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Article of Interest - OCD

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School Psychologist: Self-critical Child Could be Showing Obsessiveness
Oakland Press, December 15, 2005
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Q: My son is 11 years old and in the sixth grade. Dwayne is an excellent student and never gives us a problem at home. My concern is that he is overly neat and very self-critical. He always thinks he could have done things better, even when he receives an A at school or praise for something he has done at home.

What can I do to help him relax and feel better about himself?

A: Dwayne’s behavior and attitude toward himself are descriptive of someone who is perfectionistic, demanding of himself and needs to constantly seek proof of his self worth.

These traits and behaviors can serve to motivate achievement when they are at moderate levels of intensity.

However, at high intensity, these same traits can immobilize a person or create so much worry and self-consciousness that the person functions well below their potential. In extreme cases an individual may have an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Symptoms of OCD include compulsive rituals, repetitive checking, obsessive thoughts and reliance on routines and sameness in the environment. Dwayne’s behaviors appear to be troublesome but are not interfering in a significant manner with his ability to function on a daily basis.

You might be able to help Dwayne by encouraging him to focus more on the positive efforts he is making and less on the outcomes of his efforts.

For example, praise the time and energy he puts into doing yard work, not the appearance of the yard. Comment on his positive preparation for a test, not the grade he receives. By focusing on the process — how you go about doing something — rather than the product, you can help Dwayne learn to be more focused on his positive behavior and less preoccupied with outcomes.

Take time to examine your behavior and attitudes. Are you demonstrating behavior that is a good model of self acceptance? Are you flexible in the standards you apply to yourself and others? Do you offer Dwayne affection and approval that is not dependent on what he does or achieves?

Your school’s social worker, counselor or psychologist are good resources to support you in your efforts to help Dwayne. They could supply you with specific ideas related to your situation and also discuss these issues with Dwayne’s teacher. If you do consult with school staff, tell Dwayne what you are doing and why you are meeting with school staff.

Be positive and reassure Dwayne that the meetings are confidential, will include him when appropriate and that you will keep him informed of any plan that will affect him.

Richard Brozovich, Ph.D., is a licensed school psychologist for Oakland Schools. Write to him at: The Oakland Press, 48 W. Huron, Pontiac 48342.

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