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This page provides you with information about OCD in children and adolescents.

The Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is responsible for the treatment of OCD in children and adolescents in Central Denmark Region.

What is OCD?

OCD is an abbreviation for obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD affects 1-2% of children and adolescents worldwide. OCD manifests itself in the same way in children, adolescents and adults, and the obsessive-compulsive symptoms are more or less the same. OCD is characterised by recurring compulsive thoughts and/or compulsive actions.

OCD is a mental disorder, as OCD sufferers are generally able to recognise the absurdity of their compulsive thoughts. Nevertheless, they feel totally controlled by them, because the symptoms often have a disruptive effect on their everyday life and can lead to great anxiety.

Most children and adolescents as well as adults who suffer from OCD experience both compulsive thoughts and compulsive actions. The symptoms of OCD vary from person to person, and, for most children and adolescents, the disorder has a major impact on their everyday life and quality of life.

Compulsive thoughts

Compulsive actions

Why do some people develop OCD?

There is no simple explanation for why people develop OCD. Many different factors often come into play, including genes, congenital vulnerability and stressful events.

What happens in the brain when someone has OCD?


Social and psychological factors

Symptoms of OCD

How do obsessive-compulsive symptoms occur?

Social isolation

“Although, deep down, I knew my family wouldn’t really become ill and perhaps die if I didn’t perform my rituals, I felt compelled to perform them – just to be on the safe side.”
Isabella, 13

Anxiety about illness and death

Checking rituals

“The OCD tells me that the disease bacteria will spread – both on my body and to everything I touch – if I don’t wash myself thoroughly and more or less constantly ...”
David, 15

Mental rituals

Compulsive actions involving symmetry or accuracy

Dreng læser

‘Saving up’ symptoms

What symptoms are usually evident at home?

What symptoms are usually evident at school?

Involvement of the parents in the rituals

Examination for OCD

How do you know if you have OCD?

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“I keep having to do everything four times. For example when I need to write something. I have to put four dots after each sentence. I’m well aware that it sounds nuts, but if I don’t do it, I get extremely anxious and believe that something dreadful will happen. It’s as if four has become a magic number to me.”
Olivia, 16

Treatment of OCD

Psychoeducation and relief

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Treatment with medication

Advice for people who have OCD

What can you do yourself if you are an adolescent with OCD?

Advice for relatives

Advice for parents

What can you as parents, do?

Text on this page updated January 2022 (version 1.03).

Most recently revised by: Merete Juul Sørensen, Senior Consultant at Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Aarhus University Hospital – Psychiatry.

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