We once thought that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was rare in children, but a careful evaluation published in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinics of North America in 1999 found that between 2% and 3% of all children will have the disorder sometime in childhood.


The peak age is puberty, but even young children develop the disorder. Obsessions are ideas that dominate the mind and disrupt life; compulsions are irresistible impulses to perform some action outside one’s conscious choice. The final issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA) for the year 2000 lists the five most common obsessions and compulsions in children. Here are the five top obsessions:

  • Concern with dirt, germs, or environmental toxins
  • Concern that something terrible will happen such as fire, death, or illness
  • Symmetry, order, or exactness
  • Scrupulosity (religious obsessions)
  • Lucky/unlucky numbers
  • Concern or disgust with bodily wastes or secretions (tied for 5th with lucky/unlucky numbers)

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

Get Dr. Greene's Wellness Recommendations

Sign up now for a delightful weekly email with insights for the whole family.

Got an idea, tip or a comment?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *