Worried About Son’s Behavior

Dear Sara,

I am very worried about my twelve year old son “Ben”. 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 that 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 seems to worry about germs a lot. How can I help him?

Dear Holly,

It sounds like Ben 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 some evidence that links it to streptococcal infections.

If these behaviors continue or if Ben has other behaviors that are different or worrisome then he may have to see a child psychologist for help. OCD can be treated best with a combination of behavioral therapy and medication.

Good luck.

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