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  • Information about:

    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

    (OCD) Revised September 2009

    Vermont Family Network 600 Blair Park Road, Ste 240 Williston, VT 05495 1-800-800-4005 www.VermontFamilyNetwork.org

  • Introduction

    Information About Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is part of a series of information packets developed by the Vermont Family Network (VFN). Designed to provide basic information, the packet includes fact sheets, articles, advocacy tips, and resources for families of children with special needs and for the professionals working with them. After reading the packet, we hope that youll have a greater understanding of obsessive compulsive disorder and the ways in which parents and professionals can support children at home, in school, and in the community. Weve selected information from a variety of sources, and many articles are on the Internet. Thank you to BEST (Building Effective Strategies for Teaching), Vermont Department of Education, for making this publication possible. Thanks also go to the organizations and authors who gave us permission to use their articles and fact sheets. Use of any specific articles in this packet is meant for information purposes only and doesnt indicate any endorsement on the part of VFN of the views and opinions of the authors. Because your comments are important to us, weve included a readers response form at the end of the packet. Please take a few minutes to fill it out and return it to our office. Thank you.

    Contents Title Pages Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents 1 - 2 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Obsessive Compulsive Disorder 3 - 4 National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) OCD in Children 5 - 8 The Obsessive Compulsive Foundation (OCF) Tips for Accommodating Students with OCD 9 - 10 Leslie Packer, PhD Advocating for Your Child: 25 Tips for Parents 11 - 14 David Fassler, MD Resources 15 - 23 Readers Response Form 24 - 25

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder In Children And Adolescents No. 60; Updated June 2001

    Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), usually begins in adolescence or young adulthood and is seen in as many as 1 in 200 children and adolescents. OCD is characterized by recurrent intense obsessions and/or compulsions that cause severe discomfort and interfere with day-to-day functioning. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are unwanted and cause marked anxiety or distress. Frequently, they are unrealistic or irrational. They are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems or preoccupations. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or rituals (like hand washing, hoarding, keeping things in order, checking something over and over) or mental acts (like counting, repeating words silently, avoiding). In OCD, the obsessions or compulsions cause significant anxiety or distress, or they interfere with the child's normal routine, academic functioning, social activities, or relationships.

    The obsessive thoughts may vary with the age of the child and may change over time. A younger child with OCD may have persistent thoughts that harm will occur to himself or a family member, for example an intruder entering an unlocked door or window. The child may compulsively check all the doors and windows of his home after his parents are asleep in an attempt to relieve anxiety. The child may then fear that he may have accidentally unlocked a door or window while last checking and locking, and then must compulsively check over and over again.

    An older child or a teenager with OCD may fear that he will become ill with germs, AIDS, or contaminated food. To cope with his/her feelings, a child may develop "rituals" (a behavior or activity that gets repeated). Sometimes the obsession and compulsion are linked; "I fear this bad thing will happen if I stop checking or hand washing, so I can't stop even if it doesn't make any sense."

    Research shows that OCD is a brain disorder and tends to run in families, although this doesn't mean the child will definitely develop symptoms if a parent has the disorder. Recent studies have also shown that OCD may develop or worsen after a streptococcal bacterial infection. A child may also develop OCD with no previous family history.

    Children and adolescents often feel shame and embarrassment about their OCD. Many fear it means they're crazy and are hesitant to talk about their thoughts and behaviors. Good communication between parents and children can increase understanding of the problem and help the parents appropriately support their child. Most children with OCD can be treated effectively with a combination of psychotherapy (especially cognitive and behavioral techniques) and certain medications for example, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI's). Family support and education are also central to the success of treatment. Antibiotic therapy may be useful in cases where OCD is linked to streptococcal infection.

    Seeking help from a child and adolescent psychiatrist is important both to better understand the complex issues created by OCD as well as to get help.

    For additional information see Facts for Families: www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/facts_for_families_numerical_list

    The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, www.aacap.org

  • 2

    #24 Know When to Seek Help For Your Child #47 The Anxious Child #35 Tic Disorders #21 Psychiatric Medication for Children #52 Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation See also: eAACAP Anxiety Disorders Resource Center

    See also: Your Child (1998 Harper Collins) / Your Adolescent (1999 Harper Collins)

    The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) represents over 7,500 child and adolescent psychiatrists who are physicians with at least five years of additional training beyond medical school in general (adult) and child and adolescent psychiatry. Facts for Families information sheets are developed, owned and distributed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and are supported by a grant from the Klingenstein Third Generation Foundation. Hard copies of Facts sheets may be reproduced for personal or educational use without written permission, but cannot be included in material presented for sale or profit. All Facts can be viewed and printed from the AACAP website (www.aacap.org). Facts sheets many not be reproduced, duplicated or posted on any other Internet website without written consent from AACAP. Organizations are permitted to create links to AACAP's website and specific Facts sheets. To purchase complete sets of Facts for Families, please contact the AACAP's Development and Communications Assistant at 800.333.7636, ext. 140.

    If you find Facts for Families helpful and would like to make good mental health a reality for all children, please consider donating to the Campaign for America's Kids. Your support will help us continue to produce and distribute Facts for Families, as well as other vital mental health information, free of charge. You may also mail in your contribution. Please make checks payable to the AACAP and send to Campaign for America's Kids, P.O. Box 96106, Washington, DC 20090. The information on this website is provided for general reference purposes. It does not constitute medical or other professional advice and should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your child and adolescent psychiatrist or other physician. Only a qualified, licensed physician can determine the individual treatment that is appropriate for your particular circumstances. All decisions about clinical care should be made in consultation with a physician.

    Copyright 2009. American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry. All Rights Reserved.

    http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/when_to_seek_help_for_your_childhttp://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/the_anxious_childhttp://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/tic_disordershttp://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/psychiatric_medication_for_children_and_adolescents_part_ihow_medications_are_usedhttp://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/comprehensive_psychiatric_evaluationhttp://www.aacap.org/cs/AnxietyDisorders.ResourceCenterhttp://www.aacap.org/cs/root/publication_store/your_childhttp://www.aacap.org/cs/root/publication_store/your_adolescent

  • 3

    Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Everyone double-checks things sometimes-for example, checking the stove before leaving the house, to make sure its turned off. But people with OCD feel the need to check things over and over, or have certain thoughts or perform routines and rituals over and over. The thoughts and rituals of OCD cause distress and get in the way of daily life.

    The repeated, upsetting thoughts of OCD are called obsessions. To try to control them, people with OCD repeat rituals or behaviors, which are called compulsions. People with OCD cant control these thoughts and rituals.

    Examples of obsessions are fear of germs, of being hurt or of hurting others, and troubling religious or sexual thoughts. Examples of compulsions are repeatedly counting things, cleaning things, washing the body or parts of it, or putting things in a certain order, when these actions are not needed, and checking things over and over.

    People with OCD have these thoughts and do these rituals for at least an hour on most days, often longer. The reason OCD gets in the way of their lives is that they cant stop the thoughts or rituals, so they sometimes miss school, work, or meetings with friends, for example.

    What are the symptoms of OCD? People with OCD:

    have repeated thoughts or images about many differen