How to Help Kids with OCD Checking Behavior

It starts off with a little nag. Did you do it? Are you sure? The uncertainty grows. The nagging impulse grows. Check! Check again! Until eventually the child caves and checks. But OCD checking behavior is a trap.

Mental quick sand, I like to call it.

It catches people in a vicious loop that they can’t get out of.

Sometimes checking behavior involves parents. It is disguised as reassurance. Repeated questions with repeated answers without any sign of relief.

OCD checking behavior is a common compulsion. Learn how these compulsions show up and what to do to help kids and teens with this struggle.

OCD checking behavior is a common compulsion among people with OCD. OCD makes people check all sorts of things.

Let me help you understand the many ways OCD checking compulsions show up in children and teens – and more importantly what to do about it.

At the Heart of OCD Checking

At the heart of OCD checking are two things – uncertainty and discomfort. OCD loves to make people doubt. That is why it is often called the “doubting disease.”

Are you sure? OCD teases. Maybe you should check again.

OCD is relentless at making people second doubt themselves. It doesn’t matter if they know they did it. It doesn’t matter if someone else tells them they did it.

Just in case, you should check again.

Some Examples of OCD Compulsions around Checking

Checking compulsions can show up in so many different ways. Here are a few examples with various OCD themes.

Fear of Harming Others or Oneself

Harm OCD centers around the fear that you might harm others or yourself. The guilt that goes along with this type of OCD theme can be debilitating.

OCD will make people with this type of theme worry they might have done something that could harm themselves or other people.

What if I left the oven on?
What if I left my light on?
What if I left my straightener on?
What if I left something on the floor and others trip?
What if I didn’t clean this dish well enough and someone gets sick?
Are the doors all locked?

The answer to these questions. Check. Check again.

Fear of Getting Sick or Dying

The fear of death, dying and disease are pretty high on the list for those with OCD. Often OCD will make people feel like they need to be vigilant in order to stave off their untimely death.

Is that a lump on my neck?
Do I feel nauseous?
Do I have a fever?
Is that food expired?

The answer to these questions. Check. Check again.

Fear of Being a Bad Person

Often we think OCD checking behavior is an overt action. But that’s not true. Mental checking is just as common and just as debilitating as any other form of OCD checking.

Moral OCD makes people worry that they either are or will be a bad person. They are consumed with concern and guilt over thoughts and actions.

Did I call her a bad name in my head?
Do I want to steal?
Am I really a liar?
Do I have evil thoughts?
Am I a bad person?

The answer to these questions. Check. Check again.

Fear of it Not Feeling Just Right

Some people need to check things until it feels just right. Just right OCD is a subtype that makes people do things over and over until it feels just right. The only problem is it often never feels just right, leaving the person on a continuous loop of repetitive behaviors. This can cause checking behaviors to go on for long periods of time.

Checking is Checking

OCD will disguise it’s compulsive checking behavior in all sorts of ways. It can be disguised as cautiousness or thoroughness. It can hide as inquisitive questions to a parent.

Regardless of whether it is outward or inward; self-driven or parent-driven – checking behavior only gets worse if it’s not worked on.

How to Help Kids with OCD Checking Behavior

Educate Kids on OCD

The first step in helping any child with OCD is education. Let them know what OCD is and how it works. Often parents don’t want to “label” their kids, but not educating them on OCD does a disservice to their children.

When kids understand what OCD is and how it works they are in a better position to start tackling it. They also realize they are not alone.

Get a Good OCD Therapist

Second, find a good OCD therapist. This is so key! Not all therapists are the same. In fact, therapists who don’t treat OCD can do more harm than good. You can start by going to the International OCD Foundation’s provider directory to see if anyone is listed in your area.

You can also go to NOCD and see if they offer teletherapy in your area. They are a great, affordable option.

Teach Kids About OCD Compulsions

Third, educate your child on what compulsions are and how they work. The more kids do compulsions the more compulsions they have to do. It is a vicious hamster wheel they can never get off of.

I made a kid/teen Youtube video on OCD checking compulsions to help with this. You can click below to watch:

Pull Back Your OCD Reassurance

Parents often unintentionally play a big part in compulsions. In order for us to help our kids, we have to start pulling back our accommodations. Often parents are completing OCD loops without even being aware. It is important for parents to slowly pull back from completing these loops.

Below is a Youtube video on how parents complete OCD loops:

Help Your Child with OCD at Home

OCD is a family affair. It doesn’t live in a box and it doesn’t stay contained. It impacts the entire family. It involves the entire family.

The kids that do the best are those that start developing skills at home to crush their OCD. Even if your child has an OCD therapist, it is the parent and child who make a powerful team to reduce OCD symptoms and take back control.

You can learn how to help your child step-by-step in my on-demand, online class, How to Crush Your Child’s OCD. In these short video lessons I teach you everything I teach parents in my therapy sessions.

In just three hours you can have a complete playbook of how to help your child with their OCD. To learn more click here.

Other Resources on Checking Compulsions:

OCD Types | Facts and Info from New England OCD Institute

OCD and Checking: Better Safe Than Sorry | Psychology Today

How Brad Overcame Compulsive Checking | Beyond OCD