Does your 2-year-old spend hours stacking and restacking books? Does she line up her toys in straight, even rows? Is she rigid about her bedtime routine? If so, your toddler may have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). According to the Surgeon General, about 0.2 to 0.8 percent of children suffer from OCD, which is considered an anxiety disorder and is characterized by uncontrollable and recurring thoughts or feelings. Those who suffer from OCD often feel compelled to perform rituals to help them feel safe.
OCD can be difficult to diagnose in toddlers. Since their language skills are not fully developed, they may have difficulty putting their anxiety into words. In addition, normal toddler behavior issues can mask the symptoms of OCD. As with many childhood illnesses and conditions, parents are at the front lines when it comes to OCD diagnosis. You can tell if something isn't right with your child, and if you know what to look for, you can determine if that something may be OCD.
Does your family have a history of OCD? Like many psychological conditions, there is a strong family component to the OCD. In cases of twins, if one twin has the condition, the other twin is much more likely to have OCD as well. If someone else in your family has OCD, you child is at greater risk to develop the disorder.
Does your child perform the same behaviors over and over? For many children with OCD, fears for the safety of themselves and their family compel them to check the locks on doors or make sure doors and windows are closed. Order often makes children feel safer, so you may notice unusual organizational behaviors. For very young children, this can appear as stacking objects or placing objects in rows. For older toddlers, sorting may be a part of the compulsive behavior.
Is your child addicted to ritual? Almost all children love routines. Knowing what to expect helps them feel safe and secure. However, children with OCD can take this love of the expected to the next level. If you child seems to require rituals in a way that is rigid and unyielding, it may be a sign of OCD.
Has your child recently had an infection? If your child's behavior has changed dramatically since being sick, it may be a sign of OCD. Some recent studies have indicated that a portion of OCD cases are related to a particular type of streptococcal infection.
As with any parenting concern, the most important thing you can do is trust your instincts. While there is no "cure" for OCD, there are many types of treatment available, including therapy and medication. If you feel that your child may have OCD, be sure to discuss your concerns with your child's pediatrician.