OCD Symptoms in Toddlers

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder. Children with OCD feel compelled to take action in an attempt to manage anxiety driven by involuntary fears, thoughts and ideas. While fear and worry are common in childhood, it can become problematic when these concerns interfere with the ability to engage in normal age-appropriate behaviors. Approximately one in 200 children suffer from OCD, according to Bright Tots, and the onset of OCD symptoms can begin as early as age 3. Identifying these symptoms and getting treatment early can help your child go on to lead a happy and healthy childhood.

Toddlers with OCD have irrational worries that interfere with daily living. Credit: AID/amana images/Getty Images


Toddlers often group and sort toys as a way of recognizing similarities and differences and giving order to their world. When a child's efforts to organize become a way of managing fears or anxieties and interfere with other activities, then OCD may be at play, according to BabyCenter.com. Toddlers with OCD often follow rigid rules of order or sequence and get upset when there is disruption. For instance, an OCD child may have to put their clothes on in a certain order, and becomes visibly anxious when skipping a "step." OCD toddlers who are old enough to count may recount excessively, and often have an obsession with exactness, as can be seen in the toddler who needs everything in his room placed "just so."

Word Repetition

OCD toddlers often feel compelled to repeat sounds, words or even music that they have said or heard, according to Bright Tots. It is also common for them to repeatedly ask the same question, often in hopes of hearing the same answer.


Anxiety and worry in a toddler may manifest in fear that harm will come to him or a loved one, according to Dr. Anthony Kane's article titled "Does your Child Have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" appearing on Christian-Mommies.com. They may have repeated doubts and repeatedly ask a parent if the door is locked, for example. As this child ages, this worry may morph into an obsession with germs, dirt and contamination, which can be seen in the child who must engage in repeated hand washing before leaving the bathroom.

Physical Ailments

Children with OCD, according to Kane, may complain of stomach aches and headaches. This may be attributable to the stress caused by OCD-related anxieties, and/or or due to poor sleep resulting from irrational fears during the night.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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