“He’s really oppositional!” The mom vents. “Honestly it takes a miracle to get him to do anything. Don’t even get me started on how long it takes him to get out of the house in the morning.” She takes a breath and continues, “And no one can go into his room. One time I entered his room without his permission and he had a complete meltdown.” This is often my initial introduction to a teen whose main issue isn’t opposition, but rather OCD. OCD symptoms in teens are often misconstrued as oppositional or quirky behavior.
Her small frame sits, hunched over on my therapy couch. She looks at the ceiling. She looks at the floor. She looks everywhere and anywhere as long as it is not my eyes. Finally, she opens her mouth to speak. “I have bad thoughts.” She whispers. “Sometimes to get rid of them I have to do things in threes.” She sits, waiting for the condemnation. Waiting for the concern and judgment to ooze from my face. I sit nodding and she continues. She tells me things I have heard a zillion times before. Things that come from living in the shadows of child OCD.
Your child is balled up on the floor – again. She has been like this for hours. Nothing you do or say seems to penetrate her wall of pure terror. You remind her of all the tools she’s learned in therapy, but the words just drip off her limp body. It looks like another school day will be passing her by. How long can this go on? When should you start considering anxiety and OCD medication for her?
You are at your wit’s end. Your child’s mind is spinning out of control. It is waaay past her bedtime. “But what if…” you hear her little voice start to say. “Enough! Just go to bed!” You shout, feeling guilty before you even finish your sentence. How can you get that little mind to stop? What can reduce anxiety in kids?
Maybe I can help? I am a big fan of teaching kids to tackle their thoughts behind their anxiety. But once that is done, kids need a go-to distraction. One of my favorite approaches is teaching kids how to make, what I call, a world. It is a great visual imagery tool that can be very effective!
It seems like just yesterday you were wiping her bottom and picking up Cheerios off the floor. And now you are scrolling down the grocery aisle going through the list of school supplies, trying to find an 8 pack of washable markers. When did this happen? When you look at your daughter she still looks so young. Is she ready for the stream of kids and chaos school will bring? Is there anything you should be doing to prepare her for the first day of kindergarten?
It’s bedtime and instead of winding down, your house is winding up. “I’m scared,” you hear. “I’m too scared to sleep!” You hear over and over again. Your child pleads. Can they sleep with you? Can you sleep with them? Can they sleep on the couch next to you? You’ve tried everything. Threatening, negotiating, sympathizing…nothing works. Are you doomed to a life of sleepless nights or can this be fixed?
It’s bedtime. You are arming yourself for battle. You muster up all your energy. It’s going to be a long night. You are already running on fumes from the frequent interruptions in your sleep the night before. How long can you function like this? What on earth can make a child so afraid to sleep? Especially a child who has experienced nothing but security and stability?
Some kids beg their parents for a pet. Some kids love to dig for bugs. In your home, dogs and bugs are what keep your child up at night. Play dates are dictated by the size and existence of a friend’s pet. A relaxing day by the pool can be ruined by a traveling bee. Is this going to pass or will your child have a fear of animals and insects their whole life?
Your child is paralyzed. She stares at the bathroom door unable to go through. She grabs the door handle with her shirt, fumbling to get it open. You’ve watched her wash her hands until they are raw. It seems like most questions that come out of her mouth are about germs. What is going on with her? This new fear of germs is taking over her life. How can you help?
Your child is refusing to get out of the car. “What’s wrong!” You ask, growing more impatient. “I don’t want to go.” Your child pouts. “But why?” You beg, glancing at the time and wondering what excuse you’ll tell your boss this time. “I just don’t want to!” She screams at you. You’ve done this dance many times before. You wonder, how are you supposed to help a child with anxiety when they won’t even talk about it?
A child with OCD sits in my office. I ask if she is ready. She gives me a nervous nod. I place a Clorox wipe in her hand. She begins to breath heavily. Her OCD convinces her she is holding a death wipe. She imagines her hands spreading the contamination throughout her body, the poison flooding her veins.
I am not having a torture session, I am treating a child with OCD.
OCD is like a game of chicken. A game I am determined to help her win. We are calling OCD’s bluff, refusing to blink.
Your child screams, “I hate you!” She rolls her eyes and tells you, “No!” You feel your composure slipping away as she spits out her final words. In one fell swoop she has made you feel enraged and completely ineffective. You wonder, where did I go wrong? And why on earth does she feel she can talk back to me?
It’s another school day. Which means another stomach ache. Another battle of wills. Lots of tears. Lots of threats. Eat Dinner. Go to bed. Repeat. Why is your child constantly clutching their stomach? Why are they paralyzed with fear and…heartburn. Unfortunately stomach pain and anxiety like to hang out together and I mean – often. They are best friends and they like to team up against your child.
This page is brought to you by nOCD. Download this mobile tool for free! Beyond Picky Eating: When Kids have a Fear of Food Your kid is hungry. They haven’t eaten all day. But when you put food in front of them, they just stare at it. They worry about the taste. They worry about the brand. Is this the same brand as last […]