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.
Clues to Pre-OCD
The first signs of OCD often appear in childhood, but these signs can be easily overlooked. A child who reads the same words over and over again may be suspected to have a reading disorder, when really the child is simply making sure to read and understand every word perfectly, due to OCD tendencies. A second clue that parents should look out for is a perfectionistic attitude towards schoolwork, which often pushes aside all social needs and desires. This type of child may also begin getting inadequate levels of sleep, even during the middle school years. This extreme desire to perform is a red flag that may point to a future diagnosis of OCD.
People who dismiss the connection between childhood perfectionism and OCD do so at their own risk. Children who exhibited OCD tendencies from a young age may feel that they were constantly misunderstood. Getting treatment for OCD rituals as soon as possible can enable children with early stages of OCD to go on to live successful lives.
This post is part of the series: Children and OCD
Has your child been diagnosed with OCD? Do you suspect your child may have OCD? Or does a parent of a child you know have OCD? These questions and more will be answered in this series of articles about children and OCD.