Obsessions and compulsions in children, from the Harvard Mental Health Letter

Published: January, 2012

It is normal for many children, at various stages of development, to be concerned about sameness and symmetry and having things perfect, to insist on certain bedtime routines, or to develop superstitions and rituals like avoiding cracks in the sidewalk. But when such beliefs or behaviors become all-consuming and start interfering with school, home life, or recreational activities, the problem may be obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

"Symptoms may appear as early as age three," notes Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. "Over the past decade, several randomized controlled trials and literature reviews have concluded that both cognitive behavioral therapy and medication can help youths better manage OCD—but that the combination of both is best. The ideal approach is to try this psychotherapy before turning to medication."

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »