Freeing Your Child from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Powerful, Practical Program for Parents of Children and Adolescents

Freeing Your Child from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Dr Tamar Chansky

Reading this book by Psychologist Dr Tamar Chansky, founder and director of the Children’s Center for OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and Anxiety in the United States, will allow you to know that someone truly understands what you are going through. Dr Chansky’s ability to empathise, having worked in this specialty area for over a decade by the time she wrote the book in 2000, and the voices of the parents and children sharing about their agonies and triumphs; make Freeing Your Child from OCD truly empowering.


OCD Demystified

More often then not, the child or adolescent with OCD is highly aware of his thoughts and behaviours, and tries desperately to hide them; whilst parents, are often too embarrassed or ashamed to talk about the condition. Dr Chansky however, demystifies OCD, and counters it with a comprehensive list of things to do, including how to engage the family and community to help the child, and in the process provides much needed hope for parents who are often at their wit’s end.

Dr Chansky goes to great length to help parents understand OCD – how it comes about, recognizing its signs, the course of the condition (its ‘anatomy’), and what to expect with treatment.

If you suspect, but are not sure that your child has OCD, read pages 20-27 to find out if the obsessions and compulsions listed describe what you’ve observed. Dr Chansky explains:

“Obsessions are intrusive, unwanted, distressing thoughts or pictures that barge squarely into your mind’s eye, refuse to budge, and keep replaying themselves … When obsessions hit, they create an uneasy, anxious or dreadful feeling.” p20

Common obsessions include fear of contamination; fear of harming self or others; the need for symmetry; being unsure if you’ve completed an action (doubting); the need to do something a certain number or times; fear that you have sinned, that you are guilty, or that you are a bad person (scrupulosity/ religiosity); fear of throwing away useless objects (hoarding); and fears with sexual themes such as doubts about sexual orientation or perversions.OCD

“Compulsions are actions that involve repetitive behaviours (handwashing, ordering, checking, redoing, asking for reassurance) or mental actions (prayer, counting, repeating words) to reduce anxiety brought about by obsessions.” p24

It’s important to know what you’re grappling with as parental helplessness can set in easily because your child’s actions seem to defy logic, and you inevitably become ‘entangled’ in his constant bid to allay anxiety.

As a dad, your natural instinct is to comfort your child, but this can become a painful dilemma if giving assurance to your child results in both of you getting pulled into the vortex of OCD instead of helping him come out of the situation. (See page 10 -12 for Pulling Against the Vortex: How Parents Get Sucked into OCD and The Slippery Slope of Parental Helplessness.)

Overcome Helplessness  

As much as good parenting skills are important in fighting OCD, they are insufficient. Rather, it’s vital that you understand the thought patterns (Brain Traps or Brain Tricks) that trouble your child and affect his actions. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy exercises can help empower him to ‘talk back’ at the OCD and help him to change the way he thinks about an object or situation, so that he responds by changing the way he acts and feels about it.

Your child feels ‘trapped’ by his obsessions and compulsions and sees no alternative path of action. You can help by “Creating the Fork in the Road” or “teaching your children that OCD is a misfiring in their brain; and show them that they have a real choice. Once they understand this, they can begin treatment in earnest, step-by-step reclaiming their authority over their time and actions.” (p15)

Useful Imagery

Dr Chansky uses easy-to-understand visual imagery such as the “Fork in the Road” (p15 and 177), “Brain Post Office” – good mail versus junk mail (p42), “Far Out Thoughts” (p44), “The Fear Thermometer”(p111), “Portrait Gallery”(p183), “On the Horizon”(p185), and “Old Tape, New Tape” (p191), to help parents comprehend OCD. These ideas are complemented by Phillip Stern’s illustrations. Together, they become effective tools to engage children at their level.

Your child or adolescent’s obsessions and compulsions may change over the course of the OCD, but the mechanism behind them and the approach in controlling them remain the same. As he becomes more adept at bossing back the OCD and disarming what previously scared him, he’ll be more confident about overcoming each time it pops up.

This book is an truly inspiring, healing and hope-filled read.

Freeing Your Child from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is available at Singapore’s Public Libraries. Call number: English 618.92852270651 CHA -[HEA]

Also read Double Review: Freeing Your Child Series to find out more about Freeing Your Child from Anxiety (2004) and Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking (2008), both written by Dr Tamar Chansky.

1.    Chansky, E. Tamar, PHD. (2000) Freeing Your Child from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Three Rivers Press, New York, USA.

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 11-01-2013.


Categories: Recommended Reads

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