Special Needs

Essentials to know about OCD in children

OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, is a mental health condition that affects people of all ages, including children. OCD is characterized by two main features: obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are persistent and intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses that are unwanted and cause significant anxiety or distress. Examples of obsessions in children with OCD may include fears of contamination, worries about harm coming to themselves or loved ones, or concerns about symmetry or orderliness.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that are performed in response to the obsessions, with the goal of reducing anxiety or preventing harm. Examples of compulsions in children with OCD may include excessive hand washing, checking and rechecking things like locks or appliances, or repeating certain phrases or prayers.

OCD can significantly interfere with a child's daily functioning, including their academic performance, social relationships, and family life. If you suspect your child may be struggling with OCD, it's important to seek professional help from a mental health provider who specializes in treating children with OCD.

Unique strengths

  • Children with OCD can be highly detail-oriented, making them valuable in fields that require precision, such as science or engineering.
  • Individuals with OCD can have a highly organized and structured mind, which can lead to efficient and effective problem-solving.
  • Some people with OCD have excellent verbal communication skills and can be highly articulate and persuasive.

Scientific facts

  • Children with OCD tend to have specific habits or rituals that they must perform.
  • The most common compulsions in children revolve around germs, fear of harm, or religious beliefs.
  • Children with OCD are more likely to have other co-morbidities, such as anxiety disorders, learning or behavioural issues.


  • Individuals with OCD may experience intrusive and distressing thoughts, which can interfere with daily activities and cause anxiety and depression.
  • People with OCD may engage in repetitive behaviors, such as hand-washing or checking, which can be time-consuming and disruptive to daily life.
  • Sometimes, they may not be able to stop doing a certain activity until their ritual is satisfied. This means they may repeat the same actions 10 or more times.

How parents and teachers can be more sensitive

  • Create a supportive and understanding environment that accommodates the unique needs of individuals with OCD.
  • Find out what triggers the compulsion and try to minimize the triggers.
  • Provide coping strategies for anxiety and intrusive thoughts.
  • Educate others about OCD to reduce stigma and promote acceptance.
  • Encourage the individual to pursue their interests and celebrate their unique strengths.


Fischer-Terworth, C. (2013). Obsessive-compulsive disorder in children and adolescents: Impact on academic and psychosocial functioning in the school setting. Life Span and Disability, 16(2), 127-55.

Maia, T. V., Cooney, R. E., & Peterson, B. S. (2008). The neural bases of obsessive–compulsive disorder in children and adults. Development and psychopathology, 20(4), 1251-1283.

Piacentini, J., & Bergman, R. L. (2000). Obsessive-compulsive disorder in children. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 23(3), 519-533.