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Pediatric OCD and Its Effects on Family

family-beachA study published in the March 17, 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry concludes that pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder negatively affects not only the children who suffer from it, but also their parents.

At the risk of sounding snarky, anyone who has a child with OCD could’ve told you that.

Still, well-conducted studies, as opposed to anecdotal evidence, are important. If nothing else, they give clinicians and researchers concrete information to reference, study and build upon in their quest to understand OCD and how to best help those whose lives are affected by it.

The study had a good number of participants — 354 youth and their parents. As I read each finding in the abstract, I nodded in agreement, as my family (when my son Dan was dealing with severe OCD) fit the profile of those in the study to a tee.

Not surprisingly, OCD is marked by disrupted routines, stressful social interactions for the children, and poor job performance for the parents.

Everyone in the family had elevated stress and anxiety levels, though I found it interesting that there is no specific mention of siblings. As far as I know, siblings were not part of the study, but of course they are also affected by having a brother or sister with OCD. While the children with OCD often felt frustration and anger, their parents were more likely to describe feelings of sadness. I, and I’m sure many of you out there who have a child with OCD, can relate to that!

Some points that I found interesting include the finding that parents often did not recognize the extent of their child’s suffering, particularly in regard to academics and socialization.

We know that those with OCD can be good at hiding how they are truly feeling. Thinking back to my son Dan’s ordeal, I now realize that when I thought things were not “that bad,” they really were. Additionally, mothers seemed to be more negatively impacted by their child’s OCD than fathers. This could be due to many factors, including the fact that mothers typically (though not always) spend more time with their children.

To me, the most important conclusion of this study by far is the fact that the more parents accommodated and enabled their children, the more the entire family became impaired. 

If you’ve been following my posts for a while, you know that this is one of my pet peeves: Parents and loved ones need to be educated about how to properly deal with OCD. What loving parent hasn’t inadvertently enabled their child because they wanted to take away their pain, only to later learn (or maybe not) that their actions have only made things worse? Because the proper way to deal with OCD involves going against our instincts, family members need to be educated.

It is my hope that the results of this study will lead to more awareness and better treatment for OCD, not only for those suffering from the disorder, but also for those who care for and support them.

Pediatric OCD and Its Effects on Family


Janet Singer

Janet Singer’s son Dan suffered from OCD so severe that he could not even eat. After navigating through a disorienting maze of treatments and programs, Dan made a triumphant recovery. Janet has become an advocate for OCD awareness and wants everyone to know that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. There is so much hope for those with this disorder. Janet, who uses a pseudonym to protect her son’s privacy, is the author of Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery, published in January 2015 by Rowman & Littlefield. Her own blog, www.ocdtalk.wordpress.com, has reached readers in 167 countries. She is married with three children and resides in New England.


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APA Reference
Singer, J. (2018). Pediatric OCD and Its Effects on Family. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 13, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/pediatric-ocd-and-its-effects-on-family/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.