OCD and Bullying

Kids With Obsessive-compulsive Disorder Bullied More Than Others.

OCD and Bullying

     Children that must deal with the combination of OCD and bullying have an arduous time just getting from day to day. Obsessive-compulsive disorder makes a child three times more likely to be bullied than other children. The name-slinging could cause symptoms of OCD to worsen, the University of Florida researchers have found.

     “One thing we have noticed working with many kids with OCD is that peer relations are extremely impaired,” said Eric Storch, Ph.D, a UF assistant professor of psychiatry and pediatrics and lead author of the study. “Kids target kids who are different. Kids with OCD sometimes exhibit behaviors that peers don’t understand.”

     More than one-quarter of the children with OCD who researchers studied reported chronic bullying as a problem, according to findings described in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.

Why do Kids with OCD get Bullied

By comparison, they studied only 9 percent of kids in the two other groups.  These were healthy kids without medical or mental conditions. These were children with type 1 diabetes who reported serious problems with bullies.

Nearly all children are bullied at least once. But chronic bullying equates to about one taunt per day. These ranged from kicking or hitting to name-calling or excluding children from activities in school.

“The kids with OCD are really experiencing higher rates of peer problems than other kids,” Storch said. “We’re not saying one causes the other, but there is a positive relationship between (OCD and bullying).”

About one in 100 children struggle with OCD. An anxiety disorder that leads people to engage in rituals such as hand washing to drive away obsessive thoughts about germs or other worries. Rituals often become so involved that they interfere with a person’s ability to function, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

“Their day becomes filled with repeating behaviors,” Storch said. “For a lot of kids, peers don’t understand what is going on. They are isolated. They are ostracized because it doesn’t make sense why they are washing their hands. Or why they keep repeating questions.”

The effects of OCD and Bullying

     The researchers also found links between bullying and other problems. Namely loneliness and depression in children with OCD. Kids were also apt to internalize bullies’ negative comments. Telling themselves, “No one will ever love me,” or “Maybe I am a loser,” Storch said.

     Having OCD, and conditions such as depression. It has been found to be linked to worsening obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Potentially explaining why researchers also found a link between bullying and more serious symptoms.

     “It could be that the peers are attacking because they are doing things that are so different.  “Or it might be that bullying is in some way contributing to OCD.”

     Compulsive behaviors such as repeating questions, recounting and rechecking information can draw attention to kids in school. As can vocal or physical tics, common among children with OCD. said Phoebe Moore, Ph.D. Assistant clinical professor at Duke University.

     “That kind of behavior can draw fire,” Moore said. “I definitely see that clinically.”

The Medical Help for these kids. 

     Treating OCD either with approved drugs or behavior modification techniques will help patients control their obsessions and compulsions. But he emphasizes that doctors need to examine the whole child and not just treat the symptoms.

     “When one focuses solely on the obsessions and compulsions you experience a resolution of those problems. But problems like depression or anxiety and loneliness may still exist.If you address the OCD without addressing the peer problems, that depression and loneliness may not go away.”

Storch suggests parents help children learn how to handle aggressive peers. Either at home or by finding a counselor who can help them develop social skills. Parents should also take their concerns to their child’s school if teachers or administrators are not stopping the bullying before it becomes a problem.

“Bullying is one of the largest challenges kids, with OCD and in general, have to face.” One of the main clinical implications is considering the child as an entire person. Who has OCD but  also with other impairments.”

Materials provided by University of Florida