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Video: OCD and Internal Compulsions

The most hidden of internal compulsions and rituals are as real as physical ones

Clinical Expert: Jerry Bubrick, PhD

en Español

Discover how to identify obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD in children with hidden mental rituals as Jerry Bubrick, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, explains how these less visible symptoms can impact a child’s life. Learn about the different types of compulsions and why it is crucial for parents and family members to be equipped with specific skills and strategies to support their children effectively.


Jerry Bubrick, PhD:

It’s possible for parents to wonder if their child has OCD, but not necessarily see the symptoms physically or see the ritualistic behaviors. And so a lot of times parents will ask, “Is it possible that my child has OCD even though I can’t see anything they’re doing?” The answer is absolutely yes. There are different types of compulsions. There are the physical compulsions that we can see, but they’re also what we call mental compulsions or mental rituals where the kids are doing things in their head. They may be counting to themselves, making lists, saying things over and over, or repeating lucky phrases. They may review conversations over and over until it feels just right. Children do a very good job of hiding their OCD, so even when there are physical compulsions that other people can see, kids usually do a good job of hiding those.

They can also do a really good job of hiding their mental rituals as well. The treatment for OCD is the same whether we have physical compulsions or mental compulsions. And for you, the parent, we would be able to give you very specific skills and strategies as well as teaching your child the skills and strategies they need to overcome their symptoms. So it becomes very important for family members, parents, really everyone involved in the child’s life to know how to help their child when they’re struggling with those symptoms and be part of the team that’s helping to overcome the OCD.

Thanks for joining me in this video. I’m Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a child psychologist and director of the Intensive Pediatric OCD Program at the Child Mind Institute. To learn more about OCD and related disorders, visit There you’ll find everything you need to know about OCD treatments at the Child Mind Institute, plus hundreds of articles and guides to help you support children who are struggling with mental health behavior or learning challenges.

This article was last reviewed or updated on April 4, 2024.