OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent and recurring obsessive impulses, images or thoughts that result in anxiety and distress. These impulses are generally irrational and not a normal part of daily life. OCD is also characterized by compulsions which are repetitive behaviors such as washing the hands.
Mental behaviors such as repeating certain words or counting also constitute compulsions. These repetitive actions, thoughts and impulses become so uncontrollable that they cause considerable distress to the individual.
This disorder can begin very early in an individual and OCD in preschool children also may be observed in some cases. The manifestation of the disorder varies with age. Younger children may become anxious that some sort of harm may occur to them or their family. As a result he may repeatedly check to see if the door is properly locked. Older children may experience fear that their food may be poisoned or that they may become affected with a serious disease. Washing the hands repeatedly is a manifestation of this fear. The child may sometimes be able to verbalize these anxieties and be aware of the fact that they are irrational, but his behavior cannot be controlled. Many instances of OCD in preschoolers result in anger towards the parents. This is because the parents may not be able to act in accordance with the child's abnormal behaviors. Such children may also have difficulties in maintaining friendships due to their behavioral quirks. This may lead to lowered self-esteem.
The cause of OCD is believed to result from decreased levels of serotonin in the brain's frontal lobes and deeper structures. Children with OCD may display other psychiatric conditions such as depression, learning disorders, other types of anxiety disorders and hair pulling.
The treatment for OCD in preschoolers involves medications such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors along with psychotherapy. Education about the disorder and support from the family are also vital for successful treatment. Some evidence has linked OCD with strep throat infections. In view of this, antibiotic treatment may be beneficial in those cases. Psychotherapy involves cognitive behavioral therapy in which the child is taught strategies for resisting the obsessive-compulsive behaviors and impulses. Such therapy is focused on changing the individual's behavior first, which will thereby result in a change in his feelings and thoughts. This therapy is conducted every week for a period of two months. More intensive therapy involves working with a therapist thrice a week for 2 to 3 hour sessions.