Techniques for Managing OCD in Children

Messages from Chinuch Research Center

In this article, we will discuss effective techniques for managing OCD in children. We will explore practical strategies that can be used to help children cope with their OCD symptoms. We will also highlight ineffective OCD management strategies that should be avoided. Remember, progress is more important than perfection. By implementing these techniques, you can help your child manage their OCD and improve their quality of life.

Techniques for Managing OCD in Children

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a prevalent mental health condition affecting a significant portion of the global population, including many children. It often manifests through persistent, intrusive worries and fears, leading to compulsive behaviors. Traditional coping mechanisms can sometimes worsen these symptoms, making it crucial to explore more effective strategies. This article, drawing on the expertise of Dr. Ben Furman and resources from the Chinuch Resource Center, aims to guide those affected by OCD toward more constructive methods of managing their condition. While there is no universal remedy for OCD, this comprehensive guide offers valuable insights and suggestions for beginning your journey toward relief. The process may involve trial and error and the exploration of various techniques to identify those most influential in soothing the symptoms of OCD.

OCD is a common mental health issue, affecting approximately 2% of people, with a higher incidence among females. It often begins in childhood, usually between the ages of 7 and 10. Those with OCD experience intrusive worry thoughts or fears about potential adverse outcomes. These worries differ from everyday concerns; they are more intense and persistent, leading to compulsive behaviors as coping mechanisms. This article focuses on understanding and effectively responding to these worry thoughts, emphasizing strategies to help individuals manage their OCD more effectively.

Symptoms of OCD

OCD symptoms are categorized into two types: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are recurring, distressing thoughts or fears about potential harm or negative outcomes. They differ from typical worries due to their persistent and intrusive nature. Compulsions, on the other hand, are actions performed to mitigate these obsessive thoughts. Examples include excessive handwashing due to fears of contamination or constant reassurance-seeking about a loved one’s safety.

The Concept of “Nucleus Worrius”

The brain’s “nucleus worrius” is a hypothetical region that generates worry thoughts. An overactive “nucleus worrius” can lead to overwhelming and relentless worries. Effective management involves recognizing these thoughts and responding to them to prevent them from dominating one’s actions and life.

Ineffective OCD Management Strategies

People with OCD often employ specific methods that, rather than alleviating their symptoms, exacerbate them. These include:

  1. Reasoning: Attempting to argue logically against worry thoughts often proves counterproductive, leading to more entrenched worries.
  2. Reassurance Seeking: Constantly seeking reassurance from others can lead to dependency and strained relationships.
  3. Checking: Compulsive checking in response to worry thoughts can create a reinforcing cycle of anxiety.
  4. Avoidance: Avoiding triggering situations can severely limit one’s life and perpetuate anxiety.
  5. Distraction: While temporarily effective, distraction doesn’t address the underlying worry thoughts.

Practical Techniques for Managing OCD

  1. Scheduled Worry Time: Setting aside a specific daily time to focus on worries can help manage spontaneous worry thoughts more effectively.
  2. Utilizing Worry Dolls or Similar Tools: Inspired by the Guatemalan worry dolls tradition, write down worries and set them aside, allowing time to diminish their intensity.
  3. Discarding Worry Thoughts: Actively dismiss worry thoughts as irrelevant or untrue.
  4. Assertive Rejection: Firmly tell your worry thoughts that you will not engage with them, similar to how one might deal with a persistent child.
  5. Meditation and Visualization: Transform troubling thoughts into images and mentally dispose of them.
  6. Positive Reframing of Worry Imaginations: Alter worry thoughts into more positive or benign scenarios.

A Tale of Transformation: Moshe’s Journey with Worry Thoughts

The story of Moshe, a young boy who stayed with his grandmother, beautifully illustrates the power of positively reframing worry thoughts. A recurring nightmare plagued Moshe, in which a menacing dog chased him. Distressed, he shared this with his grandmother, who offered a unique perspective. She suggested that all dreams, including nightmares, could have happy endings. Together, they creatively transformed the frightening dog in Moshe’s dream into a magnificent bird. This bird didn’t chase Moshe; instead, it offered him an exhilarating flight. That night, Moshe went to bed with this new, uplifting version of his dream in mind. The result was remarkable – not only did he sleep peacefully that night, but the nightmares also ceased.

This story underscores the power of imagination in managing worry thoughts, particularly in children. By transforming the narrative of his worries into something positive, Moshe learned to control and overcome them. Similarly, children and adults with OCD can benefit from visualizing positive outcomes or twists to their worry thoughts. For instance, if worried about spreading germs, one might imagine those germs instead conferring immunity and protection against other infections. By picturing a positive outcome, it’s possible to gain control over the worries that plague the mind.



Managing OCD, especially in children, requires patience, understanding, and the willingness to explore various techniques. What works for one person may not work for another, making it essential to try different strategies. The journey to finding effective methods for calming OCD symptoms is unique to each individual. However, with perseverance and the right approach, finding relief and improving one’s quality of life is possible. Remember, managing OCD is about progress, not perfection, and every step towards better managing worry thoughts is a step towards a more peaceful and fulfilling life.