What is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in childhood is characterized by recurrent and persistent thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions) that can cause distress or interfere with everyday life. Children and adolescents may feel embarrassed about OCD symptoms and/or try to hide them. This may result in families becoming unaware of the disorder until the progression or symptoms begins to impact daily life.


Obsessions are involuntary thoughts or feelings that arise repeatedly in the child’s mind and are frightening, disgusting, or bothersome. Obsessions are not simply excess worries about real-life problems. Examples of obsessions include: thoughts that something bad will happen to a loved one if the child does not engage in a compulsion, fears of contamination or getting sick, and fears of losing control and harming oneself or others.

Compulsions are repeated behaviors or rituals that are done rigidly and in response to an obsession and are usually aimed at preventing some dreaded event or situation. Examples of compulsions in children include: repeated washing or dressing in a certain way; repeatedly checking things like doors, windows, light switches, or homework; erasing or rewriting; or repeating certain words/phrases or numbers over and over. Often children will ask family members for reassurance and will involve them in rituals. OCD can result in a lot of avoidance (e.g., not touching doorknobs) and distress.

Treatment for OCD

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and certain types of medication have been shown to be helpful in the treatment of OCD. Cognitive-behavior therapy for OCD is based on the techniques of exposure plus response prevention (ERP). In ERP, children are systematically exposed to the feared situations (exposure) while being instructed not to engage in their ritualistic behaviors (response prevention). Children are taught to challenge distorted thoughts and use other coping skills.

Learn more

Please see the Resources page for recommended reading and informative links.

Our Research on OCD

To participate in our research to help us learn more about this disorder and how best to treat it, please fill out our intake form or contact us at (443) 287-7157.


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