Helping Children With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


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Obsessive compulsive disorder is a complex condition that involves two separate but related components: The private inner world of thoughts, urges, ideas or images (obsessions) and external behaviors and symptoms (compulsions). The compulsive behaviors associated with OCD are not always perceivable to others, as they may be intentionally hidden or carried out privately. Furthermore, compulsive symptoms can come and go, or can be more prominent in one setting and nonexistent in another.

While environmental factors can affect the severity or prominence of the condition, OCD is primarily a biological and often hereditary condition that affects roughly 1-2 percent of children in the U.S.

Diagnosing OCD in Children

Diagnosing OCD in children can be a complicated process. The presence of compulsive, rigid or repetitive behaviors does not necessarily indicate a biological case of OCD. A diagnosis may be determined over time and should include observations across settings, input from parents, caregivers and educators, and an in-depth evaluation from a qualified mental health professional.

Obsessions are fixations of the mind on thoughts, urges, ideas or images. Obsessions are often persistent or recurrent and are unpleasant or distressing, sometimes even frightening. Examples include:

- Fears of contamination (dirt, germs or illnesses).

- Desires to hoard or save items (resulting in the collection of items in case they are needed in the future).

- Fears of aggression or violence (of harming oneself or others, that something bad will happen to oneself or others, or of blurting out inappropriate comments or obscenities).

- Magical thoughts (lucky or unlucky words, numbers or colors, or avoiding places or activities associated with certain attributes).

Compulsions are a means to ease or reduce the fear or anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts or ideas, and are behaviors or rituals that one feels compelled to do, even if one has the knowledge or awareness that the behavior is not logical. The prevalence of these behaviors, or symptoms, may wax and wane. Under more stress or in certain settings, the symptoms may become more prominent, while they may be more easily hidden or even nonexistent during periods of less stress or in different settings. Children with OCD are sometimes able to keep their compulsions under control in a setting such as school, but are unable to do the same in their home environment. Examples include:

- Excessive or ritualized handwashing, showering or cleaning of items.

- Excessive checking (including locks, plugs/outlets, seatbelts or placement of items such as toys or other belongings).

- Excessive checking for mistakes, of one’s health, or that one did not or will not harm oneself or others.

- Repetition (re-reading, erasing or rewriting excessively).

- Routine activities (going up and down stairs or in and out of doorways a specific number of times).

- Arranging (excessively organizing or ordering items and showing signs of distress if the order is disrupted).

- Counting (steps or words, for example, or completing activities in specific number sets).

- Saving, hoarding or collecting items that do not have apparent significance (such as pieces of string, paper or wrappers).

- Superstition (such as touching an object a certain number of times, usually as a way to avoid or prevent something bad from happening, or avoiding floors or days/months associated with a certain number).

- Tics (blinking, throat-clearing or tapping, for example, for usually a specific number of times), which can also be a symptom of Tourette syndrome.

- Rituals that involve other people (for children, this is most often a parent), such as seeking reassurance, checking or doing something a certain number of times (fastening a seat belt three times before it is OK to go, for example).

When to Seek Help

Parents concerned about the possibility of their child having OCD should seek help from a qualified mental health professional. Attempts to alleviate a child’s discomfort may not be the best way to help. It’s equally important that treatment includes support for parents. OCD is a complex condition, especially when obsessions and compulsions interfere with a child’s well-being and ability to comfortably take part in usual childhood activities.

The Lucy Daniels Center is a nonprofit agency in Cary that promotes the emotional health and well-being of children and families. Visit lucydanielscenter.org to learn more.

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December 2017

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Barriskill Dance Theatre School present its annual production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Reynolds Theater, Duke University
125 Science Dr.
Durham, NC  27708
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Enjoy a family Chanukah concert from local band, Mishpacha (Hebrew for “family”). Mishpacha’s music is influenced by a variety of musical genres including folk,...

Cost: Free

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Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Cost: $15 and up

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Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
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Join Burning Coal Theatre Company as it presents a stage production based on the children's novel by JM Barrie. Purchase tickets online.  

Cost: $25/adult, $15/student

Where:
Burning Coal Theatre
224 Polk St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-834-4001
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Learn about winter. Sip pine needle tea, and observe the ice and snow through hands-on science experiments. All ages with adult. Registration required. 

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cary Ballet students presents a condensed version of the holiday story for younger audiences. Join Clara, her heroic nutcracker, the evil Mouse Queen and all of Clara’s colorful friends on a...

Cost: $21-$25

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Cary Ballet Company
Telephone: 919-200-3939
Contact Name: Michelle Gisondi
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Cost: Free

Where:
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Cost: $26/adult, $22/student

Where:
Stewart Theatre, N.C. State University
Raleigh, NC


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1420 Athens Dr.
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Cary Ballet students presents the holiday story of Clara, her heroic nutcracker, the evil Mouse Queen and all of Clara’s colorful friends. The Raleigh Boychoir's Resident...

Cost: $21-$25

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Cary Ballet Company
Telephone: 919-200-3939
Contact Name: Michelle Gisondi
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Cost: $10 children 3-18, $12 adults. At the door: $12 children 3-18, $15 adults

Where:
Beth Meyer Synagogue Social Hall
504 Newton Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Beth Meyer Preschool
Contact Name: Michelle Panek
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Where:
Stewart Theatre, N.C. State University
Raleigh, NC


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Where:
Sonorous Road Theatre
3801 Hillsborough St, Suite 113,
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Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cost: $10.00/raffle ticket

Where:
Terramor Homes Corporate Office
7208 Falls of Neuse Road, #201
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Terramor Homes
Telephone: 919-810-2504
Contact Name: Rebecca Newsome
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Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Community Center
73 Hunter St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Telephone: 919-249-3402
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More information

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Cost: $26/adult, $22/student

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Stewart Theatre, N.C. State University
Raleigh, NC


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237 N. Salem St.
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Cost: $1/person

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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2000 Fearrington Village Center
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Cost: Free

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Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

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Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
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Website »

More information

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Where:
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1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
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Website »

More information

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Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
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Website »

More information

Show More...
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Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore creative movement. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore creative movement. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
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View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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Cost: $16/child

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Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St.Clair
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $6/child

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Edenton Street United Methodist Church
228 W. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $25

Where:
Sonorous Road Theatre
3801 Hillsborough St, Suite 113,
Raleigh, NC   27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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