Toddler OCD???

Melissa - posted on 12/22/2010 ( 11 moms have responded )




I'm a mother of a 2 and a half year old. When he turned 2 he started exhibiting what I called "dictator" behavior. He had to have all the door closed, all the lights turned off if there was no one in the room, and this urgent need increased if he was out of his element, like spending the night with Grandma and Grandpa. He would have a world class meltdown if he wasn't able to have the lights turned off and the door closed. I didn't think much of this, just that it was a toddler trying to exert his control over his environment. And all the baby articles said to let him because it builds confidence and self-esteem.

Now that he's a little older this behavior is starting to drive me nuts. I try once in a while to say "Oh, that's okay that the door is open, it lets the air circulate better." or "We're coming right back, no need to turn off the light." And his meltdowns have actually gotten worse over this. He works himself up into hysterics over it, I can actually feel his heart start to beat faster before the howler monkey noises and tantrums begin. Over the last two weeks he's started running around in circles when he is having his "I didn't get my way" tantrums and if I try to pick him up and comfort him he kicks and screams worse. It's especially bad when he's tired. I wasn't concerned until the running in circles started, since then a "well meaning" friend told me that she wouldn't be surprised if my son wound up with a diagnosis of OCD and that the spinning is actually a SIGN of OCD (she is not a doctor or psychologist and couldn't remember where she heard that).

I do plan to ask my doctor about it at our next appointment, but unless he becomes ill, that's not for another 4 months. I wanted to hear others weigh in. Is this normal toddler behavior or OCD? I also wondered about anxiety. I have noticed when he's done something he knows will get him sent to time out he sometimes covers his eyes with his hands as if I'm so scary he has to hide from me. It breaks my heart! I try to be extra gentle when I see him act that way.


Heather - posted on 12/23/2010




I think this sounds like a mix of personality and maybe a little anxietty (which is prob part of his personality). I would not freak out over it and i would try to pick your battles a bit but also i would try to up his nutrtion. SOmetimes kids (and adults) who don't have quite as much nuutrients in their body as they should end up having more anxiety adn anxiety type behaviours. It is really hard with small children to get a whole rainbow of fruits adn veggies into them everyday. I have all sorts of diff ways i have come up with to do that with my kids and if you want some ideas please feel free to email me so i don't take up the whole page here with that. Also keep in mind that toddlers have very little control in their lives (they have control basically of what goes in their body and what comes out of their body and that is about it) so this could be his way of handling getting control over things. Also i would be very careful of giving him control becasue of his behaviour. For example if he wants to turn off the light and you tell him no that you are coming right back to the room and he throws a fit then you need to let him know that that behaviour does not ever get him what he wants and you are sorry he is feeling frustrated but he still needs to pull it together and act appropriately. If you let him turn off the light becasue you don't want to stress him out or hear him after you have told him that the light is staying on then you are just reinforsing his bad bahviour and his stress by giving him what he wants. The biggest thing is listen to yourself and make sure you do what feels right. Also i would make sure he gets lots of exercise adn run around time on top of upping his nutrition if you can.

Jodi - posted on 12/22/2010




Honestly, I wouldn't worry about it too much. I have OCD, have always had OCD and even I would hesitate to even think that any of my toddlers behaviors are OCD related. Toddlers are weird sometimes, they have so little control of their life and environment they often find odd ways of exerting that control.

Shannon- just so you know, grouping items by color, size, shape etc etc is actually incredibly common among toddlers. It's called categorizing, it's their way of making sense of things, how things are similar and different. Many many many toddlers do this, and often preschools and daycares will encourage it to help with identifying, classifying items by descriptions, working on colors, shapes etc etc etc. Definately not any sure sign of OCD in a toddler.

Anyways, like I said, I would hesitate to label my child, even though she's much more likely to have OCD than your average child (not YOUR average child, THE average child I should say!). If you feel like it's actually effecting his well-being, by all means, bring it up to his doctor, but may I suggest behavioral therapy vs. medication. Medication has a tendancy to mask the problem, behavioral therapy will give your child the skills to cope with and overcome the struggles of OCD if he does indeed have it. Best of luck, I certainly hope it's jsut quirky behavior, OCD sucks lol!

Claire - posted on 12/27/2010




my little girl will not mix things she has her food on a plate with seperate sections so it doesnt touch and wen she paints she has seperate pots n brushes for each colour so they dont mix together she crys if this happens some 1 told me it could be hypersensativity disorder???? not sur what this is im just hoping she will grow out of it

[deleted account]

does he group things together, like all the blue blocks together, or other things like that? or is it just doors are to be shut, lights turned out? hes probably just particular about the way things are, not necessarily ocd. i would bring it up at the doctors next visit, but its not something to rush him in for. as for the covering his eyes when hes in trouble, he knows that if he does that he wont get into as much trouble because it makes you feel bad. my niece does this kind of thing to her grandma. she'll be just fine, getting into things and when she gets in trouble for it she'll put her hands in her mouth or on her tummy like her teeth hurt or her tummy hurts, and grandma will pick her up and cuddle her instead of giving her a timeout. three seconds after getting set down shes back doing what she wasnt supposed to in the first place. two year olds can be very cunning, and most people dont give them enough credit. good luck!

Rachel - posted on 09/20/2012




If you are still around, how has this situation developed for you? my son is exactly the same about doors and lights. He also insists on vacuuming when there is dirt, and he vacuums very well and thoroughly and will freak out if he sees the vacuum and you won't let him do it. I've taken to doing it when he's in bed, because while he is good at it, he has hurt his finger in it before. He is a biter too, when he cannot do something the way he wants, though he only bites his twin sister and 6 yr old brother, he doesn't try it with adults, and he does it out of frustration in other situations too, normal biter situations but I am beginning to wonder if it may be tied to his other need for control and stress if he doesn't get it. Hoping there's some light at the end of the tunnel. He is 19 months and is also not speaking words. He makes sounds but his sister is beginning to develop a significant vocabulary and mimic well, but he won't mimic or say anything really. I will be checking with his dr about it but like you, thats not for several more months and I don't know if it's worth it's own appt. at his 18m, this issue was not as severe and I only asked about his lack of speech and they said to give him time.

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Andrea - posted on 12/28/2010




Yes ask your doctor. In my opinion he has learned that he can do this, turning lights off and closing doors, and its okay. Now that you are trying to stop the behavior that he has learned is okay for him to do, of course he is going to be upset. He may be thinking, "I used to do this all the time and it is okay, now I can't, that's not fair." I don't think it should have been constantly allowed in the first place. So now, his fits are his way of control. In his mind: If I scream and kick and go crazy, I get my way. So now, I think the best thing to do is not allow him to close the doors or turn the lights off, unless you ask him to. And in the moments when he wants to and isn't supposed to, tell him no, and let him have his tantrum/fit. Don't reward his crying and screaming with hugs/comfort --- your attention. Don't give him attention when he is having a fit because you told him no, that is sending mixed messages. You have to be firm, you have to be patient. I don't think it is OCD. I think he is just a toddler being a toddler.
But yes consult your doctor, and she what he/she says. But I am pretty sure his behavior is normal. Prayers and blessings.

Alexis - posted on 12/25/2010




Are you or your husband very particular with things? If you are maybe he is picking it up from you. Even if your not particular with him, if he sees you doing things a certain way and letting him know that things need to stay a certain way maybe he is trying to mimic you. I also agree that perhaps this is one way he has learned to have control over his environment, especially sense the behavior was allowed for a while. I personally wouldn't worry but peace of mind can mean a lot, so if it would but you at ease to know if this is normal or not by all means make an appointment with your doc.

Laura - posted on 12/24/2010




I understand what you mean my son gets very frustrated with things out of place doors not shut and lights on or off depending what it is. They dont have control over there environment and it may be a coping skill, I personally although I am not a doctor dont think its too vital to worry about that he needs to go to the doctor tomorrow. If you want to know some answers without going to the doctor go to your local preschool and usually they have a person who does homevisits, and works with younger children and ask them they may be able to help you they can also do the autism test i believe. there world is changing everyday and even with routines it still may be hard to cope with changes.

Christy - posted on 12/23/2010




Could be anything at this point. I would go to the Dr sooner, even if you have to go to another and talk to him/her about it. Get him tested for Autism, Anxiety(if they have a test for that at that age), OCD, etc. Some of his behavior sounds normal however, the routines of doing certain things sounds a little extreme to me.

Melissa - posted on 12/22/2010




He does not group things into colors, size, or shape. But when he puts something in a particular spot facing a particular way, if you move it, even if it's hours since he's played with it, he'll notice right away and move it back the way it's "supposed" to be.

I think I just have this fear that oh my goodness, what if he is OCD, how do I go about parenting a child with that? And want to hear voices of reassurance that he's just a picky toddler, or even if it turns out he does, it'll be okay :) Thanks, Ladies, for your feedback. Yes, kids are strange clever little people!

Annie - posted on 12/22/2010




I don't have any advice, but my daughter MUST turn her sprite bottle around until her thumbs are on the lemon/lime symbol. She does not want to drink it at all if she can't put her thumbs on it. She will pitch a fit if i let her, but usually I tell her that Sprite is not something we cry about. I tell her that nobody died, and that we are not bleeding, so that is no reason to cry. That usually gets her mind off the 'fit-pitching' stage, but I don't know what to do about the mild OCD. If you hear any good advice, please let me know as well. It is annoying. Good luck!

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