Possible OCD in my 5.5 yr old son? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 02-02-2011, 05:40 PM - Thread Starter
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First the good stuff. My 5.5 yr old son is a happy, funny, bright, outgoing, athletic, energetic, little guy. He’s cute and charming and makes friends easily with kids and adults alike. But...he’s been having some OCD-like behaviors lately that concern me. Here’s what I’ve been seeing:

*Constantly asking if his hands look clean. At the start of most meals, asks us to check both sides of his hands to see if they look clean. Won’t eat until reassured. Sometimes asks three or four times. He washes his hands before meals, but otherwise does not seem to wash them super frequently.    

*Runs his hands up and down his arms and legs to see “if anything is on them.” Also runs his hand on my arms and legs for the same reason.

*(Don’t laugh...rolleyes.gif) Whenever he passes gas, he reaches between his legs, one arm from the front and one from the back, and pulls up, checking to see if he’s pooped his pants. He never has pooped his pants, so I don’t know where this comes from.

*Constantly informing me whenever he is itching, or even touching, any part of his body. Has told me he was itching his nose about 5 times in the last 30 minutes, also that he is itching his foot, wiping his mouth with his hand, and rubbing his hand on a blanket. Wants me to acknowledge that I’ve heard him each time.

*He often says things like, “I almost called you dad, but you’re my mom.” (Or visa versa.) He seems to be worried that he will call someone by the wrong name, though he rarely does.    
Or when we go anywhere he will look at someone and say “I’m kind of embarrassed. I almost called that lady “mommy,” but she’s not my mommy, you’re my mommy.”

*Almost every morning, coughing and throat clearing for 5 to 30 mins. I thought this might be an allergy, but his allergy tests all came up negative, and I saw “chronic coughing and throat clearing” on an OCD symptoms list.

*The opening in his pillowcase must be facing the wall or it is “in the wrong direction.”

This is all of them that I can think of at the moment. He has had some other behavior issues too: some aggression, defiance, a little on the hyper side, but to me it seems within the range of normal for a boy his age, if perhaps on the outer limits of normal.

Does this sound like possible OCD to you all? What seems odd to me is that these things don’t SEEM to really bother him. Obviously I can’t know what’s going on in his head, but he does not appear to be particularly anxious and does not usually melt down if something does not happen exactly as he wants it. He does have a lot of stress in his life right now as his dad just moved out, but things are fairly amiable between us and his dad is still over here a lot and takes our son out on weekends all the time. He appears to be coping with all this pretty well, but again, who knows?

All feedback is welcome!

Retired Ohio midwife. Mama to my boy E, born 7/05
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#2 of 6 Old 02-02-2011, 06:15 PM
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If you suspect OCD, I would suggest the following two books: "Freeing Your Child From Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder" and "Freeing Your Child From Anxiety," both by Tamar Chansky. Both are excellent. The "anxiety" book has info on many anxiety disorders and red flags to check for and types of treatments, etc. It also explains how they differ. And it has some cognitive behavorial techniques you can do with your child. (CBT is very effective for OCD.) The OCD book is wonderful and I found it very informative. I, myself, have OCD which began in childhood.


I bought these books when my DD began to experience anxiety and then depression and she started showing some OCD signs. We see a therapist who has diagnosed her with Anxiety-NOS with stuck thinking and depressive (something-er-other). We've been doing therapy for a few months now and she is doing much better. Her OCD type behaviors have pretty much ceased. (She seems to have tendencies toward "bad thought" OCD as described in Chansky's book but not very many compulsions.) I don't think my DD qualifies for an OCD dx at this point.


I would probably get it checked out, but you may want to journal a bit to see exactly how often the behaviors are occurring. What happens if you don't answer his question about whether his hands look clean enough? Does this cause a lot of anxiety? (They have a kid-friendly anxiety thermometer/scale on the website I linked below.) Also, you said it's not bothering him that you can see. How much time does he spend on activities like checking?


I would add that stress definitely activates my own OCD, kind of brings it to the surface. You said your son's dad just moved out. Given the stress of that situation combined with the OCD type symptoms, I would probably seek out a therapist for him if I were in your shoes.


In the meantime, you may want to check out this website. I've found it very helpful. http://www.anxietybc.com/resources/ocd.php  I've used some of the kids/self help PDFs to help DD understand more about anxiety.


We also have a book DD likes called "What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck" which is a kid's book about dealing with OCD. It uses cognitive behavior therapy techniques in a fun, kid-friendly way with lost of cartoon pictures. It's part of a series (another for anxiety, for anger, etc.) and we've liked all of them that we've read.


Good luck with everything.

I am a 40 year old unschooling, belly dancing, artist-mama of one almost 8 year old. I just had brain surgery and blogging.jpg about it a bit because it's just so surreal.
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#3 of 6 Old 02-02-2011, 06:20 PM
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Sounds like it to me, yes. The OCD foundation's online website has lists of therapists who do cognitive behavioral therpay for OCD specifically. You want someone who specializes in OCD because it's treated differently than other conditions. The PP mentions Chansky's books and they are very good. There is also a parenting OCD yahoo group and, last time I checked, Chansky and other authors will respond to questions. The parents there are very helpful and informed as well.

OCD can be treated and I believe it's best to start early.
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#4 of 6 Old 02-02-2011, 07:03 PM
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Sounds like tactile defensiveness which is associated with Sensory Processing Disorder. All three of my kids have SPD, but to varying degrees.  Not wanting to be messy or bothered or picky about certain textures is a hallmark of one of the subtypes of this disorder.  It has a strong genetic link and is often associated with learning disabilities, ADHD, Aspergers, and Autism.  It doesn't necessarily have to be linked with those other things though.  Good news is it's very treatable and a fair bit more common in early childhood then true OCD.  I would suggest reading these books and seeing if it fits: http://www.amazon.com/Sensational-Kids-Children-Processing-Disorder/dp/0399533079/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1296701850&sr=8-1




You can check for them at your local library too! 


Best of luck to you, you sound like a GREAT mom!

Ashley, Jesus loving mama to Jaden (8) Trace (6) and Liam (3) and fost/adopt twins Talia and Oliva (1).  Happily married for a decade! 

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#5 of 6 Old 02-02-2011, 07:03 PM
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My brother suffers from OCD which started when he was around 6 or 7.  I'm a few years younger than he is so I don't remember all of the odd behaviors that he had at that age.  However, the coughing and throat clearing was one of his biggest OCD behaviors.  His desire to keep his throat clear lead to a bad spitting habit that lasted throughout his childhood and well into his teenage years (he doesn't spit anymore but he has to constantly wipe his mouth now). He also has to blow his nose several times a day to keep his nose clear.  He also can't stand for his clothes to be too close to his skin so he constantly pulls at his shirt.  Another OCD behavior that he has is an obsession with organization.  He's always loved shopping at office supply stores for label makers, highlighters, folders, filing bins, etc.  His OCD has caused him a lot of issues with stress and aggression but he's always been able to function at a pretty high level. He didn't go on meds until he was an adult. 


I hope that helps.  I'm sure your son is fine.  Hopefully it's just a phase he's going through right now. 

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#6 of 6 Old 02-02-2011, 07:25 PM
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My ds (6) did the throat clearing for awhile. He ruined a lot of shirts by pulling on the neck (he does that much less now). He has "rolled" his shoulders for years. He used to put his hands in his mouth a lot around K which we discouraged due to illness and drying his skin to the point of cracking and bleeding--if he starts putting one lip over the other we bring it to his attention because it also causes painful redness/cracking eventually. He did have a "spitting thing" for awhile that was more like he was blowing raspberries at the air (though it was actual spitting initially). Recently (around the time we changed his ADHD medication) he started sniffing his fingers (looks like he is examining his nails) an even number of times, and started pushing down the waistband of his pants and underwear (his pants look like he is working on the hip hop look). Ds generally has one obvious behavior at a time, though since he has been on medication it has intensified a bit. His psychiatrist (and his OT evaluator brought it up too) thinks that he has OCD tendencies. For now his doctor has us trying to make him aware of what he is doing and that has lessened it a bit.

"It should be a rule in all prophylactic work that no harm should ever be unnecessarily inflicted on a healthy person (Sir Graham Wilson, The Hazards of Immunization, 1967)."
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