The word ‘obsessive’ gets used commonly. This can mean different
things to different people. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD) is a
type of anxiety disorder. In this condition, the young person
suffers from obsessions and/or compulsions that affect their
everyday life, like going to school on time, finishing homework or
being out with friends.
What are the symptoms of OCD?
Some people have thoughts, ideas or pictures
that come into their mind over and over again. They are difficult
to get rid of and can feel silly or unpleasant. These are called
obsessions. Some examples of obsessions
- “I must count to twenty or something bad will happen”
- worrying about germs and disease
- worrying about things being tidy.
Some people feel they have to do something
repeatedly even if they don’t want to or it doesn’t make sense.
These are called compulsions. Some examples of
- repeatedly checking that the light is switched off
- washing hands again and again
- counting or repeating words in your head.
Often people try to stop themselves from doing
these things, but feel frustrated or worried unless they can finish
them. Problems with obsessions and compulsions can cause distress
and worry, and can begin to affect young people at home with their
families or at school with friends
Many young people have mild obsessions and
compulsions at some time, for example having to organise their toys
in a special way, or saying good night a certain number of times.
This is normal and may be the result of worry due to stress or
If you are worried that a young person may
have OCD, you need to think about the following questions:
- do the compulsions upset the child?
- do they interfere with the child's everyday life (e.g. school,
If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, it
may be that the young person has OCD. If this is the case, you
should seek professional advice.
How common is it?
OCD can affect people of all ages irrespective
of their class, religion or gender. It usually starts in childhood.
It is thought that 1–2% of the population have OCD. This means that
at least 130 000 young people suffer with OCD.
What causes OCD?
We do not know the cause of OCD for certain.
Research suggests it may be due to an imbalance in a brain chemical
called ‘serotonin’. It may also run in families and in people with
tics (jerky movements) in the family. Very occasionally, OCD can
start after an illness. It can also occur after a difficult time in
their life like having an accident.