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Helping Your PANS Child or Teen With OCD

ocd parenting Jul 05, 2021

One of the frequently asked questions I get is, what are some ways that I can help my PANS child or teen with OCD? Obsessive compulsive disorder is one of the mental health issues that affects PANS kids and teens the most. There are many layers to understanding OCD and determining how to best respond to your child/teen when they are displaying OCD tendencies. Today I'm sharing 4 tips on supporting your child/teen with obsessions and compulsions.

 

4 Tips for Helping Your Child or Teen With OCD

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Help your PANS child or teen spot the OCD and give it a name:

Engage your PANS child or teen in being an "OCD detective" and spot it when it creeps up. Once you and your child/teen get better at "spotting" OCD, you can help your child/teen give OCD a name such as "brain bully". Teens may want to call it "OCD" or "PANS".  Together take notice when OCD sneaks in.

 

  1. Help your PANS child take small steps in delaying the compulsion:

Once you and your PANS child/teen have gotten good at spotting OCD, you can began to delay compulsions.  A compulsion may be an act (needing to lock the doors for example), or a compulsion can be the action of avoiding a situation or distracting themselves for a disturbing thought. Help your child or teen to put small amounts of time between their urges to do something or avoid and distract themselves.  The brain will lessen the intensity of the obsession or anxiety over time as you delay the action part of OCD (and action can be avoidance of something).

 

  1. Avoid reassurance or participation in rituals:

PANS kids and teens 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 or teen has an intrusive thought that something bad will happen to you. They may seek repeated reassurance from you that you are OK.

In this example, help your PANS child or teen to "spot" the OCD, call it by its name, and have them delay asking you if you are OK (you can plan ahead of time that you will not be answering them for an agreed upon amount of time in order to conquer the OCD!).  It could be just 10 seconds.  Celebrate with them when they are able to put in those delays.  Remind them that this is how they will gain back their own time and happiness, instead of OCD bossing them around.

 

When to seek professional help

Some PANS kids and teens 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/teen 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