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Perfectionism in young children may indicate OCD risk - study

Independent Online (IOL) logo Independent Online (IOL) 2018-07-24 IANS

Picture: Flickr © Provided by Independent Media Picture: Flickr Does your child act finicky, even for small things?

Beware, that perfectionism and excessive self-control behaviour could be a predictor of the risk of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in teenagers, finds a study

The study involving brain scans revealed that the perfectionists had smaller volumes of a brain structure called the anterior cingulate cortex -- an anatomical feature in the brain that previously has been linked to OCD in adults.

They were also twice as likely as others to develop OCD by the time they reach their teenage.

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"Having a lot of self-control and striving for perfection often are considered by parents and society as good because they can eliminate mistakes, but excessive self-control and perfectionism raise a red flag," said lead author Kirsten E. Gilbert, an instructor in child psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, US. 

"In adolescents and adults, these characteristics are associated with OCD and other disorders, such as anorexia and social anxiety. We've now been able to link this to OCD risk in children," Gilbert added, in the paper published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

OCD is a chronic mental health disorder that often involves uncontrollable, recurring thoughts, or obsessions and behaviours that a person feels the urge to repeat over and over -- such as hand-washing, compulsive counting or repeatedly checking on whether doors are locked.

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For the study, the team enrolled 292 children aged four and five and were handed a blank sheet of paper and a green marker to draw a perfect, green circle.

After a child would show the circle to the researcher, he or she would provide negative feedback, calling the circle "too small" or "too flat" and then would tell the child to try again. 

"Some kids were very self-critical," Gilbert said.

"The researcher would point out flaws, but the child was critical of the effort, too. That excessive perfectionism was the strongest predictor of OCD later on."

Most treatments for OCD involve medications and psychotherapy.

If left untreated, the condition can be chronic and severe, the researchers explained.


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