Talking to your Pediatrician by Aureen Pinto Wagner, Ph.D.
If you think your child has OCD, you can seek evaluation and treatment directly from a qualified mental health professional. It may be a good idea to also talk to your child’s pediatrician. Your pediatrician can be a good sounding board for your concerns, and may be able to evaluate your child for any medical illnesses that might explain his/her symptoms. Your pediatrician may also be able to provide a referral to a mental health professional for an evaluation and treatment.
Preparing for your meeting with your pediatrician will help you get the most out of it. Below are some suggestions to help you collect and provide information systematically and thoroughly.
Keep written notes of your child’s symptoms
Keep a notebook in which you write down your child’s current behaviors, and when and how often they occur. Think back as far as you can and write down any similar behaviors or concerns you had in the past, when your child was younger. These notes will help you convey as much information as possible when you meet the pediatrician, without having to rely on your memory. Since children don’t usually show their OCD symptoms in the doctor’s office, the only information your pediatrician has is what you or your child convey. This notebook will come in just as handy if your child has to see a mental health professional. Here is an example of a notebook you can keep.
History of Behaviors (From: Wagner, 2002)
History of Behaviors
|Child’s Name: Joey||Date Behavior Began||Age or year Ended|
|Age: 10|| || |
|Arranges, cries if they are “messed up.”||3 years old ||5 years old|
|Wants me to list everything on shelves in grocery store.||7 years old, first grade ||3 years later|
|Keeps asking if his hands are clean and if we washed our hands||8 years old||On and off, still present|
| || || |
Keep track of your child’s illnesses
If your child has had a sudden onset of OCD symptoms or tics, or if they have become very severe, and he has been sick with a sore throat, fever, cold or cough, talk to your pediatrician to the possibility of PANDAS. (Hyperlink here). Look back at your calendar and note the dates of your child’s illnesses and treatments, and the dates on which you noticed symptoms of OCD, tics, or anxiety. You may also want to rate how severe the symptoms were, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most severe.
Put together a family history
It can be useful to make notes about family members on both sides of the family, who have shown symptoms of any kind of anxiety, OCD, tics or other repetitive behaviors, even if they have not been officially diagnosed.
Take your notes to the pediatrician
When you talk with your pediatrician, describe the symptoms and behaviors you see that are concerning to you. Show your notes to your doctor, so you don’t have to rely on memory during the appointment. Having specific examples will help your doctor recognize the need for a referral to an expert. Let your pediatrician know that you have read information from the IOCDF website.
Be specific about your goals
Think ahead about your goals for your meeting with the pediatrician. Let him or her know what you are a looking for, and ask specific questions. Ask for other resources or a referral to a mental health professional with expertise in evaluating and treating youngsters with OCD and related conditions.