OCD is not the same as the "normal developmental rituals" that most young children exhibit, such as asking their parents to re-read a favorite bedtime story. OCD has specific criteria that include repetitive thoughts and ritualized behaviors such as hand washing and re-cleaning or re-checking the same thing over and over. Treatment for OCD usually involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Psychologist Abbe Garcia and her colleagues at the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center evaluated 58 children ages 4 to 8, and concluded that OCD begins around age 5. In half the cases, the onset was gradual; 29 percent had a chronic course; and 28 percent had a course that waxed and waned. Many suffered from anxiety and other problems as well as OCD. The Hasbro study was the first to look at very young children and OCD.
"If parents are concerned about their child, if their behavior is causing problems in daily routine, then they should take their child to their pediatrician - someone who knows the child well." Dr. Garcia said. "Early intervention is important."
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