Will my OCD affect my son?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have ocd and I’m wondering if my ocd is affecting my 4 yr. old son in a negative way. For example, when my son wakes up I have him change from his pajamas to his dirtier indoor pajamas and don’t allow him to not wear shoes in the house. If he touches food he can’t touch me or hug me until his hands are clean. Will my ocd traits affect him? How do I know if he has ocd or if I am teaching him rituals that will affect him? My husband is concerned on what my ocd will do to my son. Should we be worried? Please give us insight! Thankyou.

A: Although OCD does sometimes seem to run in families to some extent, as far as I know, it isn’t certain. But whether or not he has inherited the disorder, he is living with it.

Everything we parents do has an effect on our children. They look to us for guidance about how to function in the world. So of course your OCD rituals will have an impact on your son. It’s very important how you explain yourself to him. He is now 4. He can understand it if you tell him very clearly that you have a problem in your mind called OCD that makes you need to have things certain ways. You can let him know that not all adults have this problem. His father doesn’t. But it is so hard for you to live like ordinary people that you have to ask the people in your family to help you by doing things your way. That’s one of the ways that people in your family love you. You love him and his Dad by doing certain things for them. Explanation will help him make sense of your needs and will also help him understand why things are different at his friends’ houses.

Meanwhile, you didn’t mention what you are doing to help yourself manage your OCD better to minimize the impact on your child. There are medications that are sometimes helpful. Hypnosis helps some people reduce the duration and intensity of rituals. I hope you will consider talking with a psychiatrist about your options for treatment.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Apr 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). Will my OCD affect my son?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/04/21/will-my-ocd-affect-my-son/