Early Signs of OCD in Childhood: What Parents Should Look For

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The early signs of OCD in childhood can serve as indicators to parents that a child is afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD, an anxiety disorder that often manifests through excessive worrying and repetitious behavioral patterns, can cause a child to experience emotional and physical problems in their daily lives. By understanding the effects of OCD on a child and the ways in which early symptoms of the disorder appear, parents can gain insight into the importance of diagnosing and treating OCD in childhood.

How OCD Affects Children

The International OCD Foundation website provides detailed information on the typical experiences of children who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD can impact a child’s life negatively in the following ways.

--Children with OCD often have low self-esteem due to being embarrassed about the compulsive rituals that they follow (such as counting out loud, washing hands repeatedly, etc.).

--OCD can interfere with a child’s ability to form friendships with peers. Kids with OCD may be teased by others in regard to their obsessive behavior or may withdraw from social contact due to the need to keep rituals and ruminating thoughts private.

--The stress of living with OCD can manifest in physical symptoms such as insomnia, headaches, and stomach pains.

--Children whose routines are disrupted by other people or by circumstance may become angry and anxiety-ridden. (1)

Early Signs of OCD in Childhood

According to KidsHealth.org, parents who are concerned about the possibility of their child having OCD can watch for these early warning signs and symptoms of the condition:

--irrational or excessive fears (in regard to germs, dirt, physical harm, or illness).

--preoccupation with grooming (repetitive hand washing, teeth brushing, or bathing).

--rituals that involve repetitive movement (opening and closing doors, writing and erasing, hopping on each foot three times when walking, etc.).

--rituals that involve counting objects, hoarding objects, or arranging objects in a precise order.

--excessive cleanliness in regard to personal items or household objects.

--extreme anxiety in regard to “unlucky” numbers and bothersome words or sounds. (2)

Advice For Parents

The Understanding OCD website offers plenty of helpful information and advice for parents of children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Parents can use this information as a guide to:

--talking openly with their child about the disorder. Most children with OCD will have questions about their diagnosis and how it will affect their future. Parents should listen to a child’s concerns without judgment or criticism.

--lending emotional support to their child. Parents can help by reading books on OCD with their child and offering praise when the child shows improvement in behavior.

--seeking professional advice from OCD specialists or child therapists. Children with OCD can greatly benefit from psychological counseling and participation in support groups. Parents can arrange for their child to receive professional treatment for the disorder. (3)

Through recognizing the early signs of OCD in childhood, parents can take the initial step in helping their child to manage living with the disorder as best as possible. Whether arranging for therapy, medications, or natural remedies for OCD, parents who are able to acknowledge and address OCD symptoms in their child can contribute to providing the necessary guidance and support.


  1. International OCD Foundation–https://www.ocfoundation.org/childOCD.aspx

  2. KidsHealth.org–https://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/OCD.html#

  3. Understanding OCD–https://understanding_ocd.tripod.com/ocd_parents.html