Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Children: Care Instructions

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition. It makes your child have unwanted thoughts that occur over and over. To stop those thoughts, your child might develop a compulsion. This is an action or ritual that is done again and again.

For example, a child might worry constantly that if they get dirty, they will get sick. To handle this feeling, the child might wash their hands or clothes or clean things over and over.

The action makes your child feel better for only a short time. If your child tries to resist the urge to do it, they may feel very anxious or have panic attacks. The same can happen if your child isn't allowed to do the action.

Therapy can help your child learn to manage thoughts and actions. Your child may have one-on-one therapy, group therapy, and family-focused therapy.

Your doctor also may prescribe medicine to help with symptoms.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Give your child's medicine exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
  • Make sure your child goes to counseling and follow-up appointments.
  • Ask your child's therapist how you can help your child do homework or tasks that the therapist sends home.
  • Involve family members and other loved ones in your child's treatment, especially if your doctor suggests that they go to therapy together.
  • Help your child handle stress in these healthy ways.
    • Get regular exercise. This could be activities like walking, bike-riding, outdoor play, and sports.
    • Write or draw about the things that bother your child.
    • Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when your child needs to.
    • Eat healthy foods. It helps to avoid caffeine. Coffee, energy drinks, some soda, and chocolate have caffeine. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teens not drink energy drinks.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child mentions suicide. If a suicide threat seems real, with a specific plan and a way to carry it out, you or someone you trust should stay with your child until you get help.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If your child talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child's repeated actions and rituals upset daily activities.
  • Your child's symptoms of OCD are new or different from those that your child had before.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter A025 in the search box to learn more about "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Children: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.