Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Children

by Amanda Ng (’17)

Fig. 1: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a severely disabling disorder that affects individuals of all ages.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, better known as OCD, is a harmful and disabling disorder that consists of recurrent thoughts or actions due to anxiety or distress. Symptoms of OCD include obsessions with self-harm, symmetry, hoarding, and contamination or cleaning. Although a multitude of research exists on this disorder in adults, there is little literature on how it comes to manifest in children.

In this study, led by a large research team in Germany, 854 participants between 7-18 years of age, diagnosed with OCD from different countries throughout the world were submitted to two structured interviews in order to find the source or cause of their obsessions, and therefore their disorder. The first interview measured the severity of the participants’ disorder by having them rate their obsessions and compulsions on a five point scale. In the second interview, participants completed a 74-item checklist that assessed current and past obsessions and compulsions. These measures were able to give researchers information about each participant’s experience with OCD on a case by case basis.

Conflicting with other studies on this topic, this project found that child and adolescent OCD seems to stem from the same sources as it does in adulthood. Based on the positive correlations found between items between the two different interviews, researchers were able to conclude that the three factor model used for the cause of OCD in adults is also applicable to children and adolescents, theorizing that OCD across all ages stems from three different behaviors: self-harm, symmetry, and cleaning. OCD was also found to be comorbid with General Anxiety Disorder in both children and adults.

As there is conflicting research on this topic, studies should be repeated in order to insure accuracy.



  1. Hǿjgaard, et. al., Structure and clinical correlates of obsessive–compulsive symptoms in a large sample of children and adolescents: a factor analytic study across five nations. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, (2016). doi: 10.1007/s00787-016-0887-5
  1. Image retrieved from: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/13/o-c-d-a-disorder-that-cannot-be-ignored/?_r=0

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