Help! Does my kid have OCD?

Over the past few weeks we have noticed something with Elliott. That something bares a striking resemblance to OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).  In Elliott’s case it has to do with hand washing. 

Elliott is very preoccupied with germs and this is relatively new.  We did realize exactly what was going on at first.  Then over the past day or so I started paying closer attention to Elliott’s activities throughout the day.  I thought he was going upstairs to play or get a toy but he was going to the bathroom to wash his hands. 

I’m completely for good hygiene but not like this. He is constantly washing his hands with hand sanitizer.  Since I have noticed this,  I have very tactfully talked to Elliott about what he is doing.  I was curious as to why he would feel the need to wash his hands all the time.  I was hoping there was something I could clear up for him that would help him to relax and maybe let go of this obsessive behaviors. 

Basically,  Elliott doesn’t like to think that there are germs in his hands.  So if he touches his nose or something along those lines he has to wash his hands.  He is embarrassed by this behavior because he tries to hide it now.  He will say he’s going upstairs to get a Lego or something and instead go wash his hands. 

This absolutely breaks my heart and I don’t what to do to help him.  He very clearly doesn’t want to do this but he just can’t seem to help himself.  I have been trying to distract him when he feels the need to wash his hands but sometimes he gets really upset.  I could obviously hide the hand sanitizer but I don’t know if that’s the right way to handle this.  Elliott is so stressed out by our lives and I was hoping that something like this wouldn’t happen to him. 

I have been spending as much time with him as possible to try and help him to feel safer or more secure about his life but it doesn’t seem to be helping.  What he desperately needs is normalcy.  He needs to be around typical peers and away from all the chaos that living with 2 brothers that have rather extreme behaviors.  I also know he’s worried about Lizze and Gavin as well.  My fear is that the longervthis goes on the harder this is going to be to get under control.

I don’t want him feel ashamed or embarrassed because this isn’t his fault,  it’s mine.  I’m not doing enough to shield him from some of things that are disrupting his life.  I can’t provide him with a better neighborhood where he could more freely and safely be a kid.  I have failed to make him feel safe and in control of his life. 

Elliott,  getting booted out of his school is only going to make things worse.  That school was going to provide him the one big thing that I can’t and that was a sense of normalcy.  All his friends were there and he loved being there. He felt safe and secure there.  Now that’s gone and if things were rough for him now,  what will happen when he finds out?

Does anyone have experience with this?  His therapist is out of town for 2 weeks and I need to start helping him now.

I want help him work through this… Any advice would be greatly appreciated……

 

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Rob Gorski
Father to 3 boys with #Autism, 1 with Fragile Health. Award winning blogger, techy and advocate. #AutismDad @GuardianLocate
Rob Gorski

Rob Gorski

Father to 3 boys with #Autism, 1 with Fragile Health. Award winning blogger, techy and advocate. #AutismDad @GuardianLocate

0 thoughts on “Help! Does my kid have OCD?

  • September 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm
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    Thank you everyone for all the support. I truly appreciate it. You have great advice and wonderful insight.

    Reply
  • September 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm
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    First things first, I’m going to preface anything I say with “I’m not a doctor, nor do I think myself an expert”. But what I will say is this.. I’m going to school for Special Education, and I have a major interest in Autism. I have been writing papers and doing research on anything and everything autistic. I have readthat Autism and OCD go hand in hand, and sometimes autistic children with obsessive behaviors get a dual diagnosis. That being said, there is a lot of debate about whether a child should receive two “labels” when one is merely a symptom of the other. In the article it says that people with OCD, an “anxiety disorder”, have obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions that they usually dislike, whereas the autistic child takes comfort in their repetitive behavior. I have been babysitting an autistic child for 3 years, and his obsession come in the form of closing doors, and repeatedly checking to make sure they are closed. He will close all opened doors, and push on closed ones up to three times before moving on to the next one. It’s a thing of his, and I ask him why he does it, he “just wants to make sure it’s closed”. All I want to say is that, at least it’s a clean habit, and not something gross or destructive. Although, I would at least make his behaviors better for him. Hand sanitizers cause the germs to become resistant to the active ingredient (alcohol). The alcohol, if ingested, can also cause problems, at my job we aren’t allowed to give children hand sanitizer, because children are prone to putting their hands in their mouths. You might try getting him to use a lotion soap with moisturizers, so his hands don’t dry out and crack. 

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  • September 6, 2011 at 5:04 am
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    I have OCD and am always constantly redoing/rechecking things even though I already know I’ve done them (checking the alarm clock, checking the lights, etc). It is quite embarrassing, especially when I get the urge to need to check, but I think the best thing you can do is just – like many others have said – to talk to him and try to work things out. Maybe find a different alternative to hand washing? If that doesn’t work, then talk to a therapist. 

    When I was younger, I always had to repeat things in my head, say routines over and over again … I thought I was crazy and there were nights where I would cry myself to sleep because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I thought it was something others had, and I didn’t know it was a “disease.” I would tell my friends and they would just laugh at me. I think in high school, I read this book called “Kissing Doorknobs” and I was dumbfounded because the narrator went through things I went through. It was like a break through! Since then, my OCD has pretty much died down, although I still am constantly rechecking things. It’s also nice to know that you have people there who support you. My friends now don’t laugh at me, and just listen when I relay to them my OCD horror stories, and my boyfriend always supports me when he sees me rechecking or doing one of my “rituals.” Hope that helps 🙂 

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  • September 4, 2011 at 4:56 pm
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    I do have OCD, I was OCD-ing in a lot of ways. When I was a lot younger, I believed that if I didn’t do this certain action (mine was switching the lights on and off) in a certain number of times, something bad would happen. Maybe you should try comforting him? I’m not sure if it helps as for my case, I got too tired by being stuck outside the bathroom doing the same thing over and over (switching the lights on and off), when I could use that time doing something else (also, it makes me think, that people could switch off the lights and move on in an instant but i couldn’t) so I managed to take control and refrain from doing so. Though, at worst it becomes a habit.

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  • September 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm
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    I think I had OCD with washing my hands.

    Also OCD with keeping my teeth clean (wanting them straighter, easier to clean)

    OCD with prefect lighting and mirrors makes it easier to clean my teeth (maybe it has something to do with my 1st dentist scaring me)

    Reply
  • September 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm
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    From my experience it can be pretty damning to diagnose a child with a mental illness…it can do more harm than good. So I would try to work things out on your own for a bit more, then talk to a counselor if it becomes necessary. Again from my experience I would only begin to consider medication if you ABSOLUTELY can’t handle it in any other way – all other options exhausted. Psychiatric medicine and kids is something you need to take really, really seriously, and a lot of SSRIs they put OCD people are can cause suicidal thoughts in children and adolescence.

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  • September 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm
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    It would be best to seek professional advice. Try therapy and if all else fails, there are meds.

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  • September 3, 2011 at 11:18 pm
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    I had OCD as a kid too and didnt’ really grow completely out of it until my early 20’s, mostly due to my hormones calming down. 

    OCD can be treated in 2 ways: medication and behavioral therapy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_with_response_prevention).  What happens with OCD is that the person will feel a build up of anxiety and they associate the relief of that anxiety with an action – if I do this action, the anxiety will go away, if I don’t do it, then I will become unbearably anxious.  The person needs to confront that fear and realize that even if I don’t do this certain action, everything will still be ok. 

    I figured this out fairly early as a kid and was able to force myself to stop doing an action and just ride through the anxiety.  Unfortunately, once one obsession stopped, another would begin….ultimately until my hormones leveled out. 

    Reply
  • September 3, 2011 at 8:39 pm
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    I’m not an expert at OCD or anything like it. I’d suggest talking to an expert about it if not taking him there (or getting one to the house) and letting someone observe his behavior. It is good to stay healthy but not when it’s used obsessively.

    Reply
  • September 3, 2011 at 5:43 pm
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    I wouldn’t say it’s your fault…OCD isn’t really caused by anything, it’s just something you either have or don’t have.  But the thoughts and actions that the OCD itself causes are what can disrupt a kid’s life.  I have OCD and could not admit it or own up to the fact that that’s what it really was until I was 20.  I always had the obsessive thoughts more than the behaviors.  Thoughts about horrible things that might happen to me or my family plagued me whenever something triggered them.  Whenever I learned about a new deadly disease at school, I became obsessed with finding “symptoms” in myself and I had my self convinced that I was infected.  When I was in 4th grade, I came home preoccupied and didn’t even want to play with my Barbies, so my mom knew something was wrong.  And I couldn’t really tell her…it was the day we had learned about AIDS, and I was afraid that I was going to die by catching it from a toilet seat or a papercut or something.  Whenever I tried to push the thought away, it popped right back up.  I couldn’t stop thinking awful things and preparing for certain disaster, and the fact that I couldn’t control my bad thoughts gave me terrible anxiety too.

    The most important thing you can do now, in my opinion, is let your son know that you love and support him and that what he’s doing isn’t shameful or wrong, but just something to work on or change in order to make him feel better.  The anxiety about the chosen fixation just makes the obsessing worse, and my mom could usually make me feel better by being supportive and not making me feel embarrassed about my fears.  She always reassured me and made me feel like the worry was a little bit farther away.

    Getting him a therapist is a great idea.  Therapy was extremely beneficial for me.  I didn’t start going until college, but when I was a child and teenager, I had no idea that my problem was OCD.  I thought I was just crazy or something.  But as I worked through my past and my mind’s strange wiring with my therapist, all of these pieces fell into place and I realized that I had exhibited signs very early but since I didn’t have many physical compulsions (hand-washing, checking the stove, cleaning rituals, etc.) it was hard to diagnose, especially since I was very quiet and often wouldn’t tell anyone what I was thinking about.  I also take medication now, and that has helped me tremendously as well.  There are a lot of drugs out there that can help give people with OCD their life back, and if nothing else works there’s always that when he gets older.

    Good luck, and I hope that your son can find some relief.  OCD is a setback, but it can definitely be treated and overcome to live a happier life.

    Reply
  • September 3, 2011 at 3:47 pm
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    I think the best thing you can do for him is to help him find an alternative to constantly washing his hands.  If you notice that he does it more when he is upset, definitely help him find a way that he can use to de-stress.  Stopping the behavior does not alleviate the feeling of anxiety.  It just builds up.  He may very well be worried about germs, but the germs aren’t the real issue.  His worry about germs can be controlled by him when he wants to by washing his hands.  You are right the behavior may escalate (or change) as long as he feels the need to find something he can control.    You can help him now by helping him to find an outlet for his stress until his therapist returns.

    As far as you not providing him the safest environment; you are giving him the best you can and even though this is the first time I’ve read your blog, I know you care about your children.  You can’t control the world outside your home, but you can protect your children by giving them the knowledge they need to live in the world as adults and by telling them the truth in a way they can understand.

    Reply

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