Imagine you are in a room full of snakes. You are told to go to the other side of the room to take the trash out. You might be pretty oppositional about the request. You might shout back. You might even go ballistic. Anxiety or OCD can feel the same way. Our kids are under an enormous amount of invisible pressure. They are often going through their school day full of metaphorical land mines. All too often they take this built up stress with them and explode in the comfort of their own home.
I’m embarrassed. I’m weird. I’m crazy. These are statements I hear every week from kids with OCD. Kids who think they are alone. Kids who don’t understand their disorder. Kids who don’t realize that there are kids all over the world, just like them. Chris Baier understands this struggle all too well. When his daughter Vanessa was just nine she changed from a happy-go-lucky child to a child filled with worries and compulsions. Vanessa also felt alone. She felt like no one else understood what she was going through.
When I stare at my son spit a mouthful of food out and discretely tuck it under his plate my heart stops. When I spot my youngest daughter picking at her skin until it bleeds my stomach starts to hurt. When my kids stay up late at night because they are fearful they will be killed if they fall sleep my heart sinks. Anxiety and OCD are hard to stomach. It is hard to watch our children struggle and not allow it to be OUR struggle. To not allow it to be our defeat. How can it not be? But if you want to survive this whole business of raising kids with anxiety and OCD, perspective and separation are key.
Doubt is a big part of OCD. It makes you doubt you are clean. It makes you doubt you are safe. But imagine if the doubt OCD brings makes you doubt who you are and what you are capable of doing? Welcome to the world of Scrupulosity OCD,sometimes referred to as Moral OCD, Religious OCD or even Bad Thought OCD. What if I become a killer? What if I am a bad kid? What if I hurt someone? What if I hurt myself? What if I drink, smoke, do drugs, get tattoos?! What if I turn into the worst version of myself? Will I go to Hell? Will you leave me? Never speak to me again? Scrupulosity OCD is one of the hardest OCD themes to cope with because it feels so real. Because it attacks the very essence of who the person is and who they want to become. The worst part about it – most parents and children don’t even know they have OCD.
It might seem like your child is nauseous every waking moment. They are getting ready for school – they feel sick. It is time for bed – they feel sick. You might have dragged them to every stomach specialist in town, only to hear those dreaded words, “I think you should take her to a therapist.” Relax, your child isn’t making it up. They aren’t trying to manipulate you either. Yes, they are doubled over in pain before school. And yes, they seem to be completely fine after you let them stay home. But…anxiety can look that way. The fear of throwing up and the nausea that goes with it is very real. It is just caused by anxiety, not some stomach bug.
Kids with anxiety and OCD often have an intimate connection with technology. It is where they go to distract themselves from their scary thoughts. It is where their obsessive nature takes over. It is the cause of huge meltdowns. It is the platform for google searches and rumination. It is the arena for bullying and low self-esteem.
What’s your child’s relationship with technology? Do you know how to harness its power for good? Technology is not the enemy. In fact, it can be a great resource if you know how to use it. Join me for an insightful discussion with Dr. Adam Pletter, a psychologist and national expert in technology.
It is hard to watch your child with OCD struggle. It is hard to try and motivate them to fight the urge to do compulsions. It is hard to watch as they get stuck over and over again. Parents need support. Kids need support. The more a child can understand how OCD works and how to crush it – the better! That is why I have made YouTube videos directly for kids with OCD and anxiety. In this week’s episode I am teaching kids how to deal with OCD thoughts.
Most of us know that Strep can attack our joints. Most of us know that Strep can attack our heart. But did you know that Strep can attack our brain? It hides behind OCD symptoms. It hides behind children who all of a sudden are afraid to eat, afraid to sleep. Who start to wet the bed. Who start to rage. Who start to develop compulsions, tics and struggles they’ve never had before. It hides under the mystery and denial of PANDAS/PANS.
Do you know why child OCD and anxiety can be so hard to get rid of typically? Because most kids subscribe to the OCD and anxiety channel in their brain. It is playing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You can’t compete with that. A therapist can’t compete with that. Until your child learns how to change the channel in their brain or at least not subscribe to the OCD and anxiety network, little progress can be made.
So how do you get kids to change the channel? It is actually a hard skill for all of us, not just kids. But, it can be done! This week on Ask the Child Therapist Kids Edition I am talking to kids about how to pay attention to what is playing in their head and how to have some say in the programming.
So maybe you’ve heard about Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), but the ideas of how to do exposures are just not flowing? Developing exposures require a deep understanding of your child’s core fears, while being creative and thinking out of the box.
Having OCD is hard enough, but being a kid or teenager with OCD is even harder. Many children with OCD think they are the only ones suffering with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They don’t realize that OCD in kids is much more common than they think! They struggle alone and many wonder how on earth they are supposed to beat OCD.
Anxiety and OCD love to hide. They love when kids deny they exist. They love when you can’t see them. They love when they are missed. So it makes sense that the first line of defense in your child’s battle with anxiety or OCD should be communication. When your child learns how to talk about anxiety and OCD – the problems can no longer hide.
So you might be saying, yeah that’s great, but how exactly do I get my kid to talk? Well that might be a bit tricky. Some kids don’t like to talk about anxiety or OCD. Some kids want to deny they are having issues right up until they implode. And some kids just need a little help with how to communicate such overwhelming and often embarrassing feelings.
If you want some creative ideas on how to get kids to talk about anxiety and OCD, have them watch this YouTube video I created just for them. I talk about why it is important that they communicate with you about their struggles and some out of the box ideas on how to do it!
When children are afraid or obsessed with a horrible thought you might think that the best way to help them is to teach them to get their mind “off of it.” Not only is this not effective, it can actually make anxiety and OCD worse. ERP for OCD and anxiety, also known as Exposure and Response Prevention is a counterintuitive therapy that has some parents running in the opposite direction.
But let me tell you why this wacky approach not only works, but is the gold standard for treatment.
Is anxiety and OCD bullying your child? Do you find your child spends much of their time avoiding fears and giving in to their anxiety or OCD bully? Families can feel like they are held hostage by anxiety and OCD. It can feel like every decision, every activity is controlled by this outside force.
It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it is important that your child can see that taking back power is the way to emotional freedom! So how do you do that? Especially if your child is paralyzed with fear or shutdown and won’t talk about it?
If you are dealing with Child anxiety or OCD there is one lethal weapon you are up against….doubt. Almost everything related to anxiety and OCD comes down to doubt and uncertainty. When you conquer doubt, you conquer anxiety and OCD.
Not sure how to do this with your child? Let me know you how…