OCD in Children
Archived Q&A and Reviews
My wonderful son, going into 3rd grade, has OCD. We've wondered for a while, but now there's really no getting around it. This feels devastating. I don't know what it means for his future happiness and ability to be independent and successful, and I'm not sure how to best help him. He is aware, even at this young age, that there is something in his thought process that is throwing up big obstacles. We are, of course, seeking professional help. But I would really appreciate advice from people who experienced pediatric onset of OCD symptoms, or parents of other OCD kids. In particular, we would love to know what sorts of therapy or approaches helped the most, and what strategies have helped you to combat the symptoms and be happy. Worried Mom
Hi worried mom, I'm so sorry to hear your young son is suffering from OCD. Fortunately treatment really works for this and there are good therapists available. Check with the Bay Area Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for a referral to make sure you get someone experienced in treating OCD. They should do exposure and response prevention therapy. Also a book by Tamar Chansky ''freeing your child from OCD'' is great. Heidi
I know that having a child with OCD can feel devastating, terrifying and profoundly lonely. But the good news is (yes, there is good news!) that you're aware of it early (it took me until my son was in middle school to realize what was going on) and are already seeking professional help. I'm sure you're doing this already, but it's imperative that you work with a cognitive behavioral therapist who uses Exposure Response Therapy, which is the only proven way to confront this really insidious illness, along with, if necessary, medication. I also highly recommend joining ocdparenting [at] yahoogroups.com. It's a supportive and helpful community of parents who truly understand what you're dealing with. Given the right therapy and the right tools, your child will learn to wrestle his OCD to the ground. It won't ever disappear, but it can be controlled so he can have a ''normal'' life. My son is now a junior in high school and three years ago, when his OCD spiraled completely out of control and his entire world (physical surroundings, siblings and me) were ''contaminants'', it was impossible to envision him getting out of its choke-hold. But after a lot of hard work and, yes, medication, he is mostly free. There are still a few triggers, but NOTHING like what he struggled with before. Finally, there are some great OCD books out there tailored for both children and parents. You can check them out on Amazon (I couldn't find them at the independents.) Been There
I so feel for you and your son. My son developed OCD in 3rd grade as well, and it took over our lives for a short time. Things that helped: a great therapist experienced with anxiety disorders and kids (the OCD Foundation has a database of providers that is a good place to start), CBT therapy, and Tamar Chansky's ''Freeing Your Child from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder'' (recommended by the therapist and available on Amazon). He had control of his OCD within 6 months. My son is now almost 15 and his ''worry-brain'' (as he dubbed it long ago) is something he knows how to handle. He knows that OCD will be with him for life, but knowing how to handle it makes a huge difference. Good luck. Anon
Hi Worried Mom, My 18-year-old daughter was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe OCD in 4th grade - but had it from the minute she was born. She just graduated from high school, got a great scholarship from the college she most wanted to attend, and hopes to be a nurse. So yes, your son has a future!
That said, I will tell you that raising her was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. OCD affects individuals in many ways. Some sufferers have to line up their shoes ''just so.'' Some are counters (they count compulsively in their heads, I don't know why). Some are checkers - did I lock the back door, did I turn off the stove? My daughter had deep-seated fears that led to compulsive behavior that to an outsider looked like horrific tantrums. We tried therapy (I recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is easy to find in the Bay Area), but she wouldn't do what was needed. She went over the edge in 7th grade and we turned to medication. PLEASE DON'T EVER LET YOUR SON TAKE ABILIFY! My daughter's weight doubled in a year due to that drug. Medication is tricky because there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. If you go that route, expect many changes and second thoughts and weeks of waiting to see if a medication works. The toll on the family can be profound, depending on the severity of the symptoms. I was in a state of fight-or-flight for years, since my daughter relied on me completely to keep her sanity (what does that mean? She included me in her rituals, such as standing on the front porch yelling ''good bye'' dozens of times and watching me turn the corner on my way to work - if I didn't follow exactly the same path, she'd have a meltdown and I'd have to start over. Stuff like that.)
Kids are different from one another in how they cope with life and what they are handed at birth. You can learn more on the Internet and join listserves for OCD families (I unsubscribed from one because it was depressing to read about kids with worse symptoms than my daughter's and from families without viable access to treatment). You, truly, as a parent, need a support network. I was not able to find a support group here in the Bay Area when I needed it most, but there may be one now. My daughter is bright, articulate, witty and often wise beyond her years. I truly love spending time with her and trust that her strength of will and character will get her through life despite her OCD. I will pray for the same for your little boy. Best of luck. Worried mom for 18 years now
I was compelled to respond to this advice query. When I was a child I had OCD, and while my story is probably not similar to yours on many levels, to simplify things, at its heart, OCD is about anxiety and embracing magical thinking to try to quell the anxiety. This becomes habituated, as rituals are developed, and it becomes difficult to break the cycle and maladaptive behaviors.
My OCD stemmed from extreme anxiety about my home and family life. We were abused badly by my father, neglected by my mother. I lived in terror that my mom would be killed by my dad if I left her alone for any reason. Obviously, I had to leave the house, and obviously, I was a little kid and couldn't actually do anything, but I was convinced I could (cue:magical thinking) and this triggered anxiety that was so extreme that I began to create behaviors (counting, walking rituals) that I thought would protect her if I was unable to. It got very disruptive to me, and I started to feel it infringing into too many areas, making me look weirder than I already was, in my mind. And with extreme effort and dedication, at age 11, I stopped it. It took me about 1.5 years. As I got older, I discovered there was a name for it, and how OCD worked, the connections with anxiety, and the best therapy modalities for treatment-I also went into (like so many other secret and obvious ''nutters''(I say this with nothing but self deprecating affection for my field))field of psychiatry as an adult.
I feel like your child is at a great advantage because you are all unified in assisting him in addressing this disordered thinking, and creating new behaviors that can break his maladaptive ones. Addressing root causes of anxiety can be of great(est) assistance. And be conservative with medications. Medications can be of great service. They can also be prescribed with a lack of understanding and regard, even by people that should be well versed in all aspects of medicating patients. Any medication should be prescribed foremost to give your child the greatest chance of success in behavior change. He must be seen by a MD or NP who can work with a therapist to create a serious action plan that is focused on therapy, not reliant on medications. Look at therapists offering CBT, DBT, MBBT modalities who also have extensive experience managing anxiety disorder in Peds populations. Do not allow over medication. Research the current best practices and treatment outcomes for Peds and anxiety disorders. Work tirelessly to address and treat the root causes of the disorder, while seeking to relieve the symptoms. Do not make symptoms the focus of treatment.
Good luck to you. This is the first time I have ever told anyone my secret, ever. Never in school, never professionally, never personally have I shared this. I've been doing great for the past 20 years, but still have issues with anxiety and worry, but I have been able to learn how to deal with them in helpful, healthier ways through therapy. I no longer fall into these maladaptive behaviors to try to relieve my anxiety. Your son may have a similar battle against anxiety, but if you can stand by him and help pull him through he will have a chance at getting through this. You can get my email from the mods if you have further questions. Anon Sans Magical Thinking
Every so often, my now 6-year-old son will go through a period where he exhibits some quirky behaviors. In the past it's been things like: very frequent need to urinate or constantly worrying he's wet his pants (when he hasn't); repeatedly apologizing for everything, over and over; spending over an hour wiping his bottom and never feeling like it's completely satisfactory. These things went away and now they're back, along with an inability to make very simple decisions (which book do you want to read?) or answer questions about his feelings and opinions. None of these things is a big deal - it's the intensity and repetition of them that worries me. I wonder if it's anxiety or something more serious like OCD. It seems to peak a few weeks into the school year (i.e. now), when the novelty has worn off and his anxiety sets in. He's exceptionally bright and has no trouble with school work, but he'll spend hours on 5 minutes of homework, constantly asking if he's doing it right. My spouse will not consider getting him evaluated for OCD, so I'm kind of stumped as to what to do. At this point I don't feel comfortable violating my spouse's refusal to have him evaluated/treated, but perhaps if I could get some guidance myself I could get a better handle on how to minimize his struggles. Clearly he's struggling with something, and I want desperately to help him. Can anyone recommend a Berkeley or Oakland therapist I could meet with to get ideas on how to help him cope with some of his stress? Again, this would have to be someone willing to meet with me, not with my son, at least for the moment. THanks for the recommendations in advance. East Bay Mom
Our daughter experienced pretty much the exact same symptoms -- and then some -- at the exact same age. I think that by the time we found her a therapist these particular symptoms (which we were told were not especially unusual ways for a child this age to manifest anxiety) had passed on their own. But in our child's case they are always eventually replaced, down the road, by some new worry. We ended up, years later, seeing the AMAZING Dr. Ellen Singer for cognitive behaviorial therapy, focussing on practical strategies that the whole family can use to help get the kid past particular anxieties. It was very, very helpful, and yes, she did meet with us alone (as well as with our daughter). She works in Berkeley, and her phone number is (510) 525- 1975. Good luck! Anonymous
There's a really wonderful therapist in Berkeley who specializes in assessing and treating these kinds of anxiety symptoms. Her name is Patricia Zurita Ona. You can find her at: eastbaybehaviortherapycenter.com. It's so good that you are asking for help around this and reaching out for resources! Good luck. Rachel
I think sometimes very bright kids get paralyzed by choices. They don't want to make the wrong choice, especially if they've been praised a lot for always being right when they were in preschool. Hopefully it will wear off with time. My son couldn't choose things even in art time, then in first grade his teacher explained to the class that there was not a ''right'' or ''wrong'' in art, and that made a big difference. My friend's kid who is also very bright has the same problem of taking forever to do a small assignment, with great attention to detail. I haven't run into the issue of bottom wiping for 1 hour. But some of the school related issues you mention may get better over time -- I just started telling him ''that's good enough'' on his homework, though his teacher said usually she recommends to tell kids ''always do your best'' she agreed in his case it was okay to stop after awhile and not aim for perfection. Hope this helps somewhat. anon
I was concerned about my daughter's compulsions and anxiety and yet wasn't sure what to do. I have been taking her to a 'play therapist'' I am out of the area so I don't have a recommendation for you. What I love about her is she's less about defining whatever the ''diagnosis'' is and more about giving tools to you as parent and your kid. So I am wondering if your husband might lift his ''ban'' if the therapist was more about the tools for coping than the diagnosis. We did have a 'diagnosis'' to get insurance to cover.
The therapist uses and highly recommends this book (and the series). http://www.amazon.com/What-When-Brain-Stuck-What-/dp/1591478057/ref=sr_1_1?s=books=UTF8=1318899683=1-1
My daughter really connected to it and it gives us some language to use. I think it would be helpful though to work through it with a therapist but I could see it being useful on your own. Good luck. anon
Your son's behavior screams OCD at full volume. What could possibly be your spouse's objection to even having him evaluated? Unfortunately I can't help with what you're looking for, but for your son's sake I very much hope your spouse comes to his/her senses soon. local pediatrician
Though my beautiful, funny, smart, eight-year-old has done well in school, she's had a bit of trouble making friends and has seemed to ''put off'' the other girls with her huge need to impress and please. Her teachers like her and she has a close relationship with her 5-year-old brother, but she hasn't bonded with anyone her age and I know it makes her sad to not have a ''best friend''.
The behavior that concerns me started about a year ago with a need to have her covers just-so and having to straighten them out three times before she could sleep. In the last couple of months (this summer, actually) it's escalated into tapping rituals (gently touching things three times) and ground touching. She tries to do it when we're not looking, but when it's noticed, she explains it as something she ''has to do'' not because something bad will happen if she doesn't, but because if she doesn't do it ''now'' she won't have the opportunity again. Once she said that she couldn't stop thinking about sticking a spoon down her throat, or in her eye. She says that the urges come with a ''tickly feeling'' in her vagina.
This behavior seems to have gotten worse with the attempt to stop biting her fingernails (which she started in an attempt to stop picking her nose).
She's willing to talk to me about all of this and I've told her that if she needs to touch the ground, or to tap, to go ahead and do it. That it's okay. I've told her that if she feels like hurting herself she needs to talk to me or to someone she loves about it right away, and after the spoon incident, I told her to take her thoughts to a place where she was happy (the beach, etc.) and that seemed to work. I've pointed out to her that when she suppresses her urges, the outcome is fine, nothing bad happens. I'\xa2m extremely anxious about saying or doing something that's going to make her feel abnormal or wrong. I don't want to damage her self-esteem, but obviously I do feel like something is wrong, and I'm sure she picks up on it. Her dad says, ''Eh, I did things like that when I was a kid, she'll grow out of it.'' :(
So, am I over-reacting? Is this some pre-pubescent thing that is typical of an 8-year-old-girl? Or am I a neglectful parent for not rushing her to the nearest OCD specialist? Very honestly, I am fearful that a visit to a therapist will label her as troubled when maybe she isn't, but I have no experience with anything like this, and I am scared for her. Thank you so much. Concerned Mom
I don't have experience with OCD but wanted to address your concern about ''labeling''. I think there is little chance of harm in consulting with a professional. If you find someone you trust they can help your daughter and you cope with whatever is going on, regardless of the label. My 7 yo child has been helped by therapy for certain issues and has accepted that help easily, some of it was at school and I worried about labeling but that didn't happen at all. I hope you can get the help that will put your mind at ease. another mom
I'd encourage you to talk to a psychiatrist you trust. OCD tends to run in families, and a person can choose treatment, such as medications, when the problem starts to interfere in one's quality of life. The medicine we take also helps with anxiety. Your kindness towards your daughter is wonderful. But if she does have OCD, it may become difficult to tolerate. Best wishes! friend
I suggest you read the book, Freeing Your Child from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, by Tamar Chansky. It was recommended to me by a child psychiatrist when I was trying to sort out my young child's behaviors. It was a very helpful resource. It helped me clarify that we were, in fact, likely dealing with OCD, and it clearly laid out the steps for getting the help we needed. anon
As a woman who used to exhibit similar behaviors as a little girl, I tend to agree with your husband that she'\xa2ll grow out of it. When I was about your daughter's age, I used to do quirky too. For example, I made sure I chewed the same number of times on each side of my mouth (put food on one side of my mouth and chew 5 times then swallow, repeat for the other side of my mouth). After brushing my teeth, I rinsed my cup twice, then put water in the cup, rinsed my mouth 3 times with the water and took a sip of water, then refilled the cup, took a sip of water, then rinsed one final time. When I woke up after having had a nightmare, I would put my hands over my heart, first my right hand, then my left hand, and tap my heart with my hands several times. I also bit my nails/picked at my cuticles. I had no reason for doing these things except that they made me feel good. And maybe there was a little bit of what your daughter said too, that if I didn't follow a ritual, something bad would happen. There are many more examples but the bottom line is that I've grown out of it. OK, well I still pick at my cuticles from time to time. =) But I'm otherwise a healthy happy woman in my 30's with a wonderful family (husband and baby daughter), a great relationship with my parents and brother, a successful career and a lot of close friends, including a best friend. I think the most important thing for me was that my parents totally accepted me for who I was and made me feel normal I remember telling my mom (and sometimes my dad) about all of the quirky things I did. Each time, she was pretty nonchalant, and maybe even slightly positive, about it. For example, when I told her about the chewing ritual, she said, Oh, that's interesting. Well, maybe it's a good thing that you're chewing on both sides equally. Probably good for your teeth My dad was equally supportive. The fact that they sort of brushed these quirks off as if they were no big deal made me believe they weren't a big deal, and the obsession I felt about doing these things gradually wore off. I think it's great that your daughter feels comfortable enough to tell you about the ''quirky'' things she does. I can understand your concern about the spoon comments though and my advice on that is an obvious one -- to keep your eyes and ears open for similar comments/signs and to see someone if it gets worse. Hope this helps! Sandra
It sounds very OCD-like, and it also sounds like it's starting to interfere with her life. OCD is treatable (more or less). You should definitely take her to a psychiatrist. Don't worry that she will be labeled ''disturbed''--psychiatrists are much more professional and tactful than that, and they will try to help your daughter lose these unnecessary behaviors and have a happier life! Some of my best friends are OCD
As someone who did similar ''quirky'' things as a girl, I tend to agree with your husband that your daughter will grow out of it. Some things I used to do: I chewed the same number of times on each side of my mouth (put food on one side, chew 5 times, swallow, repeat for other side); after brushing my teeth, I had a ritual that involved rinsing my cup and my mouth a certain number of times in a certain order; sometimes I would put my hands over my heart and tap a certain number of times. I also bit my nails/picked at my cuticles. I had no reason for doing these things except that I just felt I should. And maybe like your daughter, I also thought that if I didn't do it, something bad would happen. (I was otherwise a ''normal'' child, no other issues, lots of friends.) There are more examples but the bottom line is that I've grown out of it, and I'm a healthy happy woman in my 30's with a wonderful family (husband and baby daughter), a great relationship with my parents and brother, a successful career and a lot of close friends, including a best friend. I think it was important for me that my parents totally accepted me for who I was and made me feel normal I remember telling my mom (and sometimes my dad) about all of the quirky things I did. Each time, she was pretty nonchalant about it, and maybe even slightly positive. For example, when I told her about the chewing ritual, she said, Oh, that's interesting. Well, maybe it's a good thing that you're chewing on both sides equally. Probably good for your teeth My dad was supportive too. The fact that they sort of brushed off these quirks as ''not a big deal'' made me believe they weren't a big deal, and the obsession I felt about doing them gradually wore off. I think it's great that your daughter feels comfortable enough to tell you about the ''quirky'' things she does. I can understand your concern about the spoon comments though (or any other things about her hurting herself). I would also be concerned if the other things she does (tapping, etc.) are really frequent such that they interfere with her life/daily activities. Instead of seeing a specialist right away, maybe you can just ask her pediatrician what she/he thinks? Hope this helps... Sandra
Sorry I didn't see your original post, but please be aware that OCD in children can be linked to Strep, even if there is no history of a sore throat. The official name for the disorder is PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections). If you suspect OCD or see OCD-like behaviors, it is well worth a standard blood test to see if your daughter has an elevated anti-strep titer. Check out the book Saving Sammy, by Beth Maloney, www.savingsammy.net Good Luck
My just turned 6 year old's behavior is confounding me. There will be times that after a week or a few days I'll think she is so troubled I must have some sort of behavioral assessment. And then we'll have some great time and I think If I just manage things better she is better.
What I do know is that, more time with me, good sleep, good food and good food at the right time (making sure she doesnt' get too hungry), sunshine and exercise, good routines all keep her mood under control. I think maybe regular probiotics and omega 3's have helped.
Her habits that are of concerning to me are incredible fussing around how neat and clean things are. She has taken most of the books off the bookshelf so she can have books the same size and color in little groupings and when she gets upset she'll say she hates the bookshelf and wants to cover it up.
If the kitchen is messy in the middle of cooking dinner she'll complain - on good days I can say ''Child this is the life of a home, I am cooking dinner, I'll clean up soon, take a break, or offer an alternative, or ask her to join me'' and it works, on bad days she starts flying around shoving stuff away and ends up crying. I think objectively our house is tidy and clean but not perfect at all times (3 small kids this one is the middle child). She can have a great morning and then open the coat closet door and if a coat has fallen off a hook and a few shoes are just tossed in side - she'll start crying.
Sometimes she'll be in the middle of games having a good time and then freak out that everything is messy and start cleaning up to the regret of her sisters. The freak outs are sobbing and flailing and are hard to distract out of. She is also very fussy about her hair - needs to brush it a lot.
She isn't that interested in friends but is social with adults and plays well with sisters. Sometimes smells and noises make her fussy.She doesn't get upset about these things at school. In other ways she is a sweet and helpful child and in total her blowups are probably less than others - but it is just that they are on such specific and consistent themes.
The fact that I know she is so happy when all is good makes me feel guilty. But I know life can't be vacation all the time. Is this just a quirky kid? What is the evaluation that one would do? I don't want to push to hard on something that I should just let time solve. Perplexed Mom
I am no expert but, your kid doesn't sound fussy, she sounds like having to look at things that are not neat, when she is feeling sensitive, is painful for her. Some kids and adults are easily overstimulated by sound or lights or textures. I know a lot of adults who get really bothered when they have to sit around in a place that is disorderly. Your place sounds way neater than most homes with your number of kids at those ages. When you were able to involve her in cooking, you helped her focus on something else, and she could stop obsessing on the neatness.
So you idea that she might have OCD or something related sounds very insightful. She is lucky to have you for a parent. You may want to have a chat, soon, with the pediatrician to get a referral, and also ask for experts in OCD in children on this list serve. If you can get this addressed, it will make life way less painful for her, and way less frenetic for you and her siblings, and friends and teachers.
In the mean time, consider putting a piece of a sheet or curtain over the front of the book case (attached with tacks or velcro?) so she can cover over that particular obsession when it bugs her toooooooo much! Hope you all get some relief soon. Anon
Hi-to the mom of the 6 y old: you are right, that it makes a lot of sense to keep things as organized and tidy as you possibly can (or want to) but that in the long run getting used to things being out-of-order is a useful lifeskill. I'm an adult who's had to deal w/ OCD off and on (worse in college and graduate school=times of stress for me) all my life. Without getting into details here, suffice it to say that forcing me to ''deal'' with disorderliness (constraints of time, safety [traffic/driving-situations, for example], appropriateness [work-environment, etc] and other basics has really cut down on OCD feelings, behavior, even just thinking about it. Since it is a matter of indulgence, cut it out and you'll do her a huge favor. Also--maybe have her tested for Sensory/Perception-Integration evaluation?? anonymous ocd mom
Talk to any mental health professional-if you have Kaiser, they are great, 752-1075 ask for child and family Psychology and get an appt. Her behaviors are definitely beyond her control at this point, these things truly bother her, and she is looking for ways to control her out of control feelings, but she can learn ways to cope, and you are a great mom to be so attentive and in tune to what she is going through. Best of luck!! Also the Ann Martin Center on Grand is excellent at assessing these things. You're a smart mom
My four-and-a-half year old daughter has some quirky arranging behaviors that are beginning to make me wonder if she has obsessive-compulsive tendencies. She will create elaborate ''displays'' of toys and objects all around the house. This in and of itself is not a concern, but there are some problems. For example, when it comes time to clean up, she totally falls apart. Once she created a display on my aerobics step bench. When I moved it so that I could excercise she had a complete breakdown and I couldn't calm her down for more than an hour. She was screaming that I was a ''yucky mommy'' and then started repeating ''Come back! Come back!'' about her display. I tried to solve the problem by setting up some small tables for her to arrange things on which I promise I won't touch, but if a playdate comes over and picks up an object from the display or the cat jumps up and knocks over something, she loses it. She will demand that it be put back ''just the way it was''. She is otherwise a very easy-going and sweet girl. I know that there are OCDs that are characterized by this sort of thing, but I wonder if it's actually normal behavior. Anyone else experience this?
I have OCD and I also have a four year old. My daughter does the same thing with the elaborate arrangements of dolls and objects all over the house. I don't think it is OCD related though. What you are describing would be the compulsion part of obsessive/compulsive behavior. The compulsion helps relieve the anxiety one gets from the obsession...whatever that may be. Does your daughter suffer from anxiety? The OCFoundation is a good place to research this condition. http://ocfoundation.org/ I have no idea if this behavior is OCD related in your child. It is a complex disorder and can't necessarily be diagnosed by just one behavior. If after reading more you feel that your daughter may need an evaluation please make sure you see a Cognitive Behavioral therapist who specializes in OCD. I can tell you from personal experience that traditional psychotherapy is not helpful at all for OCD.
I'm not sure about the elaborate displays, but I do know that 4-year-olds can display some really out-there behavior. My son, who had been a really nice, gentle, easy-going kid (and is back to being one now, thank goodness!) went through a phase when every time he was the least bit irritated, he started hitting and kicking me; screaming like a banshee when I put him in time out because of the hitting; if I was in the room with him, he told me to go away, if I left he begged me to come back -- and then yelled at me to go away when I did come back -- in other words, having complete and total fits about (next to) nothing. So you may just be experiencing 4-year-old irrationality and complete inability to control emotions.
Our oldest child, a 3.5 year old girl, is extremely particular about things to the point of being obessessive. For example, she will spend forever complaining that her chair is not pushed in exactly the right amount, or that her sink stool is not the exact right distance from the sink. She has to use a certain fork when she eats and everything has to be arranged on her plate the exact same way. We need to say good night in exact same way each night (and blow her a kiss from the same distance from her bed), etc etc. Or else she has a tantrum. Hopefully, this post will generate a lot of responses along the lines of, ''This is all perfectly normal for her age, etc.'' but we thought we'd see what folks thought. Or if anyone had any suggestions. Thanks. T
All kids go through periods where the world has to be ''just so'' or they need to have things exacly their way. What you are describing does sound a bit excessive to me in a 3.5-year-old, but not alarmingly so. The real issue is how her concerns/demands are impairing your life and hers. Is it a couple of times a day or ''constantly''? How often does she tantrum when things aren't as she would like? If she is in school, do the teachers notice similar behaviors? Does it impact her ability to make friends and to learn? If you are concerned that her preoccupation with having things a certain way is really getting in the way of her relationships, enjoyment of life, and learning, then you should discuss your concerns with your pediatrician or find a child psychologist. Liz O.
I know that you are hoping for reassurance ... but your posting tells me that your daughter might eventually need to be evaluated for OCD.
You can begin by observing how other parents and kids your daughter's age act socially: Do other mothers gush about taking their little girls out and showing them off, while you may not feel you can? Have you and your partner changed the way you interact with the world? Can you go out in public without fear of a tantrum? Can you leave her with a new babysitter? Can you distract her from the troubling behaviors with toys, stories, food, promises? Is motherhood much, much more stressful for you than it seems to be for other moms?
In our case, our pediatrician urged a psychiatric evaluation early on, not knowing that it would lead to a diagnosis of OCD. Eventually we got that diagnosis, and last year when my child was ten we tried therapy (unsuccessfully). We are now using medication, and it appears to be having some of the desired effects.
If your daughter has OCD, it's not the end of the world ... but it takes a terrible toll on families and can ostracize you from a network of ''normal'' families whose kids don't need constant reassurances and whose tantrums are normal. Read some books about OCD and visit the OCD Foundation's website to see how your daughter's behavior measures up against symptoms.
Best of luck. Mom of OCD kid
My 2.9 yr. old daughter who always has been a very stubborn little girl, increasingly worries me with her strange behavior. This has been going on and seems to have gotten worse over the last 2 weeks. I can\x92t really pinpoint what might have triggered it. For example: she does not want me to let the water out after her bath; suddenly wants to go home when we are in a social situation and frantically begins to gather everything and cleans up while she cries \x93I want to go home\x94; does not want her sister to take off the sticker inside her shoe that has the size on it and starts to cry \x93don\x92t take that off, don\x92t take that off\x94 almost as if it would hurt her if she did; does not want anyone to stay outside of our house when we are talking to our neighbors; does not want her sister to go and play in the backyard: does not want to open her lunch bag to have a snack\x85.and more. When in a situation like this she gets a huge tantrum and looks very fearful and once it is over is a perfectly normal toddler. The tantrums are resolved either because I somehow manage to distract her or by giving in. I started her in a small daycare/preschool last fall but had to take her out after 3 months since she did not seem ready and kept on asking/crying for me. It seemed the right thing to do. She also does not nap during the day and has not done that in about 8 months. But sleeps 12 hours at night (usually waking up at least once). She likes to be very funny and surprises us often with her smart observations and sentences. I also have a 5 y old but she was a completely different toddler. Did any of you have a similar experience or any solutions/ advice if this is just a phase or normal behavior or something more worrisome? worried mom I don't have any advice for you, but I could easily picture my son (about the same age) doing every single one of the ''strange'' things you describe your daughter doing. So either we both have weird kids, or (more likely) all this behavior is within the range of normal for that age. This is my first child, and although he's certainly challenging at times, I figure that's just how toddlers are. Mother of weird (?) toddler
I hesitate to say ''don't worry about it, it's normal,'' because of your deep concern, but I did want to mention that my very good-natured son, about the same age, does a lot of the same kinds of things (not as extreme, but he's always had an ''easy'' temperament). Doesn't want his shoes on, doesn't want his clothes changed, gets angry if I close a closet door that he wanted to close, insists on certain toys being put away in a certain place -- essentially, wants control over lots of things in his environment. My sense from the list you gave is that that may be what's up with your daughter. My understanding is that the control issue is very big with toddler/preschooler children about this age, and I find that my son is much easier to work with if I offer him control wherever I can (e.g. allow him to put his toys away where HE wants them to go, open closed doors so that he can close them, and so on). You might try this strategy with your daughter and see if it helps; if it does, perhaps you will be less concerned. Karen
I have a daughter who reacted very similarly to things as you describe, when she was 2-3 years old. This behavior is a bit obsessive, and can be very difficult for those around the child. Our daughter has grown up to be quite a perfectionist and most times this is not a problem, and actually has made her a very good student. She has definite opinions about how things should be done- and she is a bit ''controlling,'' but she has learned to curb some of these impulses, and has even told me ''you can't control what other people do,'' when I've complained about how other people act. (Gee- I wonder where she got it.) However, it was important for her to learn that she cannot control everything. She had to learn to ''let go'' sometimes, roll with things a bit more... I definitely don't think it's a good idea to give in to her tantrums, in hopes this will go away- it will not. If anything it may get worse, and you'll have a very controlling 8 or 10 year old on your hands one day, trying to boss everyone around and expecting everything to be done her way. You have to be willing to endure the crying and know that in the long run, there is a larger goal. Be kind, but firm. Try to get her to calmly state what she wants, and don't respond to hysterics. Be assured, the world will not fall apart if the sticker comes out of her shoe. And she will see that, if you show her. She WILL be able to get through this eventually, and it will make everyone's life easier. Good luck! been there
Sounds like my just turned 3 year old. He gets upset with strangers coming into our house (sometimes but not always), or with people coming up and talking to us (even people he likes sometimes) or if I take a sticker off, etc. etc. It's hard to tell if your daughter is more extreme in her reaction but it sounds within normal spectrum to me. Some of my son's friends have bits of this and some don't. I think it's a variant of normal or at least I hope....We try to indulge him sometimes (let a bandaid say on for a week or the sticker in the shoe) and other times be matter of fact about the fact that it has to be otherwise (bandaid has to come off after a week for a bath, neighbors have to talk to us) and comfort him in his crying fear &/or frustration tantrum, but not give in. hope that helps. am there mama
My nine-year-old daughter had a psychiatric evaluation which resulted in a diagnosis of OCD. She is bright, vibrant, good in school, etc. However, she has terrible fits of rage when she can't control certain rituals or when her expectations are not met. This is quite different from feelings of disappointment, hurt, anger, and so on. What I need is ... a support group. For her, for me, for both of us, for the whole family! We have a tradition of not going anywhere, really, because of her reaction to new and unexpected things (she doesn't adapt easily when under stress). She relies on me for comfort and for support and not at all on her dad, because he seems to just ''not get it.'' I want for her to have therapy, but it will have to be when she is willing, which is not quite yet. I would like for ME to have therapy, but right now I don't know where to turn for a good recommendation. But for immediately, what I would desperately love would be to have access to other parents who are dealing on a daily basis with this very special-needs kind of kid. If you're alone with no recommendation and want to talk, I would love to arrange for that, too. Thanks. Exhausted mom
I have a high-schooler who was diagnosed with OCD at the age of 12. Treatment has been both therapy as well as medication with many ups and downs. It has been hard because I am always torn between protecting my child's privacy while needing support for myself. I would be happy to share some of my experiences with you. I do not know of a support group but would love to hear of any. Mom who has been there
Sorry you are dealing with this. Has your daughter been evaluated for medication? This can be very helpful with OCD. For a support group I recommend calling HELPLINK at 1 800 273 6222...they have a huge database of support groups in the Bay area. You also might try calling west coast childrens clinic in El Cerrito or Ann Martins in Oakland. They may offer or know of groups. Another idea is calling the adolescent psych unit at Herricks (Alta Bates) as a social worker there may know of a group. Or, do a GOOGLE Search on OCD & look for a support organization & try to find a local link. Good luck, Bay area psychologist
Hi, My 8-y-o daughter apparently has obsessive-compulsive disorder (and possibly other anxiety-related issues). I called the cognitive behavioral center in Rockridge based on previous recommendations on the UC parents list, but Michael Tompkins (the main guy there) is booked up. They did give me a referral; does anyone know anything about Melinda White, in Berkeley? Or does anyone have recommendations for another female (or easy- going, non-intimidating male) therapist who is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD? Thanks. anon
I recommend the following therapists for cognitive behavioral work-I have heard great things about them:
Lynn Martin in Orinda-925-377-0410
Sharon Smith in Oakland-510-891-9430
Wendy Ritchie in Walnut Creek-925-935-4448
My three and a half year old won't stop counting in sets of threes. At first, we were proud of his counting ability. But for the past two months, he insists on counting in particular patterns before he can continue with ordinary things. For example, before we clip him into his carseat he says, ''Wait!'' then he counts 1-2-3 on the right hand then 1-2-3 on the left and 1-2-3 on the right again then says ''OK, now you can clip me in.'' The patterns are getting increasingly complex but continue to hold patterns of 3.
We have tried to urge him to count in different patterns. He will do it for fun, but falls back into 3's again. I have thought about modifying his diet and tried to get him to eat turkey (which I have heard might be good for him). But all he wants to eat is sugar. We are pretty stringent about sugar in our house. Most of what we eat is organic produce, tofu, organic grains of a variety and beans. He will go for a few days only eating a little bits here and there (mostly breads, juice and soy milk) and then he will binge on proteins or veggies in one sitting.
At what point should we start to be concerned about about his behavior? Has anyone tried a natropath or homeopath to address something like this? Marty
I am not sure why you would think that this behavior has anything to do with what your son is eating. I am not a medical professional, but having struggled my whole life with what I believe are symptoms of mild obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), some of which manifest themselves in the same way as your son (counting by threes), I would say that these are some classic signs, and I would definitely consult a pediatrican about them. Any treatment you can begin now would probably help your son combat this disease, if this is what he has. I know there are also many good web sites that could give you more information on this topic, including how early symptoms may appear. I wish you the best with this. Anon.
You mention a couple of things in your message, one of which (his eating patterns) is not at all unusual for a toddler, and one of which (his counting patterns) does sound a bit odd. As far as the eating patterns go, many toddlers do seem to eat only very small amounts at many meals, eat only a limited number of foods, and/or eat only one really ''meal-size'' meal in any given day. However, as your post seems to indicate, if you watch kids over the course of a couple of weeks, they'll get a balanced diet if it's offered to them -- and you do mention that your child will eat lots of protein or veggies at some meals. The only thing I'd probably do is cut way back on the juice; it has lots of sugar and is missing some of the best parts of the fruit from which it comes -- the fiber and some of the nutrients. In terms of the counting behavior, that sounds a little more complicated. Rather than simply looking for a dietary change or homeopathic ''remedy,'' I'd probably have my child looked at by a pediatric behavior expert (ask your pediatrician about it), just to make sure this wasn't a sign of something more serious. Karen
I am looking for recommendations for a child psychologist or child therapist who is familiar with complusive behavior brought on by anxiety.I checked the archives and haven't seen any recent posts. Also are there any opinions out there as to whether a child should see a licensed psychologist or a therapist with an MFCC?
A great therapist for OCD in kids (or any kid/adolescent problems) is Dr. Michael Tompkins of the Center for Cognitive Therapy . He is a psychologist and fantastic therapist. I am also a psychologist and can tell you that although OCD can be very challenging it is also one of the most treatable psychological disorders and Dr. Tompkins is one of the best at it. Good luck. LRE
I am a stay at home mom of twin three year old boys. One of my sons is very sensitive in ways that range from immediately changing his clothes if he gets a drop of water on them, to affectionate hugs and kisses, to really getting attached to children 4-5 years older than him who pay special attention to him, to having hightened visual and tactile senses.
A few examples of his obsessions are:
* Whenever a present is being wrapped in the house, he insists on carrying it around, sleeping with it, and basically owning it until it is given to the intended recipient. He loves to wrap his own toys and pretend they are presents. If his twin gets a hold of one and opens it, he becomes very irrational and extremely upset - basically a tantrum ensues until i can tape the paper back together and make it look newly wrapped again.
* He has gone through periods where he carries around and sleeps with videos (even though he does not particularly want to watch them), which must be in the proper case, and when he finds a case missing the video he obsesses over the missing tape until it is replaced. If his brother takes the tape out he screams until it is returned to the case.
* Today we were leaving my sisters house and he insisted on taking a extra scrap piece of wrapping paper and when he could not also take another piece for his twin he spent the next 10 minutes in the car whining and complaining that he did not get his brother a piece of paper. His brother was oblivious and totally uninterested in the paper.
It is often his extreme thoughtfulness and attention to detail as well as persistance and insistance that makes it a difficult situation to remedy calmly. He gets very attached to things as he does to some people, and likes routine and predictability. Much of these behaviors make him quite endearing, but i am beginning to wonder if some of his obsessive behaviors that result from him being so sensitive should be of concern to me, and whether or not i can expect him to outgrown his obsessions.
Clearly these are signs of a sensitive, spirited child and most of the time I understand and embrace that about him, but it would be helpful to know if other people have experienced these behaviors and the strategies they use for dealing with them. anon
My son has similar behaviors and at about 3 1/2, we had him assessed through the school district, Kaiser and Regional Center to find out that he has an autism spectrum disorder. I would encourage you to get him assessed as soon as possible. It may not be autism-related but it could be another disorder that they could start therapy for. lw
dear anon, i can somewhat sympathize and have been contemplating my own request for advice from the ucparents. my 4-year old has such a range of behaviour. it reminds me of an old nursery rhyme about when he's good, he's very, very good; but when he's bad, he's horrid.
other people usually see his sweet, gentle, loving side. at preschool, the teachers love him! he is obedient and happy. it took along time for him to adjust to being there, but now he's comfortable there.
i get to see all sides of him, sometimes within minutes! there are times (usually 2-3 times a day) that i have to tread lightly as to not upset him, because when he gets that way, we both go nuts! when he gets focused on something (an object, an activity, a food item), it is impossible to refuse him without his blowing up! here's an example: when i pick him up from school, i try to bring a little snack. sometimes it is too little and he demands more (which i don't have). i try to reason with him that there is NOTHING to offer, but he keeps pushing and eventually will burst out crying, kicking and screaming! it sucks the life right out of me. sometimes he wants to watch a video and when i say no, he can go from zero to sixty right away.
he sometimes is so sweet. he takes care of his sister and ''reads'' to her. he nursed a beetle back to health. he hugs and kisses me repeatedly. he loves to be helpful sometimes (washing the car, picking weeds...).
but, not a day goes by that he doesn't have a fussy episode or some sort. i get so frazzled by this! reasoning does not work even when we wait until he has calmed down. maybe he's too young to reason.
i have tried to justify his behaviour using environmental forces (nature vs. nuture), but maybe this is him. i don't know if we should continue to ''walk on eggshells'' to prevent these episodes, or if he just has to learn the hard way that things don't always go his way.
i, too, don't know if i should be more concerned than i already am. i have read the spirited child book, and my son is definitely spirited in some of those categories (intense, perceptive, sensitive). but i wonder if there's anything else to it. i don't know how OCD ties in with this all. there's a fine between being focused and being obsessed.
i constantly tell my son that i love him, and sometimes he asks me if i do. i use positive reinforcement when i see good behaviour, but he seems to forget. i tell him if i am proud of him, and i tell him when i am not proud of his behaviour (in which case he says ''don't say that!''). it is very draining to have to deal with the bad times, but i am hopeful that we can find better ways.
i am looking forward to reading other responses to your post.
sincerely, a spirited kid's mother
Someone just posted about a kid who behaves beautifully in public but then falls apart at home. Oh, that brings back memories!
I remember asking the preschool teacher if ours had tantrums there, and she looked puzzled, said no, he was totally cooperative and helpful. And then her face cleared and she explained that the ''good'' ones in public are often holding back and need to let their emotions and stress out at home.
He still does that a little, but he's a lot calmer now, at 11 1/2. So yours may grow out it too. Avi
This is regarding a parent who responded to the above topic.
You say, 'i tell him if i am proud of him, and i tell him when i am not proud of his behaviour (in which case he says ''don't say that!'').'
He doesn't want you to tell him that you're not proud of his behavior, because he isn't either. He doesn't want to act that way. Therefore, your job is to help him learn to control himself, not just eliminate behavior. He needs you to help him learn to modulate his responses. How? That's the challenge!
I'd talk with him about it. I'd give the phenomenon a name(disassembled?)and tell him that that's the way some kids react to disappointment and that he will learn to respond differently as he grows and you will help him.
Then after an incident I'd say, ''You really disassembled there. Did you feel it coming? What happened just before?''
Another time I'd help him think of other ways he could respond and suggest that next time he feels it coming, he could try one of them. You could even practice: ''I'm sorry, that's all the snack I brought,'' and he could say, ''I'm starving--I wish I had more,'' etc.
Then just reinforce any positive steps you see, even if at first it's only a delay in the reaction, or trying an alternate behavior.
Good luck with this -- it can work with many situations for many years. Barbara
I have been writing to this newsletter since my son, now 3.75, was less than two, about various behaviors that seemed ''extreme'' or disturbing, including frequent tantrums, biting at school that nothing seemed to allay, crazy reactions to simple medications like decongestants, etc. Finally, about a month ago, I accepted that there wasn't a person who'd interacted with my son who didn't find him both wonderful (happy, intense, passionate, loving, curious, etc.) and challenging (obsessive, reactive, impulsive, etc.) I am in the process now of trying to determine what the best way to help him is. The therapist we've begun to see is sure he is ADHD. I, having read about Sensory Integration Dysfunction, know he is the poster child for it. If you read Stanley Greenspan's book, ''The Challenging Child,'' his picture might as well be next to the oppositional/impulsive child. There are those who think I should put him on Ritalin now. Others say he'll grow out of it. What I am getting out of all of this is that it's far too early to decide on a specific diagnosis because it IS hard to tell with a child who isn't even four how much is developmental delay and how much is going to stick with him and be a problem forever. I have chosen not to worry about labels and certainly not to consider medication at this point. I am just seeking the best help for him I can, for what's happening now. I have gone to my school district to get him assessed, but they are taking so long I decided to use my insurance to get him assessed privately. Again, I'm not looking for a diagnosis so much as immediate help with his most difficult issues. So many of these syndromes mimic or parallel each other--SID kids can look like ADHD and OCD kids. Who cares what the label is? Just seek out the help you need and don't let anyone tell you what you should do if it doesn't feel right to you. There's plenty of time to put a name to his issues, and who knows, maybe Susan
You might benefit from reading ''Raising your Spirited Child'' by Kurcinka. This book really helped me a lot. Sounds like you may have one! Good luck A lucky Mom
We are waiting for an appointment in late June (the earliest available!!!) for an assessment and counseling and everything for our 6-year-old daughter, who shows signs of ever-worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder. Does anyone have any advice on what to do while we wait? Books, websites with helpful intervention ideas? She gets out of control if she can't do what she planned on (be the last person to use the bathroom, for example, or be told when it's exactly nine o'clock). She's big and strong and rages when this happens, and it's extremely difficult for everyone - especially her, because she doesn't want to act this way. Any advice will be appreciated!
Try a book called The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. My stepson is struggling with some of the same issues and we are finding it both accessible and informative. It does offer some realistic approaches to dealing with these issues. Good luck. Jane
A friend of mine who has been a child therapist for 15 years recommended this web site: ocdresource.com. She didn't give me any recommendations for books etc.., but hopefully this will be helpful. jennifer