Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
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'˘m
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.
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.
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.
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.
As a woman who used to exhibit similar behaviors as a
little girl, I tend to agree with your husband that she'˘ll
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
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
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
I have a 12 year old daughter with OCD. I've tried
medication and cognitive behavioral therapy for her and
things are not getting better. I'm interested in people's
experiences and resources. I'd like to find out if there
are any parents or kids her age who are interested in
getting together or talking about working with OCD.
My husband has dealt with OCD since he was a child. It was not diagnosed
properly until he was in his late twenties. Until that point, he had been
diagnosed with anxiety disorders and even post traumatic stress disorder. He
believes that earlier diagnosis could have helped him in many ways. For
starters, he would have felt like had an explanation for the way his brain
worked. Also, there are mental paths that get more firm over time and had he
learned tools earlier, he might have been able to shift those paths with less
As it is, he has really minimized the negative impact that OCD has on his life.
The strategies that have helped the most are meditation and therapy with a
psychologist who specializes in OCD. Meditation taught him how to observe
his thoughts and not necessarily intervene - a critical skill when your
thoughts are disruptive. It also gave him a mostly reliable way to calm down
when he was afraid or over-aroused.
In therapy, EMDR has been particularly helpful, but there are other kinds of
exposure therapies that a specialist in OCD would know about. He tried
medication a couple of times, but found that it critically impacted him in
other ways and did not necessarily resolve the OCD.
One book that was really useful for him - and for me as his partner - is The
OCD Workbook by Hyman and Pedrick.
Good luck. Your daughter is struggling with a real challenge, but with your
support and help, this does not have to determine her life.
My son has recently been diagnosed with OCD after years of being
misdiagnosed. I would like some referrals of therapists who
specialize in CBT in the East Bay who either take insurance and/or
will take credit cards (from my experience with therapists, I feel as
if this is a stretch). And, if anyone has experienced this, what has
your experience been with treatment and medications.
We don't have a referral, but my husband has ocd and benefited very
much from cbt, which is the right therapy for this disorder. He was
able to get by for a long time without medication, but after taking a
stressful attorney position has used ssri's and benzodiazepine
combination (the standard protocol). With a teen, because of the
slight risk of suicidal ideation with ssri's, it may be better to try
the cbt alone first with benzodiazempine as needed, but that would all
be for your doctor to consider. Many people lead productive successful
lives with ocd so don't get discouraged. (Though it can be
debilitating at times, without proper treatment, so I am not
minimizing it.) It's not a great thing to have but there is far worse
in life. Check out the Anxiety Disorder Association of America
website, a good resource. Best of luck to you and your child.
OCD in family
The best source for CBT referrals is to try the San Francisco Bay Area
Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (www.sfbacct.com). 510
652-4455. Just leave a message in the main mailbox and someone will
get back to you.
Michael Y. Simon, MFT
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.
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
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.
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
We're looking for recommendations for inpatient care for young teenager with OCD.
Anyone with experience at Herrick Hospital or other places around the Bay Area?
Do not go to Herrick.
Check out the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation website (google the name and you'll find it) for a list
of specialized programs and info.
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.
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
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
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
All kids go through periods where the world has to be ''just so'' or they need to
things exacly their way. What you are describing does sound a bit excessive to me
3.5-year-old, but not alarmingly so. The real issue is how her concerns/demands
impairing your life and hers. Is it a couple of times a day or ''constantly''?
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
learn? If you are concerned that her preoccupation with having things a certain
really getting in the way of her relationships, enjoyment of life, and learning,
should discuss your concerns with your pediatrician or find a child psychologist.
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
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 ten-year-old daughter suffers from obsessive compulsive
disorder (OCD). She is adamantly opposed to being medicated
and will not talk with a counselor.
I am searching for two things: (1) a homeopathic approach (I
think I can convince her to try a ''natural'' approach if I can
find something helpful); and (2) a support group.
The best support group would be specifically for her, with
other kids. The next best support group would be for parents
of OCD sufferers. I attended a support group that consisted of
adult sufferers, and although it was an enormous help to be
with people who understood the condition, I didn't really feel
that I could get the kind of support I need as a parent.
So many of my friends and colleagues read this listserve that I
cannot, out of respect for my daughter's privacy, include my
name ... but if there is some way to hook up with other
parents, I would be sooooo grateful.
Parent of OCD Sufferer
Homeopathy works well for this kind of thing. Christine
Ciavarella (P.A.) at the Hahnemann Medical Clinic, 524-3117
My daughter also suffers from OCD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
is helping her learn how to manage it. She was getting no where
with the once a week therapy and just going was causing her more
anxiety. She attended an intensive program last summer at the
Anxiety Center of Northern California, which really helped her.
I would be happy to talk to you about it. I would be interested
in a support group for parents, although I do not know of any
Frances Kalfus, L.Ac, OMD, is an experienced, classically trained
homeopath who has a nice way with children and is particularly
sensitive to psychological issues. I have been very impressed
with the efficacy of her treatment.
Dr. Kalfus can be reached at her North Berkeley office, 558-1911.
Best of luck with your daughter.
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’t 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 “I want to go home”; does not want her
sister to take off the sticker inside her shoe that has the size on it and starts to
“don’t take that off, don’t take that off” 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….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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
My teenage son shows signs of obsessive-compulsive behavior.
At first, it wasn't so noticeable, but lately, he is
becoming worse. For example, he is always late for school
because he is obsessed with washing his hands and face. And
he normally doesn't get enough sleep because he takes so
long to prepare to go to sleep, like taking extra long
showers and brushing teeth, etc. Does anyone know any
reasonable, good therapist in the area who treats this
sickness? Also, my son does not think anything is wrong
with his behavior and gets angry when we try to talk to him
about it. We would appreciate any advice given. Thanks a lot.
I am a psychologist and from a description of symptoms, it does sound
like your son might have OCD. The best approach to treating the
disorder is a combination of medication AND therapy. The best type of
specialist to see is someone who can prescribe the medications (very
effective and helpful ones are now available)and recommend the right
type of therapist. Usually, a pediatrician will have the names of the
more behavioral pediatric specialists in our area who are used to
seeing adolescents with this problem....it is not surprising he is
defensive about it; instead of focusing on the symptoms (i.e., hand
washing, etc), focus on how the specialist will help him keep within
the framework of his life, i.e., being on time for school, for
Please check out the book ''The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Washing'' by
Judith Rappaport,M.D. for a great description and case study examples
about OCD. It's in paperback, and very interesting and easy to read
(for you and your son). If he has OCD, he will be able to relate to
the stories in the book, and hopefully to realize this is a
brain-based disorder, and not something within his conscious control
or something to be ashamed of. The treatment of OCD begins with SSRI
medication (like Prozac, Zoloft, etc), rather than psychotherapy. Your
primary care physician might be able to make a recommendation to a
psychiatrist for you, as of course you need to establish the diagnosis
before starting treatment.
Kathleen Toups, M.D.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
Then just reinforce any positive steps you see, even
if at first it's only a delay in the reaction, or trying an
Good luck with this -- it can work with many situations for many
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
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
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