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Updated : August 1, 2022 3 mins read

OCD | Support for families and carers

Updated : August 1, 2022 3 mins read

Article OCD

OCD is a serious mental health condition. It is misunderstood because people often use the term flippantly to describe wanting to be clean and tidy. Although these are some of the characteristics of OCD, they are much more extreme.

OCD usually develops in adolescence and early adulthood although it has been known to start much younger. You can read more about OCD and what causes it here.

Signs your child might have OCD

Many of the traits of OCD can be seen in most people, especially those who like to be organised. However some of the key signs that this might be developing into OCD is excessive concern or needing to carry out rituals before starting or ending something. Your child might become extremely upset or distressed if they are not able to carry out these habits.

Signs of OCD include:

  • Showing excessive concern about symmetry or tidiness
  • Becoming anxious about school work, checking and rechecking it over and over again
  • Repeating words, numbers or phrases under their breath
  • Taking longer than usual to do things like wash or get dressed
  • Concern over keeping things in a specific order
  • Becoming excessively concerned about germs
  • Carrying out repetitive behaviours such as locking and unlocking doors, switching lights on and off or having to touch things in a certain way

How to talk to your child about OCD

Your child might not know how to talk to you about the thoughts they have and may have kept them secret from you. For some people their obsessive thoughts can be intrusive and distressing in nature which can lead to them feeling guilty or ashamed about themselves.

When talking to your child about OCD:

  • Don’t judge them. It takes a lot of courage for someone to open up about their obsessive thoughts. Don’t judge them for what they tell you, remember that these thoughts come from deep rooted anxiety and not from their own actions.
  • Be patient. Compulsive behaviour won’t go away overnight, it might take many weeks or months for them to find new ways to cope with their OCD
  • Try to understand what OCD is to them, it can also be helpful to reach out to other groups or charities that can offer information and practical advice for supporting a child with OCD

Getting help for your child

It’s important to get your child to see their GP who will be able carry out an initial screening for OCD.

Depending how severely the OCD affects their daily life your child might be treated by the GP or will be referred to a mental health professional for further assessment. This will likely be with CAMHs (child and adolescent mental health service).

Therapy and medication is the most common and effective way to treat OCD.

Helpful Resources

No Panic

Charity providing some therapeutic services and support for people living with OCD. No Panic has a general helpline and a dedicated Youth helpline that is open everyday

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Information for parents, carers and people working with young people with mental health issues

ParentLine Scotland

Support for parents and family supporting a young person with mental health issues

Get Help now

If you are concerned about your mental health, or if you have found yourself feeling concerned about someone else, you can:

Call 111 – NHS 24

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or other people, you should call 999 or present to your local A&E department.