Children as young as 5 can be diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and can show symptoms even younger. Diagnosing OCD is difficult in children because it is common for children to find comfort in repetitive behaviors. However, there are differences between common repetitions that children with mature out of, and signs of potential OCD including:
- Disturbing or "taboo" worries (particularly those involving harm, sex, or religion)
- Focus on cleanliness that causes physical harm; for instance: washing hands until they are raw
- Preoccupation with order and extreme disturbance if order is disturbed
- Repeated questions such as "am I okay?" or "will everything be alright?"
- Notable time spent doing repetitive actions that seem stressful instead of playful
- Habits or patterns which are interfering with the family
There are a few questions a caretaker may ask to understand if repetitive behavior is a normal phase or a sign of OCD including:
- "Do you like doing this or do you feel like you have to do this?"
- "What would happen if we didn't repeat this action?"
- "Can we change this pattern in a new fun way?"
If a child can make a game out of a ritual, have some fun, or indicate that they just like repeating an action instead of feeling like they have to repeat an action it is likely healthy. If not, consult an OCD-expert in your area for more information and assessment!