Helping Your PANS Child with OCDJul 05, 2021
One of the frequently asked questions I get is, what are some ways that I can help my PANS child with OCD? Obsessive compulsive disorder is one of the mental health issues that affects PANS kids the most. There are many layers to understanding OCD and determining how to best respond to your child when they are displaying OCD tendencies. Today I'm sharing 4 tips on supporting your child with obsessive compulsive disorder.
4 Tips for Supporting Your Child with OCD
- Understand What OCD Looks Like:
OCD has two parts: Obsessions and Compulsions. An obsession is an unwanted thought or image that your PANS child struggles to get out of their mind. The thought or image is disturbing and usually makes it difficult for them to focus on other things.
A compulsion is something that your PANS child feels that they must do in order to "neutralize", or make the obsession "go away". Obsessions and compulsions typically fall into 5 categories: checking, contamination, hoarding, symmetry/ordering, and intrusive or "harm" thoughts.
- Checking OCD
Signs of checking OCD can include checking locks, appliances or other items or checking in on loved ones over and over again.
- Contamination OCD
Contamination OCD includes fears of getting sick or dirty, a need for repetitive hand washing or cleaning, as well as repeated questioning as to whether they, or certain things may be contaminated.
- Hoarding OCD
Examples of hoarding OCD include accumulating large amounts of items and experiencing distress about getting rid of them, even if they have little value.
- Symmetry/Ordering OCD
Symmetry/ordering OCD includes needing things to be perfect, exact or “just right,” symmetrical, or correctly aligned, and related compulsions include ordering and arranging, evening up or aligning things, and touching or tapping.
- Intrusive Thought OCD
Intrusive Thought OCD includes having unwanted thoughts about several topics such as sexuality, weather, and violence.
- Help your PANS child spot OCD and give it a name:
Engage your PANS child in being an "OCD detective" and spot it when it creeps up. Once you and your child get better at "spotting" OCD, you can help your child give OCD a name such as "brain bully". Together take notice when the "brain bully" is sneaking in.
- Help your PANS child "boss back" the OCD:
Once you and your PANS child have gotten good at spotting OCD, you can help your PANS child "boss back" the OCD. Help your child think of how they would handle another child bullying them. Teach them to tell OCD, "stop it! I won't do that! You are not the boss of me!" Then, help them to gradually increase the amount of time they delay engaging in what OCD is telling them to do.
- Avoid reassurance or participation in rituals:
PANS kids with OCD tendencies will often seek reassurance and/or ask their parents to participate in rituals with them.
Here is what this might look like: your PANS child has an intrusive thought that something bad will happen to you. They may seek repeated reassurance from you that you are OK.
Help your PANS child "spot" the OCD, call it by its name, and ask them how you can "boss it back" together. An example of helping them "boss back" might be--"let's tell OCD that it's not allowed to ruin your day by making you think something bad is going to happen to me. Let's tell it to leave you alone!" Helping your PANS child make small delays in responding to the OCD will yield gains in breaking the cycle of OCD.
When to seek professional help
Some PANS kids do need professional help with their OCD. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD has been well-researched and shown to be highly successful.
During ERP therapy, a PANS child is gradually exposed to their obsessions and taught how not to engage in the related compulsion.
Do you have more questions about parenting with PANS? If so, you are invited to join my free Facebook group here.