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October 21st, 2011

OCD in Children and Teens – The Symmetry Symptom

Symmetry means even. Youngsters with this OCD symptom try to make things even. It is one of the more hidden symptoms of OCD. Often, parents and other people close to the child or teen may not be aware of it. Symmetry can affect many aspects of a young person’s life. Here are a few examples of this symptom.

• Repetitive behaviors – Children may touch or tap an object with their right hand and then feel compelled to do the same with their left hand.

• Interaction with people – A child sitting next to both parents might first lean next to one, and then feel compelled to lean against the other in the same way. Or, a child may feel compelled to speak to one parent and then to another.

• Arrangement of their environment – A child may need to arrange their belongings so they are even. For example, three dolls on one side of the bed, three dolls on their other.

• Doing behaviors an even number of times – A child may insist on saying Goodnight an even vs. an odd number of times.

Although these behaviors might not seem important to an observer, children with this symptom experience great anxiety if they cannot make certain behaviors symmetrical. The compulsion, the actual behavior of making things even helps reduce that anxiety. Unfortunately, as with every compulsion, the relief that it brings is only temporary, and ultimately makes this OCD symptom even stronger.

OCD in children and teens CAN be helped. Children with this OCD symptom can be taught to resist the urge to perform the compulsion. Cognitive Behavior Therapy teaches children thinking and behavior skills designed to relieve the anxiety from the obsessive thoughts, and the heightened anxiety they feel when they say No to making things even,

If you would like to learn more about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Children, you may find the previous articles helpful:

OCD and Worry in Kids
Checking and OCD in Children and Teens
OCD and Kids – Compulsive Handwashing

To learn more about thinking and behavior skills to reduce worry and anxiety, check out the Outsmart Your Worry Tool Kit for Kids®