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. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

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