Let's learn more about obsessions

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Hi! Welcome to your first lesson!

Do you remember that an obsession is 

when you get unwanted thoughts that come 

into your mind unexpectedly? Below you can 

read about BillySarahJohnnyJasmine and 

George's obsessions. Reading about their 

stories will help you see that lots of children 

get unwanted thoughts; and lots of children get 

better too, and so can you...

Hi, I'm Billy! I get thoughts that a bad thing will happen to me or someone else when I make my own decisions. For example, when I make a choice about something, like what colour socks to wear, I often change my mind, meaning if I choose blue socks, I have to change my mind and wear black socks instead. It's because OCD thoughts say that if I don't do this I'll have an accident and get seriously hurt. Caring Carol told me about magical thinking. She said that magical thinking is when you feel fearful that your thoughts will make a bad thing happen but that there has never been any proof to show that thoughts based on feelings and guesses make bad things come true.

Hi, I'm Sarah. At bedtime, I get intrusive thoughts that force me to get in and out of bed lots of times before I lay down because OCD makes me think the position I'm in when I lie down will never feel "just right". Also, when people talk it never feels right. I hate it too because nothing seems perfect to me, like my books never seem to be exactly straight on my bookcase. And if I touch one arm I have to touch the other arm to make it even. I have to have everything tidy or I panic. I keep things too and my mom says this isn't good, but I cannot let go of my sweet wrappers, pebbles, hairpins, and loads of other little things I've collected. Caring Carol said she is going to help me to understand about perfectionism, symmetry and hoarding.

Hello, I'm Johnny. I worry that I'll get germs from other people or from touching their things. It makes me think of getting sick, or like I'll feel dirty forever. Caring Carol taught me to understand that there is a difference between feelings and facts. She said a fact is true and a feeling is a sensation that makes a person believe something could be true. This helps me to realise that just because I feel dirty doesn't mean I am dirty, or will get sick. Caring Carol showed me that after washing one of my hands with dirt on it, it still felt dirty, but really, it was clean. 

One of my hands is dirty - FACT. My other hand is clean but FEELS dirty. 

Hey, I'm Jasmine! When I'm in school, I worry that my mum has forgotten to lock the doors and windows. I worry because I think a burglar might get in the house. Caring Carol explained to me that while nothing is certain, it is unlikely a break-in will occur because there is only a small risk of a burglar being in our street at any given time. She's going to give me some tips to help me learn to live with uncertainty. She said uncertainty is better than worrying forever about something that might never happen.

Hi guys! I'm George... I worry about space, tornadoes, volcanoes erupting, earthquakes and lots of other things besides. Caring Carol says this is ruminating and has encouraged me to set up a "thinking time diary". This is so I can think about my worries for one hour only each day and note down how things went. Apparently, you can learn fascinating things when you use thinking time positively. Caring Carol told me that facing the things you fear helps them weaken overtime. I guess she's right because the last time I used my thinking time my dad helped me to make my own toy volcano, so I faced my fear. I was anxious to begin with but less scared of one erupting once we'd made it.

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Quiz Time! 

See what you can remember about what you've just learned!

 Caring Carol says please ask your grown-up to help you!

  1. Billy has magical thinking that makes him think something bad will happen if he doesn't do what OCD wants. What does Caring Carol say to him about this?
  2. How does Caring Carol help Jasmine be less fearful about her unwanted thoughts?
  3. How did George's "thinking time diary" help him?
  4. Caring Carol says there has never been any proof to show that OCD makes children's fears come true. Is she right or wrong?
  5. What does Johnny learn about feelings and facts? 
Caring Carol says WELL DONE on coming to the end of your first lesson! 
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And now for your next lesson...

It's time to go to the next page for your second lesson. 

Simply click on the lesson 2 link below to learn more about compulsions! 

Lesson 2

Parents and caregivers summary box


The learning outcome for this lesson is to help your child understand that when intrusive thoughts enter their minds they can continue with normal activities. It teaches them that there are no special powers that connect thoughts with action. It also teaches your child to trust facts rather than feelings, and to balance an overdeveloped responsibility by challenging probability. A further outcome is to let children know it's okay to have a set amount of time to ponder on obsessive or worrying thoughts, as in George's situation. This is fine because it teaches children to shelve their problems in-between times and helps them carry on with their normal daily routine until their next "thinking time". Thinking time allows your child to accept that their thoughts are there since trying to ignore the thoughts only makes them push through more. Also unhealthy preoccupation causes a child distress because they become overwhelmed which fuels fears and increases dwelling. Your child learns that using their thinking time constructively eventually decreases obsessive thinking. Just to note, obsessions and ruminating both take place in the mind and so it's important to identify that ruminating is a mental compulsion; therefore, a child's thinking time is for focusing on mindful activity away from ruminating about their obsessions, not time to analyse the obsessions (this will be made clearer as you go along). For now, it would be a good starting point to discuss with your child their obsession(s) and what they understand about it from this lesson's learning objective - that is, that obsessions revolve around magical thinking, feelings are not facts, that tolerating asymmetry is do-able, understanding probability - e.g., that the likelihood of a bad thing happening is close to zero), shelving problems, and living with risk and uncertainty.   

Copyright © 2013 Carol Edwards. Updated 2016, 2018.

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