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Avatar universal

Can a pre-schooler have OCD?

My son will be 4 years old in 3 months. He has been a very high-needs child since he was born. I also have a 9 year old and 10 month old who are just the opposite...very laid back kids.
My husband and I are increasingly concerned with his behavior. He has always needed to have things 'just so' and has many compulsive behaviors, or he has a complete meltdown. He has always lined up his toys in a certain order, needed routines to stay the same, needed to eat the same foods for days/weeks in a row, etc. Although he was on the difficult side and made our lives considerably stressful, this seemed normal for a toddler. He is now almost 4 and his behavior is getting worse, not better. He throws fits (screaming, jumping, stomping,throwing, crazed maniac-type fits)numerous times throughout the day. They are usually brought on by something that didn't go 'just so.' For instance, in the morning when he wakes up, I am supposed to be in the kitchen, (according to him.) He opens his bedroom door, runs into the kitchen, hugs my legs and says, "Mama!" Then I have to say, "Good morning, Baby!" Then he asks for a granola bar, juice, and for me to turn on his 'shows' on TV. It's like a little play. There are little plays like this that go on for different situations/times of the day that he has created. If I don't say what I'm supposed to say, or am not doing what I'm 'supposed' to be doing, he's likely to have a fit and say, "We have to start all over again!!!" If I am not in the kitchen in the morning when he runs out...he jumps up and down and screams that we have to start over, running back to his room and closes the door. Sometimes he will even open the door, on such days, and ask in a panicked voice, "Mom? Are you ready? Are you in the kitchen?" We have tried disciplining him for this behavior with time outs, positive reinforcement, redirection...but it doesn't work. It makes him act crazier. He went to preschool two day a week this year for the first time. He did well and really enjoyed it, although he had a hard time making friends and was considerably withdrawn at the beginning of the year. He has a hard time warming up to people and still has extreme seperation anxiety when we leave him with anyone. My question is...do we still consider this normal? Are we doing something wrong? Should I find him a psychologist? Thanks so much.
10 Responses
242606 tn?1243786248
Yes, it is possible for a child of four to display OCD or other anxiety disorders, so this can't be ruled out. However, your son's behavior can be representative of more than one condition, and it would make sense to arrange an evaluation. The behavior is not at all within the normal spectrum for his age, and I would not suggest waiting it out or thinking it might be simply a stage he's going through.
Avatar universal
I don't see why not.....I know that there is an attachment disorder.  Not meaning that you haven't properly raised your child but he has a hard time de-attaching himself from you or things that he is used to.  If he has always been home then that is what he is used to.  I hate to ever hear of a child with a Neurology problem but as the generations have gone by, the children are getting worse with those types of disorders normally you'd hear about a grown person getting.  Have you taken him to his Pediatrician?  Or a Pediatric Neurologist?  Testing him will not hurt, but I know it will take alot to get him out of the ordinary.  Of course a Pediatric Psychiatrist or Ped Psychologist that specializes in attachment disorders may be the way to go, but first talk to your childs Pediatrician.  Look up attachment disorders online, you'd be surprised of what the disorder is about.  Here's a great website that almost describes your childs actions to a "T"
http://attachmenttherapy.com/ad.html.  I hope this helps answer any questions you have and good luck!!!!!!  :o)
Avatar universal
You can also go to the search tab and type in attachment and it has several links to more information.  I apologize to if I offended you.But I think that a child can have a disorder as much as an adult can.That's why there is Pediatric Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychologist with behavioral issue area of interest that they address.I research medical diseases/issues and locate doctors for a living...I have heard all kinds of stories and in return have learned alot of different conditions due to my own research.I feel as though your child may have a type of disorder that is "too attached"if that makes sense.I have read and will do more research to find out what that is "called" and let you know.I'm pretty sure you will too.Hopefully a Psychologist will read this and give his/her 2 cents.I have a fasination with the child mind and wanted to be a Psychiatrist, but instead had children at a young age and not married.So that's my sob story (boo hoo)I still firmly believe in speaking to your doctor before going to a specialist.Maybe your child is just a perfectionist and wants things a certain way and not at all has a disorder of any kind and maybe it's nothing to even worry about.So don't get too worried.Let me know what you come up with.
Avatar universal
My3boys~ Thank you for responding and I appreciate the link. However this disorder does not describe my son in any way, nor was he improperly cared for as an infant or now. We bonded wonderfully when he was a baby, I breastfed him until he was 16 months old, and he has always been well taken care of by myself and my husband. We continue to have a very close relationship....he just has behaviors I am concerned about. Here is what the site said for anyone interested:

What Is Attachment Disorder?
      Attachment is the result of the bonding process that occurs between a child and caregiver during the first couple years of the child's life. The first year of life is the year of needs. The infant's primary needs are touch, eye contact, movement, smiles, and nourishment. When the infant has a need, he or she expresses the need through crying. Ideally, the caretaker is able to recognize and satisfy the need. Through this interaction, which occurs hundreds of thousands of times in a year, the child learns that the world is a safe place and trust develops. In addition, emotional connection forms, the child feels empowered in his or her environment, and develops a secure base from which the child can confidently and effectively explore the world. Attachment is reciprocal, the baby and caregiver create this deep, nurturing connection together: It takes two to connect. It is imperative for optimal brain development and emotional health, and its effects are felt physiologically, emotionally, cognitively and socially.

      When this initial attachment is lacking, children lack the ability to form and maintain loving, intimate relationships. They grow up with an impaired ability to trust that the world is a safe place and that others will take good care of them. Without this sense of trust, children believes that they must be hypervigilant about their own safety. Unfortunately, their idea about safety prevents them from allowing others to take care of them in a loving, nurturing manner. They become extremely demanding and controlling in response to their fear. Emotionally they believe that if they do not control their world then they will die.

      Children without proper care in the first few years of life have an unusually high level of stress hormones, which adversely effect the way crucial aspects of the brain and body develop. Conscience development is dependent upon brain development and follows attachment. Therefore, these children lack prosocial values and morality as well as demonstrating aggressive, disruptive and antisocial behaviors.

      There are many reasons why the development of this connection can be disrupted. Factors that may contribute to impaired attachment include:
Premature birth
In utero trauma such as exposure to drugs or alcohol
Unwanted pregnancy
Separation from birth mother
Postpartum depression in mother
Severe abuse and/or neglect in the first years of life
Multiple caretakers
Unresolved pain
Painful or invasive medical procedures
Insensitive parenting

      These children have learned at a preverbal stage that the world is a scary and distrustful place. This lesson has taken place at a biochemical level in the brain. For this reason, these children do not respond well to traditional therapy or parenting since both rely on the child's ability to form relationships that require trust and respect. These children have Reactive Attachment Disorder, and it requires a different type of therapy to address these early attachment difficulties.

Identifying Attachment Disorder

The Child:
Superficially charming, acts cute to get what he/she wants.
Indiscriminately affectionate with unfamiliar adults.
Lacks genuine affection with primary caregivers (especially mother).
Controlling, bossy, manipulative, defiant, argumentative, demanding, impulsive.
Preoccupation with fire, death, blood, or gore.
Cruelty to animals, destruction of property, aggression toward others or self.
Destructive, accident-prone.
Rages or has long temper tantrums, especially in response to adult authority.
Poor eye contact, except when lying.
Blames others for their problems.
Lacks self-control.
Lacks cause and effect thinking.
Lies, steals, shows no remorse, no conscience, defiant.
Hoards or sneaks food, strange eating habits.
Poor hygiene: wets or soils self.
Has difficulty maintaining friendships.
Persistent nonsense questions and incessant chatter.
Grandiose sense of self lacks trust in others to care for him/her.

The Parents:

Feel helpless, demoralized, emotionally exhausted.
Appear angry, frustrated and hostile.
Feelings of inadequacy and guilt.

Avatar universal
chrissy29-  I'm glad to hear that the Attachment disorder is NOT your child.I wish you the best on your journey to finding out what's wrong and I will keep your child in my prayers.May God Bless you and your family........
Avatar universal
My3boys~ You have not offended me, I just don't know where/how you see an attachment disorder from what I had written. Below is a symptom checklist for attachment disoders. My son does not even meet one requirement. (????)

1. Lack of impulse control    
2. Self destructive behaviors    
3. Intense displays of anger (rage)    
4. Destruction of property    
5. Preoccupation with fire, gore, or evil    
6. Aggression toward others    
7. Inappropriate sexual conduct and attitudes    
8. Cruelty to animals    
9. Frequently defies rules (oppositional)    
10. Cannot tolerate limits and external control    
11. Victimizes others (perpetrator, bully)    
12. Exploitive (manipulative, controlling)    
13. Bossy    
14. Consistently irresponsible    
15. Inappropriately demanding and clingy    
16. Marked mood changes    
17. Stealing    
18. Deceitful (lying, conning)    
19. Hoarding    
20. Sleep disturbance    
21. Enuresis (wets self)    
22. Encopresis (soils self)    
23. Hyperactivity    
24. Abnormal eating habits    
25. Persistent nonsense questions and incessant chatter    
26. Lack of cause and effect thinking    
27. Lack of remorse and conscience    
28. Learning disorders    
29. Language disorders    
30. Perceives self as victim (helpless)    
31. Grandiose sense of self-importance    
32. Perceives others as unsafe, dangerous    
33. Not affectionate on parents' terms    
34. Frequently depressed, sad    
35. Feelings of hopelessness    
36. Inappropriate emotional response    
37. Superficially engaging and charming    
38. Lack of eye contact on parents terms    
39. Indiscriminately affection with strangers    
40. Lack of long-term friends    
41. Unstable peer relationships    
42. Blames others for own mistakes or problems    
43. Victimized by others    
44. Lacks trust of caretaking or control by others    
45. Accident prone    
46. Child is adopted (check one)

Yes  No
47. Child experienced separations from birth mother during first 2 years

Yes  No
48. Child experienced unrelieved pain during first 2 years

Yes  No

Avatar universal
My son is 5 years old and has displayed the EXACT symptoms your child is exhibiting. I did a tremendous amount of research on my own and basically diagnosed my son myself with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. He was formally diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (via a child psychiatrist) last January. Many doctors told me along the way that he would outgrow his behaviors or he acts that way because he's a "boy". I knew in my heart that something wasn't right. Is your son physically uncoordinated? High functioning autism is much more common than most people know. My son is very bright, loving, makes good eye contact and most people would never guess he has a form of autism. After exhausting all behavioral therapies and after much soul searching, we decided to try medication to help with our son's behaviors and rituals. He was given Risperdal and I'm happy to report, our son is like a different child! His meltdowns are far less intense, he now plays with his cars rather than lining them up and he is MUCH more social and has far less separation anxiety. I guess my point is not to despair and feel hopeless (like we did). We researched, learned, had him diagnosed and are now dealing with his condition feeling far more positive. Good luck to you and your family. I've been there!
Avatar universal
I don't have much time to spend on email, but my son just turned 4 last week and he sounds just like your son.  I am tired of people telling me he is spoiled and has been with me too much since birth.  He was a difficult infant.  I expressed once again to the pediatrician at his checkup yesterday that we need to get to the bottom of this behavior.  I think they might be listening to me after four years of begging for help.  They are supposed to call me back with a referral for a psychologist to evaluate him and I hope to have answers soon.  My son is an angel 90 percent of the time, but we walk on eggshells to keep things just so to avoid the meltdowns.  Good luck to you and don't listen to anyone that tells you it's your fault.
Avatar universal

You have just described my daughter to a tee....she turned 4 in May and has been that way since she was able to walk and talk.  Everything has to be "just so".....if I move something on the counter an inch from where it was originally, she freaks out saying "Mama who moved that, why did you move it, put it back where it was"......I bought new curtains for my bedroom and hung them up and when she entered the room she went literally crazy, stomping, crying, having a crazy fit because she wanted the old ones back.  At Christmas, she went nuts when I put the tree up and the decorations out and it took probably 2 weeks before she was ok with it.  I have tried to figure out what is wrong with her, and cannot figure it out.  It is like walking on eggshells with every thing......I have to make sure things are just right or she will go crazy.  Other than that, she is usually a very good kid.  If you find out anything please let me know, I am at my wits end.......
Avatar universal
I feel for you and your situation.  My suggestion is to be very cautious about any possible diagnosis.  I have a brother who was diagnosed as ADHD as a child and treatment was not succesfull.  Well that is because we have now found out 25 years later that he is bipolar.  Funny thing is,  he fit the criteria for ADHD.  As i research behavioral health he actually fits the criteria for a lot of disorders.  I dont think we have very good diagnosing tools.  tools that can discipher behavoir and the characteristics of these disorders.  GOOD LUCK!!
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