When her son first began acting strangely she thought it was a phase he would soon grow out of.
But when 12-year-old Donovan (not his real name) began going to the bathroom every hour to wash his hands, spent up to 10 minutes doing so and refused to dry them twice on the same towelPauline Meyer (pseudonym) of Boksburg realised something was wrong.
At the dinner table he insisted on being served first and would not use the serving spoons if someone had used them before him.
When he began withdrawing from activities with the family such as playing with the dogs or playing darts because they were “dirty” Pauline sought help from his school psychologist.
At age 13 Donovan was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It was a shock to Pauline; she thought it affected only adults – a common misconception.
“At least half the adults with OCD developed it in childhood,” says Paul Serebro, founder of the OCD Association of South Africa.
He says there has been a steady increase in the number of parents seeking help for their children with the disorder as more people become aware that it affects kids.
OCD is common between age seven and 18 but can occur in children as young as two. It’s estimated one to three children in a hundred suffer from it.
See YOU dated 30 June 2011 for more case studies and tips on how parents can help a child with OCD. And seek professional help if you notice any of these possible signs of OCD in your child:
*Raw, chapped hands from constant washing
*A noticeable drop in school marks
*Long, unproductive hours spent doing homework
*Requests for family members to repeat strange phrases or keep answering the same question
*An intense fear of illness
*A dramatic increase in laundry
*Spending an unusually long time getting ready for bed
*Continual fear something terrible will happen to someone
*Constant checks on the health of family members
*Reluctance to leave the house and spend time doing outdoor activities
USEFUL CONTACT NUMBERS
*The Mental Health Information Centre of South Africa 021-938-9229
*The Medical Research Council’s Unit for Stress and Anxiety Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University 021-938-9179
*Obsessive-Compulsive Association of SA 011-447 2875
*The South African Depression and Anxiety Group 0800-20-50-26