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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Key Points about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Children

  • OCD is a type of anxiety disorder. A child with OCD has obsessive thoughts that are not wanted. The thoughts are linked to fears, such as touching dirty objects. The child uses compulsive rituals such as handwashing to control the fears. These rituals may feel rational or irrational to the person doing them. The child may not understand why they do these rituals. They may feel embarrassed that the behaviors occur and can't be controlled.
  • The exact cause of OCD is unknown. Children with OCD don’t have enough of a chemical called serotonin in their brain.
  • Obsessive symptoms include repeated doubts and extreme preoccupation with dirt or germs.
  • Compulsive behaviors include hoarding objects and checking things often.
  • A mental health evaluation is needed to diagnose OCD.
  • Treatment includes therapy and medicine.
Children's Team

Children's Team


Lilia Mucka Andrew

Lilia Andrew

Director, Research in Anxiety Disorders Program
Adelaide Robb

Adelaide Robb

Division Chief, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Children's National Hospital

Mi-Young Ryee

Co-Director, Anxiety Disorders Program
Ayman Saleh, M.D.

Ayman Saleh

Medical Director, Ambulatory Psychiatry and Takoma Theatre Outpatient Clinic
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Dr. Laura Willing

Laura Willing

Co-Director, Anxiety Disorders Program
DCMAP Children's National Hospital Site Lead
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist


Anxiety Disorders Program

The Anxiety Disorders Program at Children's National Hospital is a specialized treatment clinic devoted to carefully assessing and effectively treating a wide range of anxiety disorders common among children and adolescents.

Psychology and Behavioral Health

In the Division of Psychology and Behavioral Health, our child psychologists and other mental health professionals work exclusively with children and teens, emphasizing patient and family-focused care.

Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s National offers assessment, diagnosis and care for children and teens with behavioral, emotional and developmental disorders.