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Compulsive Behavior in Children

Compulsive behavior. Something that is a compulsion, that seems mandatory, the inability to do something which might lead to personal harm. Compulsive behavior? Certain patterns in behavior that the person feels he/she needs to follow. Compulsive behavior is a part of the wider term―Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and is a mental illness which is a more common phenomenon among adults, but compulsive behavior in children is seen in a high percentage as well. There are several causes for why this behavior can come about. In the following article, we will concentrate on understanding what compulsive behavior is all about and what are the ways to prevent and stop it.

Characteristics

You know how we all worry about having kept the stove on or not having locked the door or having kept the milk boiling? Then we beat ourselves crazy thinking about a million outcomes of that and are not at peace until we get there and check the situation or get the situation checked. Imagine what you’re going through when all this is happening. Think of the things going through your mind. You’re restless and nervous, fidgety and anxious. OCD is like that. But, all the time and about mundane things like cleanliness of hands or keeping things in order.

Compulsive behavior can be divided into certain types of compulsive behavior patterns. They are as follows:

Checking Things
Some OCD sufferers follow a compulsive behavior pattern wherein they are constantly checking for things and whether those things are working. Like, are the doors locked, is the water heater turned off etc. Anything that they feel can cause them harm.

Washing Things
This compulsive behavior gets them scared of contamination and staining. You’ll find them constantly washing their hands or clothes.

Counting and Arranging Things
This behavior is exhibited by those who are obsessed with order, symmetry, and perfection. They have to keep everything in order. They may also be superstitious about certain things.

Hoarding Things
These people feel that they will be in danger if they discard anything, and therefore, they constantly accumulate things in large numbers that are generally useless.

Doubting Things
This compulsive behavior involves them feeling guilty and nervous at all times. This is because they feel that if they don’t do things perfectly, they will be sinning and will be punished for the same.

Signs and Symptoms

Given that there are so many degrees and types of compulsive behavior, the signs of OCD manifest themselves in the following behavior patterns:

  • Spending a long time cleaning and washing.
  • Constant tapping of foot and objects.
  • Counting numbers and repeating words constantly.
  • Double checking everything over and over again to make sure everything is okay.
  • Thoughts of causing oneself or others harm.
  • Wanting everything to be perfect.
  • Fear of harm if they don’t do things right.
  • Doing rituals that they don’t like but feel forced to do.
  • Extreme anxiety, fear, and panic when someone tries to stop the compulsive behavior.
  • Chapped hands and nails from constant washing.
  • Increase in laundry.
  • Constant fear of illness.
  • Drop in test performances and school grades.
  • Increase in utility bills.
  • High rate of paper towel and soap usage.

Prevention and Treatment

Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral therapy involves different kinds of therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure and response prevention. In these therapies, different approaches with a combination of counseling are used. This needs careful supervision, and therefore, a well-trained and professional therapist must be consulted. There might be the danger of OCD behavior resurfacing, and therefore, there needs to be proper treatment provided.

Medication
Even though medications like antidepressants are used for the treatment of OCD, they are rarely used as a choice of treatment for correcting compulsive behavior because of the effect they can have on their health. This option is used only when the other forms of therapy like group help and self help do not work. However, medication for this disorder is never given without the consultation of a doctor.

Compulsive behavior, especially in children is not something that should be neglected and allowed to fester. If this is done, it can turn into extreme forms of behavior disorders. If you ever notice any of the signs of OCD in any child, make sure to get a thorough medical checkup done.

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