Every living person has some worry or the other. People of different ages have different type of worries. Generally children are worried about their study, exams and other such things. Some children have the habit of worrying too much or develop it so much that they start to worry about things for which, at this age, they should have a casual attitude.
OCD in kids
Take the instance of a girl who is worried about her health. She develops a habit of washing hands due to this worry of cleanliness. She continues to wash hands for a time longer than needed both before and after meals. This could continue till her hands become red and appear raw. When at school she may not like to touch even the door with her hands, fearing that they will become dirty. Similarly, another child may not be able to complete her work in school or exam because of erasing and rewriting some words or sentences, worrying that they have not been done in a perfect manner.
Such children do know that whatever they are doing is not desired from them and they are losing their time of playing and enjoying with other children, but are unable to overcome this habit. Some children worry about the health of their parents, or even about how the home will run smoothly if the parents lose their jobs. This habit developed by some children is called Obsessive Compulsive disorder.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety which the child faces when his or her brain has a problem in how to deal with the things about which the child worries or has doubts. Such children worry too much. They generally feel that bad things will happen to them or the people they love the most. This is why the girl in our example washes hands again and again to keep disease away. The habit keeps the brain of the child occupied with one irrelevant thing or the other at all times.
Anxiety or excessive worry has become a major mental health problem in the developed world and, as per an estimate, about 13% of children and adolescents in USA are suffering from problem of excessive worry. It is an admitted fact that under normal circumstances the child experiences some worry and occasional nervousness. When a child is faced with a situation new to him, he is bound to have some worry thinking about it, like first day in school etc. This is normal. A normal child when faced with such worry will overcome it when he is face to face with the situation may be with the help and effort of the teacher or parents.
If you notice that the child has reached a situation where the worry has started to impact the normal functioning of the child, or worrying is preventing the child from participating in the typical children day to day activities and he is keeping away from friends. Such a child will be easily distressed and will become agitated very soon and will continue to ask reassuring questions like what if. This is the time when your immediate intervention is needed.
What should parents do?
To begin with, you will need to do a lot of counselling and discuss the problem being faced by the child. The child needs to be assured that everything is well and will go smoothly when done in a normal manner. Try to understand what is at the back of the mind of the child which is making him do repeated acts and what he is worrying for. When you are able to assure the child and clarify the thoughts circulating in the mind, in all probability he will be able to reduce worries for different things running in his mind. This is more in the nature of a habit which needs to be changed.
In extreme cases or where you think that you are not able to adequately tutor the child, help of a professional psychiatrist may be taken. In some cases it may be necessary to take the child to a doctor for medication. It will be better if the problem is resolved as early as possible as with advancing age the disorder may aggravate, resulting in serious consequences.