Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety-related condition

It would be quite unusual to diagnose OCD at primary school age. People with OCD experience frequent unwanted and sometimes disturbing thoughts or images (‘obsessions’). They then attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by these thoughts by performing repetitive behaviours or mental rituals (‘compulsions’).

In children, it’s very common for such symptoms to be related to anxiety. For example, it’s common for children with anxiety to experience recurrent worrying thoughts and feel the need to repeat a behaviour (e.g. three head twitches), which they think will stop a bad thing from happening. This does not necessarily mean they have OCD although there is an overlap of symptoms. Have a look at our pages on anxiety for some general resources.

Often, the relief brought by carrying out these compulsive actions is short-lived, and in the longer term reinforces the obsession, which worsens the condition. OCD can take up a lot of time and make it difficult to get on with normal life. (e.g. school, social activities, family life). However, there is lots of help and advice available which can help children learn to cope and there is good advice for parents below.

Typically, OCD falls into one of the following categories: 

  • Checking, 
  • Contamination/Mental Contamination, 
  • Hoarding, 
  • Ruminations/Intrusive Thoughts

What is OCD? Dr Isobel Heyman from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust describes what OCD is, and talks about how common it is and the theories about what causes it



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