Obsessive compusive disorder in young people
How is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Treated?
1. Behavioral Treatment for Compulsions:
Never discontinue these medications abruptly and
One of the most effective psychological treatments is
always consult a physician prior to decreasing them.
exposure plus response prevention (ERP). Very
3. Rebuilding Confidence
basically, ERP involves exposure to the feared
situation and then preventing the compulsive behavior.
Having OCD leads to problems with school, friends,
and family. Kids can feel pretty badly about
For children, this can be challenging. They often have
themselves and their lives when OCD is running the
trouble understanding why they need to cooperate with
show. As they get better, they need extra help at
and Cures in Young People
stopping the compulsive behavior. They become
school, and some “coaching” to get back into their
angry, upset, and desperate, and may even threaten to
run away or hurt themselves or other people.
Professionals trained in cognitive behavioral
What are the Complications of OCD?
approaches (CBT) try to work with children to help
them to understand that the OCD is like a monster that
is running their lives and they have to fight back. If we
● Not sleeping or eating well due to worries
can help them to team up with their parents to fight the
OCD, everybody feels successful, and the OCD is
brought under control. Sometimes children need to be
brought into the hospital to do this, because it is so
There are half a dozen medicines that work for OCD.
These things are found more commonly in people with
The oldest and most effective is clomipramine (Anafranil). However, newer medicines such as
OCD, or in other members of their families:
fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine
(Paxil), citapratolam (Celexa) and sertraline (Zoloft)
● Other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder
have the advantage of fewer nuisance side effects.
Sometimes adding another medicine such as lithim,
clonazepam (Klonapin) or pimozide (Orap) will boost
Medicines work gradually over a period of weeks, and
Does OCD Get Better?
often things continue to get better over a few months.
The drug is continued for at least 6 months, and then
It does, but it takes some teamwork. The child, family,
can be cut down slowly to make sure that symptoms
doctors and counselors need to work together to beat
don’t flare up. Some people can come off the
medicine, but many people need to take it for much
What to do?
The medicines work well, but may not completely take
Start with your family doctor or local Mental Health
away the compulsive habits. The medicine may also
Center for more information or to have the problem
need to be continued for a long time, as the symptoms
assessed. They may also suggest some books to read
Adapted from Children’s Mood and Anxiety Disorders Clinic,
which can help you understand panic disorder better.
Children’s and Women’s Health Centre of British Columbia
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Young People
Facts About OCD
Obsessive compulsive disorder can occur in people
How Common is OCD?
Effects of These Symptoms:
of all ages, and often starts in childhood. It is a
problem that tends to come and go over time. Often
About 2 or 3 of every 100 people have OCD in
Children or teens may be constantly upset or easily
it starts gradually but sometimes it starts suddenly or
their lifetime. Most of them keep it a secret, and
irritated because they are so busy worrying about
most do not get treatment because they either
their obsessive thoughts that they can’t handle
don’t think help is available, or they are too
thinking about or doing anything else. They may
The symptoms of OCD are obsessions (upsetting
not want to go anywhere, may not be hungry and
thoughts that keep coming back) or compulsions
may stay in their room a lot of the time, trying to
(habit patterns such as checking or washing over and
What are the Symptoms?
sort out their thoughts. Children may ask for
over) which happen so often that they interfere with
Obsessions and/or compulsions that are severe
constant reassurance from parents because they are
enough to interfere with school or work, family
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is treatable.
relationships or take up a lot of time (more than an
Washing hands, counting or checking things may
But first it has to be recognized. In children, it may
take several hours a day. Sometimes children will
look like unreasonable anxiety, temper tantrums,
insist that other members of the family do these
stubborn habits, lack of cooperation or other
things, too. For example, no one may be allowed
behavioral problems. In teenagers, it may lead to
These thoughts occur repeatedly in spite of the
to touch the child’s plates, door or clothes because
avoiding school or friends, and fighting with parents.
People with OCD are very stressed and can be
irritable, angry and withdrawn. Parents may be
How Does This Affect Families?
frustrated and confused by the behaviors.
Usually the whole family gets mixed up in the
People are often very embarrassed about the kind of
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Parents may start
obsessive thoughts they have because they don’t
to do the checking for the child to try and save
● Fear of doing something wrong in the
make sense or seem “crazy” to them. They try to
time. Everyone has to go out the right door, or
cover up their compulsive habits, because they know
wait until the child has flicked a light switch ten
they don’t make sense either. They end up feeling
● Fear of having already done something
times when leaving the room. People tiptoe around
this child to prevent their outbursts of rage and
frustration when compulsions are not done
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a medical
problem that gets better, usually with a combination
● Need for things to be even/symmetrical
of medicine and practicing some ways of changing
What Causes OCD?
the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
OCD is one of the best researched childhood
disorders, but it still is not fully explained. We
Who Can Help?
Although OCD does run in families, what causes
Start with your family doctor. Check the local
● Doing work over to get it “perfect”
OCD is not known. There is likely a genetic
Mental Health Centre for other resources. You may
component that makes one vulnerable to OCD but
be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist for
it often must be combined with events that occur in
further assessment or treatment. With help, young
● Asking questions (getting reassurance)
the child’s life for the OCD to be fully expressed.
people and their families can free themselves from
Like many other problems, it is the combination of
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