written by: Andrea E.
• edited by: Paul Arnold
• updated: 8/17/2010
If your toddler is exhibiting behaviors that seem like OCD it may be a good idea to learn more about the condition. OCD affects about one percent of children in the United States. Find out more about toddlers and OCD in this article.
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Obsessive compulsive disorder, more commonly known as OCD is a type of anxiety disorder. OCD is characterized by someone having unnecessary and involuntary thoughts, worries, obsessions, and repetitive behavior. Toddlers and OCD may seem fairly common due to the many quirks toddlers exhibit on a daily basis but it is not considered OCD until it begins to interfere with their normal everyday activities.
Obsessive compulsive disorder affects approximately 1 in 100 children throughout the United States. OCD is a neurological disorder that should not be taken lightly if suspected. Common fears and obsessions associated with this disorder include fear of germs, fear of danger, a need for order, exactness, and collecting out of the ordinary objects. Some of the odd objects toddler may collect include nail clippings, tissues, and bandages. Not all fears and obsessions are the same in every child, they may vary greatly.
The common repetitive behaviors that go along with these fears and fixations are; excessive cleaning, touching certain objects or body parts, counting, and organizing. Many times these behaviors seem so gradual that they go unnoticed by many parents, but they do slowly increase as time goes on. As the fixations increase they become more noticeable and disrupt normal daily schedules.
The anxiety that goes along with toddlers and OCD is so overwhelming in the child’s mind they feel they must complete the certain rituals they have created or something “bad" will happen to them or someone they care about. When these rituals are done repeatedly it will in time actually make the anxiety worse. As they continue with the rituals for longer the anxiety will keep increasing and may perpetuate into even more phobias and or repetitive behaviors.
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In most cases a diagnosis is not made until the age of three to ensure it is an accurate diagnosis and not just normal toddler behavior. Often times OCD is associated with other mental health disorders. When diagnosed, therapy and a full mental evaluation may be necessary to ensure the toddler has no other underlying conditions that may be worsening the severity of the obsessive compulsive disorder.
The cause of obsessive compulsive disorder is not clear. Studies have been carried out that show many children with OCD also have low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that is naturally produced in the brain, controlling mood and emotions. A family history of OCD also puts toddlers at an increased risk of developing the disorder. Obsessive compulsive disorder has also been linked to streptococcal infection (strep throat). Having this kind of infection may trigger dormant OCD symptoms.
With the proper care, many toddlers with OCD are able to function normally throughout their daily activities. Toddlers with obsessive compulsive disorder need extra time and patience constantly. Learning how to help a toddler with OCD and implementing those strategies on a daily basis is one of the most important ways to help a toddler ease the anxiety and not let it take over their life.