For example, a child who is afraid of germs might be exposed to dirt. Then, the child, with the guidance of a mental health professional, learns to resist the urge to complete compulsive rituals.
As OCD affects everyone in the family, parents and siblings need to learn how to best support children. Family-based approaches to therapy have been proven to be very successful. Also, there are even parent-led approaches to therapy for kids who are reluctant to go to treatment. The parent learns how to teach their child coping skills.
Even though this type of therapy takes time, it has been shown to vastly improve the quality of life in children with OCD.
Certain psychiatric medications can help children control the obsessions and compulsions that go along with OCD. If behavioral treatment is difficult to access or appears to be mildly effective, then a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI), a specific class of antidepressant, may be helpful to add to the child’s care plan.
Some of the most common antidepressants that might be used in children that have been diagnosed with OCD include:
- Anafranil (clomipramine) is used in children ten years of age or older
- Fluvoxamine is used in children eight years of age or older
- Prozac (fluoxetine) is used in children seven years of age or older
- Zoloft (Sertraline) is used in children six years of age or older
If considering medication, parents should speak with doctors in depth about all possibilities to understand the risks and benefits of each medication.
All psychiatric medications have potential side effects. Parents should understand possible side effects, the chances of these side effects developing, know how to spot them, and when to contact their provider about potentially stopping medication.
Many children who are placed on medication for OCD may be able to come off medication once they have learned exposure and response prevention skills and use them regularly.
Each OCD journey is different and should be treated as such by providers and parents alike. For some young people and their families, once-weekly outpatient visits aren’t enough. If that’s the case, it may be helpful to consider getting a consultation from a psychiatrist for medication. Additional options include a higher level of care, like intensive outpatient or residential treatment or a parent-only approach to help through familial support.
What Should I Do If My Child Might Have OCD?
Parents, caretakers, and family members need to remain vigilant and understand that there is nothing wrong with asking for help for their child. Also, kids and teens need to know that it’s perfectly okay—and normal—to reach out for help if they are feeling troubled.
It is important to note that children with OCD are not damaged, broken, or harmed beyond repair. When children with OCD are approached with sympathy and understanding, it is easier for them to open up about their problems.
If you think you know someone who may be struggling with OCD, the first step is to not panic. While the disorder may feel crippling, there are many ways to get help that is tailored to what’s needed for each child. Seeking help—and treatment—can provide a child and their family with the tools to feel empowered and in control of their mental health.
A potential diagnosis of OCD should be discussed with the child’s care team to determine the next steps. Call your primary care physician or a local mental health facility, like McLean, to find the care you need.
How Does Someone Get Formally Diagnosed With OCD?
Several steps must take place to properly diagnose a child. Usually, this diagnosis is going to be made by a trained professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, along with assistance from other doctors or health care providers, such as a pediatrician.
What to Expect
An evaluation to determine a diagnosis may include both self-and parent-reporting questionnaires and personal interviewing. These interviews include specific questions to identify the presence of obsessions and rituals.
A trained professional sits down and speaks with a child about feelings, thoughts, symptoms, and behavioral patterns. The goal is to identify any specific obsessions or compulsions.
Then, a psychological evaluation takes place in an attempt to identify the reason why these obsessions and compulsions are present. There has to be an anxiety or fear of a negative or “not right” experience that might happen if things are not done in a certain way.
Finally, it is important to determine whether or not these behaviors harm the child’s quality of life. During this evaluation, the evaluator often speaks with the family members and friends as well.
To make the official diagnosis, the psychiatrist uses criteria that are published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, usually shortened to DSM-5. This is published by the American Psychiatric Association and guides mental health professionals.
In diagnosing OCD, it is important to rule out alternative causes of this behavior. Therefore, a physical exam might take place to check for symptoms and problems that could be related to complications of OCD or a possible alternative diagnosis.
If this process is completed and the child meets the criteria for OCD, the treatment and recovery process can begin.