OCD Awareness in Children and Young People

November 2, 2022

Are you a parent or carer who has noticed signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in your child or if they’ve recently been diagnosed with OCD, it can be difficult to know what to do. In this blog, we will look at ways to spot some of the common signs, symptoms and support.

OCD is often misunderstood because of its representation in society or the media. It’s usually described as simply liking a clean room or keeping things a certain way. However, Clinical OCD is much more intense than this. It often needs professional intervention for the person to be able to live a typical life.

So, what are the signs and symptoms of OCD in children? How can you help after a diagnosis of childhood OCD? It’s all outlined here.

Clinical OCD Signs and Symptoms

One of the most common symptoms of OCD is routine, repetitive or ritual-like behaviours, for example, any behaviour that is done over and over excessively may be a sign of OCD.

These ritualistic behaviours are done repeatedly and excessively. Some ritualistic behaviours include washing hands, rechecking items like ovens or door locks, putting things in a particular order, counting the same set of objects, repeating certain words or phrases, or separating food on a dinner plate.

OCD signs and symptoms are different for every child. Karin Young Counselling has put together a short not exhaustive list of common signs:

Emotional symptoms of OCD include:

• Intense worry or fear about having things in a particular order

• Extreme fear of germs, dirt, or bodily waste

• Constant doubts about something being done, like the door being locked or the oven being turned off

• Strong need to have tasks done perfectly

• Compulsion to touch or count objects

• Destructive thoughts

• Lack of self-esteem or self-confidence

• Difficulty concentrating at school or home

• A sense of panic if they aren’t able to perform their rituals exactly as they’d like to

Physical symptoms of OCD include:

• Racing heart

• Headaches or stomach aches

• Shaking and trembling

• Difficulty breathing

• Feelings of weakness

• Intense fatigue

• Sweating

• Difficulty sleeping

When these symptoms begin to hinder a child’s ability to function in their usual way is when professional help is needed, below we’ve listed some ways to help your child.

Ways to Help Your Child

Have you already seen the signs and received a diagnosis of OCD for your child? Here are some steps you can take to help them.

1. Learn More

It’s very difficult to help someone with an issue that you do not understand. So, learning more is the first step.

Understanding some key issues for children and teens with OCD can to help spot signs and symptoms early, access treatment, and save unnecessary struggle.

Parents concerned about obsessive-compulsive symptoms in their teenagers should seek out resources. There are resources that are online which might support such as information on Mind.org which can be found here.

2. Speak to a Mental Health Professional

One of the first line of treatment for OCD is most often therapy. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for example, is very popular in treating OCD.  CBT helps a child recognize what their thought patterns are and how those thought patterns may be affecting their behaviour. By changing their thoughts, they can change their actions. CBT is often about figuring out how your child’s mind works in relation to OCD and finding ways to manage and cope long-term.

A trained therapist, may consider using tools such as talking through a child’s thoughts or fears, exploring positive self-talk or introducing relaxation techniques. Your therapist will create a unique treatment plan for your child.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can be frustrating and confusing for both children and parents or carers. However, with the correct treatment, support and maintenance, it’s possible for most children or teen with OCD to lead a productive life.

Treatment makes a huge difference, but children and teens may be especially uneasy about associating themselves with a mental health diagnosis, so be gentle in identifying symptoms and invite collaboration rather than ordering them into a service.

If your child or a child that you know would benefit from treatment or support with managing their OCD, here are some specialist charities that can help:


OCD UK- Click the Family TAB

You can also find out more here : MIND

NHS to discuss your options for support.

Are you a Young Person?

OCD action have a service you can access by emailing youthhelpline@ocdaction.org.uk.

If you're under 19, you can also call 0800 1111 to talk to Childline. The number will not appear on your phone bill.

Text "YM" to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, if you're under 19