Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Not Your Typical Child Tuesday #3

Thanks again everyone for understanding this weekend's blackout. Those storms were a bit nasty! Thanks for hanging in with me as we address our 3rd Not Your Typical Child Thursday! Last week we tackled a small bit about Sensory Processing Disorder, this week the one that is almost as personal for me, we discuss OCD.

We all hear people say it, "I'm so OCD," or "I've got OCD". They all say in jest, heck even I do myself and a bit of a personal thing, I actually do have OCD!! So, do my sons, both of them! When you think of OCD, your typical response is to think of organizational people. The ones with their cans all facing forward in their cupboards, their towels all lined up evenly on the rack, the drawers all organized with clothes folded perfectly or their closets color coded. Yes, to some degree this is OCD and to others it's just functional. For me, with my cans in my cupboard, and the items in my fridge all label forward, it is OCD. Though I have managed to understand that nothing bad will happen if they are not facing forward, I can still feel anxiety creep in if I leave them askew!

So, what is OCD? 
OCD is a neurobiological anxiety disorder (often genetic in nature) that significantly affects 1 in 40 adults and at least 1 in 100 school aged children.

Obsessions are defined as uncontrollable, persistent worries, doubts or fears that significantly impact normal life. They create unbearable anxiety and often times the person feels compelled to perform rituals or activities  (aka compulsions) to relieve the anxiety.

Compulsions may be either physical or mental rituals that are done over and over and over again in an attempt to control or relieve the anxiety the obsession causes. This is always temporary and just ends up reinforcing the original obsession.

For children with OCD though, like ASD (autism), SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) or even TS (Tourette Syndrome), it is a spectrum disorder. Most of us have some OCD-ish issues but, you can rationalize that your 'urge' is irrational and move on. Those with OCD honestly feel like something bad is going to happen.

Personal experiences: 
OCD is often recognized in adults and some older kiddos but, for a small few, the signs are evident at an early age. For example, my oldest son, took to hand washing at a whopping 2yrs old. His little brother has just started it at 3 (in case you wonder, he didn't learn it from big bro because, big brother hasn't done it since before little one was born). DW became obsessed with having to put things back EXACTLY in the same spot that they were taken from. Which sounds great but, heaven help you if you were on the way out the door to go somewhere and there is more than one thing out of place. Don't get me started on taking him grocery shopping!! If someone (a stranger) put something back wrong, the whole store knew it! Then he had to "unwind". Which meant that if he crossed in front of you entering the room, he had to cross back on his way out. Or if he walked around the right side of the van to get in, he had to go back the exact same way to go back inside. He started to need things in his bed just so, to get to sleep. I could go on but, I will spare you the whole long history of how his OCD progressed. Keep in mind this is all happening at 2yrs old.

I'm aware that there are naysayers who will say that this is "learned" behavior. I'm here to tell you that they are dead wrong. Ask any geneticist, they will tell you hands down, it is genetic and the child cannot pick what their OCD focuses on anymore than you can change the color of your eyes. I've heard, "well, you have OCD, so they must've learned it from you"....DW's issues, AND JD's obsessions are NOT mine at all! For example, DW became a hoarder! No joke when I say this, he would panic if you threw out old food, old containers, papers, etc. I even have a friend whose son kept and hid toilet paper....toilet paper used for #1!!! JD, he's obsessed with different things than either DW or I have even considered. JD can't have anyone's things away from them. For example, if you come over and set your purse and coat on my table, he will bring them to you. If you sit them next to you and then follow me into the kitchen for snack, he will bring your coat and purse to you again and again and again. He will not stop! It has worn out many a guest here. He is also obsessed with having flat surfaces, completely bare. Which sounds dandy but, imagine walking into a room everyday and finding the bookcase shelves completely bare. Or every child's bed unmade daily. He also tends to panic if you take a different way to go to and/or from a store or relative's house. Keep in mind that he is only 3yrs old and though DW and I both have OCD, our "issues" are not like his. The ones that JD expresses that are or were similar to DW's are things that DW has long since worked through. So, he'd never seen DW do them.

Common Obsessions/Compulsions: 
Contamination fears
Fear of acting on bad impulses, i.e. harming another, insulting another, being the cause of harm to another, etc.
Mental compulsions (or as we call them in our house, mental hiccups)
Skin Picking
Trichotillomanina (hair pulling)

Other Conditions related to or in conjuction with OCD:
OCD can come alone or in cohorts with another condition such as Tourette Syndrome, Asperger's, ADHD/ADD, Anxiety Disorders, depression, etc.

What to do as parent of a child with or suspected of having OCD? My first bit of advice as an adult with OCD, do not wait to get help! Tell your child's pediatrician that you suspect OCD. Take them into a mental health staff member and have them evaluated. If they poo poo you, remember: You're the parent, they work for you! Doctors are great resources but, they are not the be all end all to all medical and psychological information! Remember that the earlier they get help, the easier it will be to overcome it. So, if they stonewall you, get a second opinion. I say this to everything from Asperger's, to SPD! Do what is right and fight, kick and scream for your child. I didn't have to do this to get them help with their OCD, it was that obvious but, I have met parents at their wits ends because their child's doctor kept telling them to wait it out or having a kid who wants things put away is a good thing. Just listen to your gut, you know your child first and foremost! If you're in need of more information or support, a great site that offers you a lot of resources, information and a super supportive FB page is, International OCD Foundation.

The point of this rather long post today? Again, instead of glaring at that woman whose hair is sticking out in odd places, whose eyes look a little panicked, who may look on the verge of tears and is managing the best she can, with the screaming child in tow, try offering her a kind word instead! That may be the thing that helps her get on with her day with a renewed spirit.
Instead of glaring at the child for something that they can't quite grasp isn't "normal", try to look at them through a new lens and not with contempt.

Thanks again for hanging with me for another Tuesday, just a few more weeks and I'll return to normal blogs having gone through the 2/3 awareness months that are near and dear to my heart! Now, back to your regularly scheduled program...

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