Signs & Symptoms in Children

You may notice emotional and/or behavioural changes in your child before you notice any obvious signs of OCD.  

Behavioural Symptoms:

  • Frequent reassurance seeking: "Are you sure this is safe to eat? Are you sure I'm not sick? Am I going to wake up in the morning?"

  • Asking repeatedly about germs, getting sick, or dying.  For example: "Can you promise that I won't get sick" or, "Can you make sure ...."

  • Child is unwilling to complete a chore or task until you give in to their reassurance seeking

  • Using statements such as, "Something bad could happen if ..."

  • Telling a parent they did something wrong - and it seems innocuous to you 

  • Rage and aggression 

  • Difficulty at bedtime

  • Coercive and disruptive behaviours 

  • Frequent washing hands, showering, or checking (behind doors, locks, windows)

  • Counting, ordering or arranging 

  • Temper tantrums 

  • Not wanting to go to extra circular activities, school, or play with friends

  • Withdrawn 

  • Taking a long time to complete school work (at school and at home)

  • Not engaging in the activities, hobbies or leisure activities they previously enjoyed

  • Frequent staring off into space, up at the ceiling, breathing in a patterned manner

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Embarrassing or scary thoughts they know are not true but are nonetheless scary or embarrassing

  • Cry more frequently 

  • Express a desire to be close to a parent

  • Increased sadness, anger or explosive behaviour

  • Depressed mood 

  • Throwing tantrums when something they were doing is interrupted or when you do not comply with their request "they don't get their way"

Family Symptoms:

  • Family tension or arguments

  • Emotional distress, depression and/or anxiety in parents (e.g. walking on eggshells)

  • Changing daily routines to minimize anxiety 

  • Assisting with or participating in compulsions

  • Adhering to rigid rules to avoid anxiety or disruptive behaviour

  • Feelings of fear ("I don't know how to help or what this is")

  • Providing reassurance (telling the loved one that there are no grounds for the fear)

  • Facilitating avoidance (e.g. touching something so that the loved one doesn't have to)  

  • Giving in to the child's frequent demands

  • Feelings of guilt, sadness, frustration, and anger

  • Not understanding what's happening 

  • Taking time off work to spend with your loved one 

Signs & Symptoms in Adults


How Does OCD Differ From Children to Adults?

Children are less likely to identify a fear associated with their symptoms and tend towards more magical thinking.  Over 50% of adults report their symptoms started as a child but they didn't know what they were doing wasn't normal.  In hindsight, adults can easily identify their childhood obsessions.  This tells us as parents we must notice any OCD-like behaviours and seek help immediately.  Children are easier to treat than adults and recover faster.

Signs of OCD in Adults

Recurring and distressing thoughts, images, or urges  Despite best efforts to rid one's self of these thoughts they do not go away.  Adults will try to neutralize these thoughts through mental or behavioural acts that make the distress go away.  The problem with compulsions is that they do not work very well or for very long before the distress returns.  

OCD at Work

40% of individuals with OCD are unemployed.  This is due to the number of hours per day spent in the OCD cycle (9 or more hours), and the numerous triggers at work. 

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