Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder where children and adolescents with OCD become acutely focussed on negative thinking, such as whether something could be dangerous, wrong, harmful or dirty.
Obsessions and worry overtake a child’s focus and they may use rituals or compulsions as a way of making the thoughts go away. The child or adolescent has no control over these thoughts – they can’t try to not think in this way. Just like any physical disorder, like being asthmatic or diabetic – this is something happening to them that they can’t control.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is not something that the child or parents have caused. Science is yet to tie down the exact cause of Obsessive Compulsive behaviours but research is pointing to inaccurate interpretations in the brain of levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This creates false alarm danger signals which the mind then can’t turn-off. It seems likely that there is a genetic component to OCD, but sometimes the stress of a major event or illness may trigger the condition.
Most children and adolescents with OCD realise that repeating rituals over and over again won’t fix their problem, but the anxiety they feel overpowers their logical brain. They need the behaviour to neutralise the uncomfortable feeling.