatigue that means for an 11 year old child to repeat every day a series of behaviors lasting 3 hours, all surrounded by thoughts, which cause him great anxiety and which he cannot? not escape?
A disorder more difficult to detect
One of the differences between a child’s obsessions and those of an adult is how they work out. An adult can tell them in detail, he has built a story around them. For his part, the child can only express “because yes”, “I cannot stand it”, “he appears because he is”.
the parents they may not be fully aware of your child’s symptoms, Because many of them take place in the child’s mind and others are easily hidden or disguised. A mother or father may notice that the child avoids certain things, appears distracted, inattentive, or irritable, repeatedly seeks approval, or confesses minor transgressions, or cannot tolerate uncertainty. But this is usually not manifested clearly, the child usually tries to hide it.
Why do the symptoms appear?
It is a neurobiological disease caused by the imbalance of certain substances in the brain, including serotonin. There are several variables that make a child more vulnerable to this difficulty, but we do not have enough information to know the weight of each in the genesis of the problem: Genetic predisposition, a parenting style based on the constant demand for perfectionism, a stressful life event, such as the death of a family member … However, the data today is not conclusive.
In children, it usually appears around 7 and 12 years old, although in cases where there is a family history of obsessive-compulsive disorder, it can occur even at age 3. For its part, in girls, the problem usually stems from adolescence.
The normal child population can also have obsessive thoughts and doubts, the difference is that when there is a change in the stage of maturation, these thoughts are conceived as bizarre and most children reject them, while a very small segment gives them a relevant and central value. in their lives.
I hope this article will help to understand a little better the characteristics of OCD in childhood, and to make visible this difficulty that thousands of children face in their daily lives.