We all do many things without a conscious thought. Our heart beats. Our food is digested. Our breath goes in and then goes out. Our eyes lids go up and then they go down. Our bladder constantly fills. But what happens when your attention constantly goes to these automatic behaviors? Welcome to the torturous world of Sensorimotor OCD.
In this week’s AT Parenting Survival Podcast episode, I talk about why many of our kids with anxiety or OCD have the hardest time when they are us. And why it often has nothing to do with the parenting.
A young girl worries she might stick out her middle finger, so she goes around keeping her hands in tight fists. Another boy worries he’ll go to hell if he lies, so he can’t even answer a simple question. A teenager boy is fearful he is staring at his teacher’s breasts, so he looks at the floor the entire day. And the saddest part? No one knows these kids are even suffering. Not their parents, not their teachers, not their friends.
It often starts off with a question. “Mom if I touch my mouth after I touched the Clorox wipe, is that safe?” It might pick up steam from there… “Mom if the shampoo gets in my eyes, will I go blind? From there the questions can be endless and never ending.
Anxiety and OCD want to rule the show. They want to be in control. They wants to make all the first moves. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can teach your kids how to take the power back. How to not only react to anxiety or OCD, but how to purposely poke back.
You are learning how to be a parent from a very young age, even from toddlerhood. Seriously! Everything you see, every interaction you have, will impact how you parent your own children. This can be inspiring or daunting depending on what type of childhood you had. But regardless of whether it was good, bad or in between you get to decide how your childhood influences your parenting. This is especially true when you parent an anxious child.
I often hear, “I can’t do that exposure, OCD is keeping me safe!” Unfortunately when a child believes OCD is keeping them safe, it makes it almost impossible for them to agree to exposures.
When we ask our kids to face their fears, it can be like asking them to jump off a cliff. Swim with sharks. Jump out of an airplane. All of which I know I would never want to do. That is why offering good incentives is key when trying to get kids to work on anxiety or OCD.
Ahhh. You finally have a nice break. Your child is curled up on the couch with little to no plans of ever moving. And frankly, you feel the same way. It might have been a tough school year of stress, anxiety and challenges. But ironically, there is no better time than the summer to work on anxiety or OCD.
Summer is here and most kids are ecstatic. But kids with anxiety or OCD can feel some dread. Dread over the downtime. Dread over the slow pace that invites anxiety or OCD to take center stage.
They dig their heels in. They refuse to go. They refuse to eat. They refuse to move. Oppositional behavior in a child with OCD or anxiety can be all consuming.
So, what are you supposed to do?
“Why on earth did I think that?!” – that is at the heart of many OCD Intrusive thoughts. The fear of the thought itself. Having disturbing thoughts is….disturbing. But what is even more upsetting is that you had the thought at all.
Anxiety or OCD can make you feel like you house has been hijacked. It can make you feel like your home is not your own. Having a child with anxiety or OCD can often mean, having a controlling child.
Your child is stuck. They are on a permanent loop that will not end. They have to do it again and again and again. Time passes but they cannot move on. Your child is not trying to make it perfect. They are not trying to do their best. They are just waiting until it feels “just right.” Welcome to the world of Just Right OCD.
People will try to treat OCD with many different approaches. Treatment of OCD can include the use of talk therapy, play therapy, biofeedback or EMDR. But the truth of the matter is, OCD will not improve significantly without ERP, Exposure Response Prevention.