Nature does not discriminate. Any one of us can develop symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in our lifetimes. Whether it’s a coping mechanism caused by a traumatic event, or a by-product of being neurodivergent, the causes are many. If not us, it could be someone close to us who shows compulsive behaviors and severe anxiety in their daily life.
As our own advocates, we must be sensitive and caring for those around us at all times, no matter what they’re struggling with. So, if you’ve recently discovered that your loved one has OCD, then we’ve listed 7 stress-free tips for coping with OCD, otherwise known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that involves the struggle a person may have with intrusive and troubling thoughts in their head. OCD manifests itself in repetitive patterns or rituals which decrease worry, anxiety and make you feel “just right”.
Often, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are prescribed to help alleviate such anxiety disorders. But this is just one of many treatment options, with many preferring to focus on behavioral therapies, especially in children where medicine may not be required.
OCD manifests itself in many ways, depending on the child. Some examples of repetitive behaviors and OCD symptoms include:
• Repeating words, phrases, numbers, or actions over and over again
• Counting objects repeatedly
• Checking things multiple times
• Washing hands excessively that stems from a fear of germs
• Hoarding items
• Cleaning compulsively
• Scratching an itch until it bleeds
• Touching skin compulsively
• Playing games where you need to win
• Avoiding certain situations because they might cause harm
• Sticking to strict routines
• Strict Bedtime Ritual
Like most neurodivergence, the most effective treatment programmes include a professional treatment plan such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), as well as provisions made to everyday home life. Children who a very young may not be able to explain what is happening to them or to even recognise that these common obsessions and compulsions are false. However, older teens and adults can identify that their thoughts are false.
Types of habits and compulsions include fear of contamination, excessive washing of hands, a fear of dirt or symptoms of a hoarding disorder. A wide range of repetitive behaviours can exist in one individual alone, so it’s important that the proper treatment for children and adults alike is adhered to.
It may seem to you so obvious that you love your child, after all, it’s your child. However, OCD in children causes a great amount of insecurity and anxiety, and sometimes even the most innocent comment can trigger an episode.
Family therapy is one type of therapy that everyone should be doing no matter their circumstances. More so in difficult times when everyday life means that compulsive rituals such as cleaning rituals and bedtime rituals are broken.
Sending messages through words and actions to your child of your unconditional love for him or her may help to bring about secure attachment and an environment ripe for change. Its stress-free and simple things such as saying ve you”, quality time together, acceptance, film nights, game nights, no criticising, name-calling, nit-picking, etc. goes a long way
Get them moving! In treating and managing any mental health condition, exercise is vital and important. This is because the brain benefits from endorphins or “feel good” hormones that are released during exercise.
Aerobic exercise, and thus increased serotonin levels, improve self-esteem and aid sleep quality, providing an outlet for built-up emotions and energies to be channelled and is a great way for the entire family to bond!
Again, another stress-free way to support your child with OCD is to do deep breathing and mindfulness exercises with them. These techniques pull attention and focus away from intrusive thoughts as well as provide healthy alternatives for meltdowns and tantrums.
Mindfulness can also help a child to recognise intrusive thoughts are just that they are — thought, which can do no harm. Studies show that people who spend time with the object of their fear or anxiety tend to realize there is no harm or eminent threat as they had once perceived.
A great way many people switch their focus from distressing emotions is through music. Whether it is through playing music, listening to music, dancing to music, deep breathing to music or singing along with music, it sure helps! Children often love music.
When a tantrum is imminent, or when conflict occurs, offer to do his or her favourite music activity as a way to calm down and relax. This offer provides a way to bond at the same time and reinforces togetherness.
Sleep is so important for children. Many children with OCD do not get proper sleep because they stay awake thinking about their habits, even if they are only mild obsessions and thoughts. Help bedtime be something to look forward to by creating a routine.
Introduce a scented shower gel to use for nighttime baths, mix a warm glass of milk, read a favourite story book and offer to leave the night light on. Hopefully, these ideas will spark some of your own and help your child to enjoy bedtime and fall asleep relaxed, pampered and happy.
Give reinforcers to your child for choosing to resist the urges to follow through on rigid routines and patterns. You can, for example, use a token economy system, where your child can earn points to earn token rewards such as games, candy, stickers, a day to the zoo or cinema and so forth.
You would need to decide how many points would be needed to earn these ultimate reinforcers and how much each successful attempt from your child will be worth. Remember, do not make the tokens super hard to earn, but don’t make it too easy. Also remember to use rewards your child loves, so they can be motivating to them.
Maybe your child may feel that their mental health challenge makes them less of a good person or less worthy of love, this may interfere with there self-esteem and hence social life. They may withdraw from making friends, isolate themselves and become a loner.
You can encourage them to make new friends, offer to do carpools, play dates and sleep overs. The point is to encourage your child to enjoy their childhood and to be open to relationships while accepting love.
Please remember that these tips should not be used in replacement of psychotherapy, medication or professional interventions. These tips for coping with OCD alone cannot heal or cure OCD in children, but they can go a long way to change lives for the better. Please remember to be consistent and diligent in using these strategies as inconsistency on the part of the parents may breed even more insecurity and doubt in the mind of a child with OCD.
Along with these tips for coping with OCD, we encourage you to do your own research, read books, join support groups, and take each day at a time while you navigate the situations you may face.
If you feel overwhelmed by all the pressures you face in your circumstances, we also encourage you to seek help for yourself and be aware it is okay to prioritise your marriage, your hobbies and mental health for the sake of balance and an improved quality of life.
Keep reading for more inspirational reading around mental health!
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