What Is Acute Onset OCD?

For most children with OCD, symptoms come on gradually. At first a child is often able to hide both his fears and the rituals he develops to calm them. Eventually the fears become too overwhelming, and the rituals too time consuming, to conceal from parents.

But there is another kind of OCD in which full-blown symptoms come on virtually overnight, accompanied by other symptoms including tics, eating restriction, rage, depression and even suicidality — in children as young as three or four.

“Parents, with great reluctance, talk about their child being possessed, either by a demon or by aliens,” says Dr. Susan Swedo, a pediatrician who has been studying the syndrome for decades.