OCD in Children: Can OCD be Cured?
Your child is tapping, washing, counting over and over again. As a parent, you want to make it stop and make it stop right away. Watching your child be mentally tortured by OCD can be excruciating. You fast forward five years, ten years from now. What will life be like for your child? Can OCD be cured? What is the long-term prognosis for OCD in children?
OCD in children is an insidious, destructive disorder. It is by far the most debilitating disorder I see in my therapy practice. It can take a once, happy go lucky child and turn them into a compulsive mess. It is cruel. And it is unfair.
[Click here to listen to my podcast episode on how to parent a child with OCD]
So what are parents supposed to do?
OCD requires a parent and child to move out of complacency and into battle. This isn’t one of those wait and see kind of problems. This is a prepare yourself for battle kind of issue.
Because the more a child partakes in compulsive behaviors the more their brain hardwires that behavior.
Think of the brain as a series of roads (neurons). When a child develops OCD they start to be bombarded with obsessive thoughts. Let’s take the classic example of a child who is afraid of germs (which is one of a zillion OCD themes – most of which are missed, but not this one!).
Your child obsesses over getting germs on them. Their OCD creates an itch to compulsively wash. This compulsion creates a new path (neural pathway) in their brain. That path might be a dirt road at first, but as the behavior grows and becomes more and more frequent, the brain might start to bring in the cement trucks and make it a smoother and faster road to ride. That’s bad news. You don’t want a highway of compulsive behavior.
When kids start to fight their compulsions they also take the first steps in tearing down that highway and start building a detour around that mess.
Building a new road takes time, patience and perseverance. It takes incredible will power to ignore an itch in the brain – a brain that is used to being in charge and doesn’t like to be told no.
When children learn how OCD works, they can start to understand that even though they get short-term relief when they do their compulsions, they are causing long-term damage.
This will help children buy into Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), the two most effective approaches for OCD.
[Click here to listen to my podcast episode on ERP]
Research from Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz of UCLA, one of the leading experts in neuroplasticity, has shown that people with OCD can actively change the biochemistry of their brain through changing these behaviors.
His book, Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder highlights his research and talks about how people can literally alter their brain chemistry by changing their thoughts and behavior. That is good news for kids with OCD!
Kids need to start their battle with OCD early on and families need to educate themselves on their role in this battle. This can be a game changer for a child’s long-term prognosis.
Are you dealing with children with OCD in your work or in your family? What is your biggest struggle? Do you know someone who has children with OCD? Share this article with them.
For additional support sign up for my online class: Parenting Kids with OCD and get all the tools you need to help your child crush OCD.
For more information and resources visit the International OCD Foundation.
Other Articles on Childhood OCD:
Parenting a Child with OCD? Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes
Dear Mom & Dad, It’s Me – Your Kid with OCD.
Books on Child OCD:
Support for Parents with Children with OCD:
Parenting Kids with OCD Online Class: