Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is marked by recurrent obsessions and compulsions that interfere with daily functioning. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent ideas, thoughts, impulses, or images that are intrusive and cause distress. The thoughts are unwanted and not within the child or teen’s control and go excessively beyond normal worries. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors which serve the sole purpose of preventing or reducing anxiety. The child or teen feels driven to perform the behavior, sometimes to prevent a dreaded result, such as washing hands in order to prevent disease. Some obsessions include performing rigid or stereotyped behaviors that have no real function or connection to preventing the dreaded event.
Because both OCD and Asperger’s Disorder involve single-minded pursuits and unusual interests, it can be difficult to tell the two disorders apart. While the symptoms of intense preoccupation with a thought or interest can look identical in the two disorders, there are easily identifiable differences. Individuals with OCD do not have the noticeable social difficulties that are a primary problem for those with Asperger’s Disorder. Nor do they have problems with language. Lastly, the repetitive ideas and behaviors experienced by the Asperger’s Disorder child are pleasurable and purposely pursued, whereas the OCD child experiences them as unwanted and distressing and tries to resist engaging in them.