Negative Coping Behaviors: Avoiding and Hiding

As a child with OCD matures, she wants what every other child wants: acceptance by her peers. To get that acceptance, she may go to great lengths to hide the symptoms of her OCD from friends, teachers, classmates, babysitters, and neighbors; in other words, anyone who might “expose” what feels to her like unacceptable weirdness in a social setting.

In addition to hiding his OCD symptoms from friends, your child may also be contending with an inability to cope with what he perceives as the filthy habits of his friends, siblings, and classmates. Tragically, his contamination fear causes him to adopt a hypercritical attitude toward others, including the very people he wants desperately to be his friends.

His social difficulties can be aggravated when he's in physical proximity to these peers. He may react to this trigger with a contamination fear or experience a flurry of “bad thoughts” containing images of violent acts or inappropriate sexual activities — with either causing an intense spike in his anxiety level. His fear that he might become contaminated or do something violent may result in a strong need to remove himself from the friend in question. If he can't remove himself, for example, because he's in the classroom or on a school bus, his anxious reactions may become particularly acute.

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