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I'm worried DD is obsessive-compulsive

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
My DD is 4 1/2 years old. Since she was 1 she has shown a real need for order and rules. For example, we set up her easel and gave her some markers to use. When she finished, she had to put the markers away with all the caps going the same direction. If you tried to interrupt her, she would get very upset. This was before she could talk. And we never showed her how to do this, or stressed that it was important.

Recently, she has been getting very upset if her evening routine is changed in even the smallest way. We always brush our teeth together, and I usually put a little water on the toothbrush before we put on the toothpaste. One night she had a melt down because I put the toothpaste on first, and THEN ran it under the tap water. I tried to tell her that it doesn't matter which order you do things in, but she could not be convinced. She was completely distraught, so much so that I had to brush her teeth for her and carry her to bed.

Also, in the shower she has some specific routines that are very important to her. She has to wash her feet in this certain way, and rinse between each toe two times. One night we were running out of hot water, so I just quickly rinsed off her feet and turned off the water. She got so angry she started hitting me, saying that her feet weren't clean. I told her that she had used soap, and washed them well, and then rinsed them. They were certainly clean. But she was really upset. I might have turned the water back on and let her rinse them the way she wanted, but she started acting out badly -- screaming and hitting me. I felt I needed to remove her from the situation, so we went to the bedroom and she had a time out. She was SOOOO upset that she was basically incapable of getting ready for bed, even after 10 or 15 minutes. She wouldn't put on her underwear, because she said her feet were dirty. She would try to run back into the bathroom to rinse them, but I didn't let her. (Maybe that was a mistake, I don't know.) She started just repeating the same phrase, "can we do everything the same?" Over and over and over. When I asked what she meant, she said she wanted to do everything the way we normally do it. It was just so important to her that we follow the routine, and not vary from it at all.

There are other things, but these are just a few examples. I'm wondering if anyone else has experience with this. Is this just a developmental phase? Will she grow more flexible on her own? My husband and I have started varying her evening routine in little ways, and she definitely protests but eventually accepts it. I don't know if we should be doing this or not. It sure can be exhausting, and I don't want to introduce meaningless conflict into our lives.

Any help or advice is greatly appreciated.


ETA: My daughter has been having stomach aches and acid reflux. The doctor has put her on two different medications, which seem to help a little but not completely take away the symptoms. These stomach aches are more prevalent in the evening. The reflux can happen any time of day. Of course, I am concerned that they are related to her behaviors described above.
post #2 of 22
How's her diet? (SAD, vegetarian, vegan, whatever's in the pantry....)
Is she on any kind of mineral supplement?
Allergies-known or unknown?
post #3 of 22
It sounds to me more intense than a developmental phase. You might be right; she might have ocd or an anxiety disorder masking as ocd. The stomach aches might be related to anxiety.

I think you are doing exactly the right thing by gently making small changes and helping her to accept them.

It might also be worthwhile to look at her diet for food sensitivities. This can be enormously challenging, but you might start with eliminating dairy and wheat, and all dyes, keeping a careful diary of her reactions over time.
post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
I'm not sure where you are going with the diet questions, but I'll bite.

We are vegetarians. We do eat eggs and dairy. Dairy for her consists mostly of cheese and yogurt, we almost never drink milk. We do eat a fair amount of soy.

No, she is not on any mineral supplements.

She does not have any apparent allergies, although my husband has lots so we are always on the lookout. She has some skin problems right now, in addition to the stomach aches. The doc says they are escema (sp?), and we should put creams on them. Our old pediatrician said that some kids her age show an allergy to dairy by getting escema, but I haven't done any elimination diets to check for this. The escema just popped up in the last few weeks.

My daughter was EXTREMELY sensitive to the foods that I ate when she was a breastfeeding infant. I went on an elimination diet and discovered that dairy and soy were both no-no's for her. This resolved once she was around 5 months old. Still, because of my husband's allergies, we were very careful introducing solids with her, and witheld dairy and soy until she was around 2 years old.

Was that a long-winded reply, or what?

post #5 of 22
I'm just wondering if there isn't a mineral imbalance in her diet that might be aggravating-if not causing-her behavior...my stepdaughter was terribly sensitive to dairy as a little squirt and still has trouble if she gets too much. She had ADHD which very nearly disappeared when we got her started on a mineral supplement-just wondering if that might help your dd?

(DSD takes mightmins..I don't know if they're vegetarian or not since it's a nonissue for us, but they helped. Tons. I went from dreading her coming for holidays to looking forward to them....)

Just a thought.....I'm of the opinion that behavior and nutrition are intertwined more than any of us care to imagine...especially w/ the stuff that's hard to get right, like minerals...

ETA: I wasn't sure how to word the diet question but mostly I was wondering if she was living on mac n cheese and doritos and hot dogs...kwim?
post #6 of 22
Symptoms you've described that could be caused by dairy:
Stomach aches
Eczema (VERY likely to be caused by dairy sensitivity)

I'd get her off dairy right away, especially since you've said there is a family and personal history of problems with dairy. Read labels of packaged goods to make sure there is no casein, whey, "natural flavors", etc. If dairy is causing these issues you should see improvements anywhere from a week to three weeks if you are careful.

Since she was sensitive to soy in the past too, you should really consider eliminating that as well.
post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks, mamas, for your thoughtful replies.

I am getting the impression that most of you think this could be diet-related. I am certainly willing to spend the time and effort tracking this down and eliminating any offending foods. However, I could really use some direction and some evidence-based references. Anyone have any articles, books, or anything else to back up these recommendations? I remember how hard it was to do the elimination diet while I was breastfeeding, and I KNEW why I was doing it. It would be harder to explain to a four year old, especially without making her feel like she is broken. Eliminating dairy, soy and wheat would be a major blow to what my DD considers "normal" food. To top it off, this is a child who doesn't like changes. That was the point of the original post!

Any references?

Thanks so much,

post #8 of 22
Sorry, I don't have much info on diet, etc. However I do know that there are a couple of good child psychiatrists over at Polaris (on Western - ph# is 738-8727). You could always take her for an eval just to see what they have to say.

I suffered from OCD as a child and didn't receive treatment until much later (medication at age 21, therapy at age 33 - gulp!). I often wonder if I would have suffered less if I had been diagnosed/treated earlier. However, like you mentioned, she could be having a very intense developmental phase. It would be interesting to see what would show up in a formal evaluation.

Good luck to you guys and let us know how she's doing!
post #9 of 22
Looking....be back with more...

Could you pull out one thing at a time and use the excuse that someone else has to stay away from it? I totally understand trying to make a big diet change w/ a 4 year old who doesn't like change to begin with! I think I'd start w/ whichever you eat the least of if you can...

(I'm at work too, so it may take me a minute or 5 to find what we need here...be back as soon as I can! (Just don't tell my boss...... ))
post #10 of 22
I do not want to offend anyone, but I think what you are dealing with is behavioral and not linked to diet. Although, I do not have a child that is exhibiting these behaviors, I have been a special education teacher and behavior specialist for 10 years. What you are describing certainly sounds like OCD. I suggest you contact your pediatrition or local MAWA/ early intervention provider to seek help. Although medication is often prescribed, I do not recommend it at this age. A behavior specialist or therapist can teach you and your child some interventions and replacement behaviors so that the OCD does not interfere with learning and development.
Hope that helps.
post #11 of 22
This is what I got for DSD-granted she was ADHD not OCD, but there's still a little info here as well.


Perhaps you'd rather not try to fix this nutritionally? I have the view that people (mostly) are 'normal' until their diet interferes and causes problems-be it ADD, OCD, depression, etc. and anything but a dietary adjustment is a bandaid....and tend to get kind of tunnel visioned about it (because there is only one way to skin a cat, kwim? ) It just makes sense to me to address the root cause, otherwise you'll continue to fight it....but that JMO!

This might help also

This relates OCD to low serontinin; perhaps giving her 5HTP might be a good start? I take it for depression (and I'm currently pregnant (39w0d!! not that I'm counting... )-my doc advised me that it's safer than true rx meds because its a precursor to a neurochemical and so is far less likely to cause an imbalance since I'll convert what I need, and the excess will not be utilized, and it wont harm kidlet for the same reasons, unlike RX AD's potentially can) and have had excellent luck so far...(you might read The Mood Cure for more info on 5HTP, GABA and tryptophan...it's where I started )


Looking for more, if I find anything interesting I'll be back with it-
post #12 of 22
I hope you find out what the problem is
post #13 of 22
These relate to eczema and food allergy:


You can only read the abstracts, but you can get the jist from them.

If you google "dairy allergy behavior" you get loads of info.
post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the continuing support and the links.

Sigh -- I think I see us going dairy-free for a while. My DH has developed a cheese allergy in the last few years, so he would love it if we didn't have the tempting stuff around. But I love cheese!! I guess I will have to keep a secret stash at work in the fridge.

OK, so I am thinking at this point that discussing this with a professional would be a good idea. One of my big concerns is that DH shows some signs of OCD also, IMO. I think bringing this up with him will be very touchy. I haven't helped matters because in a fight we had a while back, I told him that I thought he was "making" our DD like this. I feel really bad for saying that, but you can't put the words back in your big damn mouth after you say them. My DH is a super guy, and a very involved supportive SAHD. He sees what is going on as clearly as I do. I just don't want this to turn into open season on his personality, or problems, or whatever you want to call it.

BTW, last night she was totally willing to wash her feet in a different way than normal. I was surprised. But then she obsessed on HOW we put her markers away, and was crying and telling me how I'm such a mean person. I just want to help her to be a *little* more flexible about things. I didn't even KNOW that she has a particular way to put away the markers.

Well, thanks for listening. Now to dry my eyes and try to get some work done...

post #15 of 22
Anxiety and OCD-esque tendencies are inherited behaviors. You don't "make" your child have it, its in the DNA. If your husband has a tendency towards it, your daughter very well may as well. You can work on behavioral therapy/ modification if it is debilitating. The stomachaches are probably anxiety-related. Although that + heartburn could be diet related. Certainly a trial of a vegan diet won't hurt and can be a healthy change in general.
I don't think just eliminating dairy is going to be the magic cure for OCD tendencies, although on MDC eliminating dairy is the cure-all for EVERYTHING it seems :
Also, if it isn't affecting her happiness, let her have her quirks but if it is debilitating, behavioral therapy might help some, especially this early on.
post #16 of 22
As a special ed teacher, I would also see what you could do via cognitive therapy to help her. IME, these sorts of issues only get worse over time if she doesn't learn how to relax more about them.
post #17 of 22


I have a daughter who was diagnosed with OCD at 7 but I am sure she had it earlier. From what I understand it is about seratonin and I am interested in the supplement to increase seratonin levels. I would want to say a great deal to you. I am so sorry this is happening. You are right on by restraining her from completing the compulsive behavior as it is exposing her to the anxiety trigger and helping her to calm down. It seems cruel I know. My daughter was not on any dairy, was sensitive to it while breastfed for 4.5 years so never really got into it. She is vegan and an adult. As a young adult we found a thyroid imbalance and that makes me wonder if she had always had it and we didn't know. She had lots of signs, she is hypo.

There is a genetic component and we have that as well. It is a really crummy illness but she can learn to manage. If she is changing clothes 5 billion times a day, find a way to stop her. If she is washing a lot, stop her. We had to turn off the water and put clothes in locked closet.

I am afraid everyone will think we are brutal and I felt like a monster but with OCD there is no other way.

Nimh also has a study with Susan Sweedo about children's bodies over-developing the antibody to strep and the antibodies attacking the basal ganglea. PANDAS is the name of the study. My research is old. The OCD foundation is in Connecticut and can be found online. There are special clinics throughout the country.

Take it seriously, do whatever you can to stop the ritualizing and read everything you can find. There is support. Pm me if you would like and I do have a lot of info on occupational therapy and sensory integration which some believe(including me) to be part of the issue. I would also ask you to search your brain and see if there has been a trauma that might have kick-started this.

Hang in there and know that if she has OCD it is actually quite common. Peace to you.
post #18 of 22
Diane I wanted to chime in on the diet issues. Most brain disorders can be linked to nutritional problem in some way. I am not saying that diet is the cure all for brain disease because I think it is more complicated than that. However if you think about it our brains are fueled by what we eat. Some of us are more suceptable to bad diet than others. Perhaps because our mother's were deficient as well leading to our own vitamin deficiencies? I don't know for sure but it is an interesting subject.

If you do a google search on depression and vitamin deficiency you will find a myriad of resources that will help. I found out last year that I am allergic/intollerant to sugar and was able to control my OCD with a low glycemic diet as well as St Johns Wort.
post #19 of 22
My son has OCD, he did rituals like that. Feel free to pm me at any time.
I like some children's books on OCD, one is called "My. Worry" and the other is called 'up and down the worry hill'. There is a childs book and a book for parents that are packaged together, sorry I can't think of the author.

This is a very common problem and is often not dealt with until much later in life. Your dd will really benefit by your loving intervention, perhaps from some cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT. We did this with our son and he 'graduated' in several months and got significant releif.

Blessings momma
post #20 of 22
I just wanna offer you hugs. My dd (nearly 5) has the same tendencies. I thought it was just part of a normal need for order as a child, but it has really gone above and beyond that. She does everything you described (including that exact toothbrush issue - doing it the wrong way will result in hysterical crying, and her whole body is tense as she watches me do it - she is scared I am going to do it wrong!) and also other things. For example, she has a doll house. She doesn't play with the dolls much. She just organizes the house, and lines up the figures, and lines up the furniture, then carefully takes it all out and does it again.

I suffer from anxiety, and it is really hard to see her struggling with stress in the same overwhelming way, even though it manifests itself in another form. I am not sure if she is actually OCD or not, we haven't had her analyzed.

Anyway, misery loves company, right? LOL! (Not that we're miserable!) Just wanted to say I know the kind of thing you are faced with every day...it is very hard to be the mama of a small child with OCD tendencies.
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