Is Childhood Perfectionism Connected with OCD?
In examining the connection between childhood perfectionism and OCD, it is important to differentiate between young children, and older children or young adolescents. Perfectionism is completely normal in young children. Since these children have little control over the world around them, they may adopt perfectionistic routines, such as elaborate bedtime rituals, to help them feel more in control. They may also fall apart emotionally when something isn't "just so," such as when a tower of blocks falls down or when they color slightly out of the lines. These perfectionistic tendencies usually peak between the ages of two and four, and they subside as these children grow older.
Extreme childhood perfectionism, however, can be an early sign of OCD. After all, OCD does usually begin during childhood. The difference between normal perfectionistic tendencies and pre-OCD signs depend on the degree of perfectionism and the time devoted to rituals and routines. A child with OCD will devote large periods of time to each ritual, often to the exclusion of participating in other age-appropriate activities. In this way and others, the child's obsessions and compulsions interfere with day to day living. Children who do not have OCD may have shorter, less intrusive rituals that slowly slip away as the child grows older. Keep in mind, however, that even children with OCD may seem to have fewer and fewer rituals as time goes on. This is merely because as they grow older, they learn to hide their rituals more and more, because of embarrassment of their disorder, even undiagnosed.