Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety-related condition
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’). Common compulsions might be the need to wash hands, the need to check that the door is locked, or the need to perform an action a certain number of times but there are many different ways in which OCD can affect people.
It’s quite common for people with severe anxiety to also experience recurrent worrying thoughts and feel the need to repeat a behaviour (e.g. two blinks), 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. Children or young people with autism also sometimes use repetitive behaviours to help themselves feel calmer. 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 young people learn to cope and there is good advice for parents below. Medication for anxiety is sometimes used to help adults with OCD.
Typically, OCD falls into one of the following categories: Checking, Contamination, Hoarding, Ruminations or Intrusive Thoughts
- What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming OCD by Dawn Huebner. For children aged 8-12 years. Well written and helps you talk to your child about strategies for dealing with unwanted thoughts and behaviours.
- Touch and Go Joe: An Adolescent’s Experience of OCD by Joe Wells
- All the Things that Could go Wrong by Stewart Foster. An award-winning story about a boy with OCD and about bullying which is both moving and funny but above all an honest look at what it’s like to have OCD. Suitable from 9-10yrs
- Can I tell you about OCD? by Arnita Jassi. A short book that is useful for children but also parents and siblings to explain what it’s like to have OCD.
- Talking Back to OCD: The Program That Helps Kids and Teens Say No Way – and Parents Say Way to Go by John March and Christine Benton. Some American terminology.
- Breaking Free from OCD: A CBT Guide for Young People and Their Families by Jo Derisley. Part of the Reading Well “Shelf-Help” scheme of books chosen by young people and professionals: available in your local library.
- OCD Action recommended book list for all ages and for families- includes many of the above and more
Websites and helplines
- OCD Action also have the possibility of peer support by phone/zoom or Skype
- OCD-Youth have articles, a blog and an online forum for support
- International OCD Foundation This is a US site so some of the information isn’t relevant for other countries but there are some good sections including how to talk to your child or teenager about OCD.
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)Guidelines for OCD written for patients and carers:
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
- OCD assessment and treatment More information about treatment and how a diagnosis is made here
- OCD advice for parents who are worried their child might have OCD
- “OCD is not me” – a video designed to raise awareness made by young people with the South London Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust