Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) includes thoughts and obsessions (impulses or images) that occur over and over, and that cause a child or teen to feel a great deal of distress. Obsessions often seem very strange and may be embarrassing for children or teens to talk about. Children and teens often try to control these obsessions by repeating behaviors and even making up compulsive acts – things they feel they cannot control – in order to reduce their fear and anxiety. Obsessions and compulsions are upsetting to the child or teen and their loved ones. These obsessions and compulsions can take up several hours per day in severe cases. Some research shows a link between streptococcal infections (like the infections that cause strep throat) and sudden onset or increase in obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviors.
These are the most common symptoms of OCD in children and teens ages six to 18. However, a child or teen may have different experiences.
At Children’s National, child psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals may interview the child or teen and his or her parents. We may have the patient and family fill out questionnaires about different aspects of the child’s or teen’s life, including physical health concerns, difficulties at school, or behavior with friends and family.
Following a full assessment, a member of the Children’s National care team will discuss treatment options with the child or teen and his or her family. Both behavioral treatment (called exposure with response prevention) and certain types of medicines are effective in treating OCD.
The Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s National offers assessment, diagnosis and care for children and teens with behavioral, emotional, and developmental disorders.
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