OCD can develop in children, too

SINGAPORE — Regular handwashing is an important part of personal hygiene. But what would you do if your child takes this everyday routine to the extreme?

Miss Anastasia Zhai was only 13 years old when she was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) two years ago. She would wash and scrub her hands every 20 minutes, not stopping even when her skin cracked and bled from the obsessive handwashing.

For Anastasia’s mother, Madam Faye Tan, it was the start of a two-year-long parenting nightmare.

Once cheerful and bubbly, the 46-year-old working mother’s daughter had become withdrawn and moody, often hiding in a corner of her room. She would also draw circles on paper repetitively.

“I’ll always remember that dark period in our lives. The whole thing occurred out of the blue and she became a totally different person,” said Mdm Tan.

One of the top three most common mental-health disorders in Singapore, OCD is a type of anxiety disorder characterised by obsessive and compulsive thoughts and behaviours.

About one in 33 adults in Singapore has had OCD at some point in his or her lifetime, based on a Singapore Mental Health Study conducted in 2010. The Institute of Mental Health’s (IMH) outpatient clinics see some 600 to 700 adults with the condition yearly.