Counselling and Therapy for OCD in children and teenagers

What is OCD in children and teenagers?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety condition characterised by intrusive thoughts / images (obsessions) and urges (compulsions). To reduce the anxiety prompted by these obsessions, children with OCD engage in compulsive rituals such as hand washing or elaborate bedtime routines.

OCD can be extremely frustrating for your child. Most of the time, they can recognise that compulsive behaviour is not sensible or logical. Children and teenagers with OCD understand that their rituals may not be socially acceptable, so they make an effort to conceal these behaviours in public, which can make it worse at home.

This does not mean that these behaviours are voluntary or not indicative of OCD. If you believe your child or teenager may be struggling with OCD and the associated anxiety, clinical psychology therapy at Harwood Child Psychology can help.


How do I know if my child or teenager has OCD?

The most common symptoms of OCD in children and teenagers are obsessive, unpleasant thoughts, compulsive behaviours and high levels of anxiety.


  • Obsessions are repetitive and controlling thoughts, urges or images that are intrusive, unpleasant and unwanted
  • These are thoughts that your child will recognise as their own, but try to resist
  • The presence of these thoughts prompts anxiety or distress, which leads to the development of compulsive behaviours to suppress or get rid of the thought

Common obsessions in children and teenagers include:

  • Symmetry - needing things to be visually symmetrical or performing behaviours to both sides of the body
  • Germs and contamination
  • Harmful events - believing that bad things could happen to loved ones
  • Disgust at bodily waste or secretions
  • Order and exactness
  • The need to tell or confess intrusive thoughts


  • Compulsions are the visible symptoms of OCD; they are repetitive behaviours or mental acts that your child feels compelled to engage with in response to an obsession
  • If your child or teenager is not able or allowed to engage with the ritual, they might experience high levels of anxiety and distress that could result in tantrums in younger children
  • These ritualistic behaviours are performed to reduce anxiety or distress from the intrusive thoughts but are likely excessive or not logically linked to preventing the obsessive thought
  • Your child or teenager may struggle with these repetitive compulsions because they will be neither enjoyable nor useful
  • Compulsions are time-consuming and may cause your child or teenager to struggle with school and family life

Common Compulsions in children and teenagers include:

  • Liking things to be odd or even, or obsessions with a certain number
  • Repeating phrases and actions exactly and ritualistically
  • Excessive washing or aversion to dirt and germs
  • Complex and lengthy bedtime routines or rituals
  • Repeatedly seeking reassurance
  • Ordering objects, such as toys or household items, in particular sequences
  • Checking - for example, checking that switches are turned off multiple times to prevent a fire
  • Tapping objects or body parts a certain number of times


The anxiety associated with obsessions and compulsive rituals may result in physical symptoms such as:

  • Racing heart
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Symptoms and patterns of OCD may fluctuate and change depending on what is occurring in your child’s life. A reduction in certain behaviours is not necessarily indicative of recovery; Seeking help early can make a real difference, so do reach out if you believe your child struggles with any of the above symptoms.

How can I help my child or teenager with OCD?

If you have noticed the above symptoms in your child, we recommend you get in touch to book a free telephone consultation.

As a parent, OCD can be a distressing thing to watch your child or teenager experience. The good news is, there are evidence-based, modern and effective counselling and therapy methods for OCD available with Harwood Child Psychology. Our approach of using only rigorously tested, and NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) approved treatments greatly increases the chance of seeing real improvements in your child.

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At Harwood Child Psychology, we offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that will help your child gain the skills to fight OCD. In line with national scientific guidelines, CBT at Harwood Child Psychology is conducted with children and teenagers alongside family involvement. As a parent, you will be able to follow your child’s progress and help them with their anxiety management.

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We offer cost-effective, evidence-based treatment with a highly qualified clinical psychologist. You can be sure that your child or teenager is in safe hands. We pride ourselves on a high quality, warm and compassionate service that can help your child or teenager and family overcome OCD.

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Harwood Child Psychology provides engaging and effective therapy for OCD in Muswell Hill, Crouch End, Highgate, Hampstead, Finchley and the wider North West London area.

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