Early Childhood Intervention: Module Two – Special Needs & Conditions

Category — 2.9 Children with Mental Health Disorders: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Children with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that sometimes develops in the early years.

OCD is related to anxiety disorder. Children with OCD report constant and disruptive thoughts, or obsessions. These obsessions may lead to the child repeatedly performing certain acts, or compulsions.

Children’s obsessions relate to a specific issues or theme. This is the same for the compulsions that usually follow.

For example:

  • Fear of contamination: This fear could lead to the child washing themselves over and over, sometimes until skin is raw.
  • Fear of lack of order and control: This fear could lead to counting and/or storing or displaying items over and over, lined up, or arranged in a symmetrical way.
  • Fear of getting hurt (self or others): This could lead to the constant checking of locked doors.

Depending on the type of fears, children with OCD are usually classified as either checkers or washers:

  • Checkersneed to constantly check virtually everything, including doors, windows, ovens, stoves and closets. The reason behind this need is to ensure that nothing bad will happen to them or to someone they love.
  • Washers fear contamination. Children with these fears spend most of the day washing their hands and other parts of their bodies to avoid germs
  • These behaviors do not stop the obsessions from coming back. Children continue to engage in repetitive actions, known as ritualistic behavior. These include placing objects in a certain order and/or making sure that everything in sight is symmetrical.

OCD is a very serious childhood disorder. The obsessions (followed by the compulsions) seriously interfere in the child’s daily life. These children are unable to participate in everyday school activities, such as field trips, playing on the playground, or participating in arts and crafts. They may constantly wipe their seating area. They also spend most of their time washing up, in the bathroom.

Intervention Options

SSRIs help the brain to “block” the specific anxiety and depression that are related to OCD and to use more of the “uplifting” elements called neurotransmitters (see full Glossary).

Research suggests that a combination of both therapy and medication work effectively in older children with severe OCD and adolescents. Most recently, strategies based on research about the brain have brought a different understanding on how to treat this disorder.


January 19, 2011   No Comments