Did you know that mental disorders are more common than other illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease? In fact, according to World Health Organization (WHO), 450 million people worldwide suffer from mental disorders (1 in 4 people) but almost two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder do not look for professional help. Mental disorders affect both males and females but illnesses like eating disorders tend to affect females more. Other disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more common in children.
Another example of a mental disorder is an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which can also affect your children. Do you think that you child may be suffering from these mental disorders? As a parent, you are in the position to help your child by understanding what their mental disorder is and its causes, looking for signs and symptoms, and finding the right treatment for it.
Anxiety and OCD in Children
Anxiety disorders are common in adults but they can also happen to kids. Mental disorders have become more frequent in kids and teens in the recent years. Studies have shown that 10% of children and young adolescents or teens (ages 5 to 16) have a diagnosable mental illness.
First, let’s start with anxiety. Simple anxiety is considered to be a normal part of childhood, even until adulthood. But children with an anxiety disorder may have intense fear or tend to always avoid places, people, events, or activities. They may become more emotionally numb or easily irritated and sometimes angry. Obsessive compulsive disorder can stem from these.
OCD is a long-term and chronic disorder in which a person experiences uncontrollable and recurring thoughts or images called obsessions, and actions that he/she feels the urge to repeat again and again. These repetitive actions or behaviors are called compulsions. They can result in extreme stress and anxiety in a child or teen.
Although researchers and experts aren’t completely sure on what causes OCD in people, there are many studies on risk factors that may have resulted to OCD in children and adults. These factors may be a combination of genetics or biological factors, brain structure, and environmental factors.
- Studies show that children and adults with blood relatives who have had OCD have higher chances of having the said mental disorder. Parents can also pass serotonin deficiencies to their child, which is linked to the development of OCD.
- According to research, there is a link between OCD signs and brain abnormalities although it is still not completely clear.
- OCD may originate from situations or traumatic events such as:
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Sudden changes in living environment
- Death of a relative or loved one
- Divorced parents
- Issues in school
Signs and Symptoms to Look for in Children
Signs and symptoms of OCD in adults share similarities with children, but parents must pay attention to the differences which are important in telling whether your child has OCD or not. They may show signs of obsessions and behavior, such as:
- Excessive preoccupation with germs and illnesses
- Repeated doubts and worries
- Excessive obsession with order and exactness
- Too much attention to detail
- Aggressive urges and thinking
- Repeated hand washing
- Checking and rechecking things excessively
- Asking the same questions over and over
- Repeating words and sounds
- Arranging their things in a certain way and becoming frustrated or upset when it is misplaced or rearranged
Looking for the Right Treatment
When your child suffers from anxiety and OCD, it may seriously affect their development and ability to function in life. They begin to form their own strategies and behavior patterns to deal with their anxiety and obsessions, avoiding people and events directly affecting their social life and well-being. This calls for immediate treatment. However, according to the 2015 Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report, 80% of children with anxiety disorders are not getting medical help. As a parent, guardian, or caregiver, it is best to look for the right treatment for your child.
These types of treatment that can help aid your child:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- CBT is a psychotherapy treatment that is short-term and aims to solve problems concerning mental health. This is the best approach to consider for curing OCD. It changes their thought process and behavior and eventually changes their attitude positively.
- Occupational Therapy (OT)
- Occupational therapists have various techniques that they can utilize to help treat your child. They use active analysis or grading activities to observe them and support or encourage them. Psycho-education can also be used to provide your child more awareness in setting their limitations. Lastly, they can approach your children through anxiety management, which includes breathing techniques, muscle relaxation, and problem-solving.