/My Son Is Acting Strange

My Son Is Acting Strange

Dear Sara,

I am very worried about my twelve year old son. I can’t get him to talk to me about this but he is doing some very strange things. After we go to bed at night he gets up and goes around checking the doors and windows sometimes more than once to see if they are locked. He has to keep things in a certain order in his room and gets very upset if someone moves anything.He also worries about germs. Is there any way I can help him feel more secure?

Dear Holly,

It sounds like your son may be developing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD. When someone is affected by OCD they have distressing, intrusive thoughts and use tasks or rituals to try to neutralize the anxiety. This works for a short period of time to fend off the feeling of panic or dread but because the anxiety is relieved this tends to reinforce the ritualistic behaviors.

OCD tends to run in some families and there is also some evidence that links it to strep infections. Some of the obsessions are fear of contamination, fear of harm to self or others, religiosity,  and sexual fixations. Some of the things that are used to relieve anxiety are washing and cleaning, especially hands, checking and rechecking, having a need for symmetry, counting things, repeating or redoing tasks, hoarding and praying.

Watch for these things to see if your son has other behaviors that are different or worrisome. If you feel that he has signs of OCD then he may need to see a child psychiatrist for help. OCD can be treated best with a combination of behavioral therapy and medication.