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OCD / symmetry compulsions in children. Anyone around with experience or advice?

(9 Posts)
blinkowl Sun 10-Jul-16 22:49:33

I have just confirmed tonight my suspicion that DS is experiencing OCD type symptoms.

I suffered from OCD type symptoms as a child, I have it mostly under control now but have never seen anyone about it.

I noticed the other day that 7yo DS stopped half way through putting a pair of shorts on to touch one side of his leg, then the other, then the first again etc in quick succession. I recognised the type of action instantly, it reminded me exactly of how I was when I was younger.

Then tonight when I told him he had to go to bed, he stood up and did a similar action before leaving the room. I called him back and gave him a cuddle and asked if his brain as making him do things like touch things, because that's what my brain did too when I was little.

We had a chat and I found out that this has been going on for what feels like ages to him. He said it started because he wanted to be fair (by touching both sides) and he keeps doing it now. He finds it very irritating. He doesn't think it's happening because he's stressed (but I think he's simply too young to understand my question. I'm convinced mine happened because my home life was stressful. Sadly DS's is also).

It was bedtime so we didn't talk that long.

So, what now? I'll have a longer chat with him tomorrow. At least that's the first hurdle over. I never ever told anyone. And I lived with it until I managed to (mostly) get past it as an adult. If we can talk about it, he won't have to hide it.

I know that the type of symptoms I had, and I suspect DS has, are not nearly as severe as some OCD sufferers have, and probably wouldn't be considered that bad, or even "full" OCD. However I know my lived experience of it was tortuous and I don't want DS to go through that.

Before tonight I'd never done any research on OCD or compulsive / intrusive thoughts (too busy ignoring it so it'll go away!) but from the little I've read tonight, what I had and what it looks like DS has includes symmetry OCD - when you touch something and feel a compulsion to touch the other side. I also used to get thoughts that if I didn't do it, something awful would happen. I knew it was nonsense but still did it "just in case" a lot of the time. I also got intrusive thoughts. And probably a lot of other stuff I can't remember as for me as I deliberately have not thought about this stuff too hard in years!

Should I talk to a doctor for DS? Can anyone suggest anywhere to learn about OCD in children? (Am I using the right term?)

(I know I need to make his homelife less stressful, that's a given.)

blinkowl Mon 11-Jul-16 07:04:34

Hopeful bump.

blinkowl Mon 11-Jul-16 11:27:57


LetLoveWin Mon 11-Jul-16 11:43:00

I've used this series of books to help my kids, not with OCD, but other issues, like worrying all the time and being grumpy. They're written in a way that children can understand and offer solutions to overcome the issues.

blinkowl Mon 11-Jul-16 14:42:15

Thanks I've ordered the book.

Should I be making an appointment with the doctor?

I hid my compulsive tendencies, never told anyone. Can't say that helped!

Is getting DS to open up about it enough as a first step do you think or should I be onto the GP pretty sharpish?

OddBoots Mon 11-Jul-16 14:46:44

It sounds like you are dealing very well with your ds, discussing it calmly and in a balanced and understanding way.

I don't know if there is a right answer but in your position I think I would go to the GP without him to start with then take it from there.

creamoftomato Mon 11-Jul-16 15:13:50

hi blinkowl. I don't really have any advice but just wanted to say that I did this as a child and teenager, exactly as you describe - it began as a compulsion to be "fair" to both sides and as I got older turned into the "just in case" thing, thinking something awful would happen if I didn't do whatever. I just wanted to let you know that I generally had a happy, non-stressful childhood and have never really considered that the behaviour was problematic or anything more than a largely harmless eccentricity, even though I know that at times it took up a lot of my time and energy. I've largely grown out of it, though still sometimes do some weird counting things with various numbers and have a few odd superstitious rituals that I pick up for periods and drop again. I remember in my late teens periodically getting frustrated and bored with "having" to do certain rituals and forcing myself to stop just to prove nothing bad happened (which of course it didn't, which was fine and good, though I did end up picking up the habits again usually).

I'm not sure where I'm going with this really, except just to suggest that it might be OK in the end (as I guess you are?) and generally that I think this kind of behaviour is much more common and normal than I realised as a child. My parents definitely knew I was doing all this but never really made a big deal out of it, though I remember being able to talk to my mum about it - I think she was just quite calm and reassuring, she never made me feel weird or like there was anything wrong with me, which I really appreciate now. She did sometimes tease me about it a bit, but it was very lighthearted and just part of our (v good) relationship.

Obviously if you think from your own experience/what your DS is saying that it is a problem or it would be better to stop this might not be the most helpful post I could be making and I'm really sorry if I sound like I'm minimising it. I've no idea if the GP could help but I suspect possibly and I'm sure there'd be no harm in going in to chat about it as a first step. What about going without DS in the first place to see what they think? For what it's worth I think it sounds like you're reacting calmly and sensibly in the first instance and that its great you can talk about it.

blinkowl Mon 11-Jul-16 22:16:39

creamoftomato that's really interesting. Lots of food for thought, thanks for posting.

I've never really talked to anyone about my own experiences. My childhood was stressful a lot of the time (my mum and I clashed when I was a child and I felt I was under a lot of pressure).

I always assumed the compulsive behaviours were as a result of my pressured home environment, and now I'm seeing similar in DS I'm assuming that he's finding our home life stressful also.

But maybe they're not connected? Really interesting to hear you had this but your home life was a relatively stress free one. Maybe I'm adding 2 and 2 and making 5?

The experience of having intrusive thoughts and a brain that liked to torture me, as I see it, certainly wasn't a pleasant one. But maybe some of the stuff I'm lumping in with the compulsive behavior is separate and a reaction to the stress I was under, and not the same thing at all. Maybe if I want to make sure DS doesn't feel the way I did the most important thing is making our home life less stressful.

Just thinking aloud ...

0hCrepe Mon 11-Jul-16 22:30:17

My ds went through a phase of having to touch things symmetrically. At one point he was trying to eat with both wrists touching the table. He's also had slight tics eg nose wrinkling which went onto raspberry blowing- not major but definitely there.

With the symmetry thing we talked and he said he didn't worry about anything bad happening if he didn't but he just felt he had to do it. It started after he'd begun a new class after they'd mixed all the children up. I massaged him to try and relax him as he was clamping his elbows to his sides and at other times deliberately touched one side and not the other etc and talked about it being ok as he wanted to stop doing it. He did stop the symmetry in the main though occasionally it starts but I try and nip it in the bud, but still has the odd tic.

At the moment he talks sometimes as if he's got a weak mouth so says b instead of p and he also taps his lips together to make a quiet popping noise but that's lessening again now.

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