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By Halina Boniszewskateacher and writer

It is believed that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects up to one pre-adolescent child in 200. Recognising the signs of OCD is the first step in helping a child overcome this distressing disorder

Worried job

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. People who have OCD are troubled by obsessive thoughts and ritual compulsions. They can’t stop themselves from thinking about certain things, however bad these thoughts make them feel. They are unable to stop themselves from giving in to a very strong urge to do something (for example, wash their hands three times after every visit to the toilet).

These obsessions and compulsions can be so severe that they interfere with everyday life. Sufferers often believe that if they do not carry out these rituals, something terrible will happen, either to them or someone else. Some research suggests that children may have up to five different obsessions and up to five different compulsions during their period of illness.

OCD is often accompanied by depression that may be partly due to the experience of OCD.

Who can get OCD?

OCD can affect people of all ages. Problems often start in childhood and may continue into adulthood if left untreated. It is believed that OCD affects up to one pre-adolescent child in 200, although some studies suggest it could be as high as three to four per cent. Most studies show that in the case of child OCD, male sufferers exceed female sufferers in the ratio of 3:2.

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  1. Mrs Bee
    on 8 April 2011


    Thank you for highlighting this over looked condition.
    In my experience however the case study is far too simplistic. To get through the stages outlined takes time and tenacity. We only got support from CAMHS after the parent wrote to her M.P. Even then access to CBT was not forthcoming. It continues to be under diagnosed and to wreck young and family lives.