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How to Explain OCD to a Child to Boost their Confidence

written by: Amanda Smith • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 10/9/2010

Obsessive compulsive disorder in children can often cause feelings of self doubt and can take a huge toll on their self esteem. This article is designed to provide parents the information they need for explaining OCD to children and character building.

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    Understanding OCD in Children

    As a parent, one of the best ways to help your child effectively deal with OCD symptoms is to educate yourself about the disorder. You will have a hard time understanding what your child is going through if you are not at least somewhat familiar with the basic symptoms of OCD. Also, it is highly important to understand that all individuals with OCD are not alike in their symptoms. As a matter of fact, two seemingly different people may both have OCD, just with different symptoms. Be careful not to rely solely on media representation of the disorder, as your child may be experiencing some of the less typical symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder. Because OCD has such a wide variety of symptoms, it is a good idea to contact and make an appointment with a psychiatrist or mental health professional that can assess all symptoms. Here are some facts about OCD in children that will help you to better understand what your child is going through and thus embark on explaining OCD to children and character building.

    • Obsessions and compulsions are two different things but usually go hand in hand. As outsiders, we typically notice compulsions because they can be visibly apparent. It is highly important to recognize that these compulsions may be connected to a faulty or irrational thought. If we don't recognize the presence of faulty thinking, it is very hard to treat the compulsion on its own.
    • Asking for reassurance is a symptom of OCD that is sometimes overlooked. You may feel that your child is self conscious or has a hard time understanding concepts, but this could be related to their felt need for further clarification. Being aware of this will help you to be supportive and encourage healthy self esteem.
    • Just because your child IS NOT a clean freak does not mean that he or she does not suffer from OCD. Remember, there are many symptoms that can present themselves so if your child is struggling with other symptoms it may very well be OCD.
    • Just because your child IS a clean freak does not mean that he or she suffers from OCD. OCD is only a diagnosable disorder if its symptoms get in the way of your child's ability to function on a daily level. Being conscious of hygiene is a healthy and positive quality that a child should be praised for. It is when it is in excess and creates problems that it could potentially be OCD.
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    Explaining OCD to Children and Character Building

    Children need to know that having a diagnosis of OCD is not bad and does not make them "crazy". Actually being obsessive compulsive can work to a person's advantage if they can learn to explore their symptoms in a positive way. One of the most effective ways to boost children's confidence is to normalize the thoughts and behaviors that they are experiencing. Obsessive thoughts can be scary and overwhelming and oftentimes kids think that they are the only one who thinks and acts this way. That is why OCD support groups can be so valuable. Normalizing the thoughts and behaviors can also help you as a parent be able to understand what thoughts are just "OCD thoughts" and be able to remain calm while your child may feel severely distressed.

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    Resources

    This article was created based on my education and experience in the mental health field.

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