Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

There may be an increased prevalence of obsessive- and compulsive-like behaviors in children with Duchenne. Concerns related to compulsive-like behaviors including arranging or lining things up, checking, hand-washing, re-doing something until it feels “just right,” and trouble with transitions.

In some cases obsessive-compulsive (OC) behaviors may be due to sensory sensitivities or due to deficits in mental flexibility or adaptability. While many Duchenne children may have these tendencies, most would not be severe enough to receive an OCD diagnosis.

Obsessions may include:

  • Superstitions/irrational fears
  • Contamination (germ phobia)
  • Terrifying/grotesque images
  • Need for symmetry or exactness
  • Social embarrassment

OCD may also lead to compulsive behavior, including:

  • Checking/rechecking items or actions
  • Counting
  • Touching/tapping
  • Rearranging/lining up
  • Cleaning/washing
  • Re-doing or repeating things

Keep in mind that OCD is common in children who do not have Duchenne, as well. In addition, most children outgrow OCD behavior by 3-5 years of age.


Cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy has been shown to be effective in treating symptoms of OCD, and medication can also be helpful. A combination of both usually works best. In addition, here are some general strategies for parents and teachers:

  • A calm, supportive atmosphere is important to overcoming obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
  • If your child is struggling with significant obsessive-compulsive behaviors at school, provide the school with a written summary of your child’s OCD challenges and needs.
  • School accommodations need to be individualized based on a student’s unique pattern of OCD behaviors and coping skills.

Common strategies

  • Keep routine predictable
  • Anticipate and prevent triggers
  • Anticipate and ease transitions
  • Allow the child to take breaks to “take space” or regroup
  • Create a classroom setting that is free from stigma and teasing

Information in this section was contributed, in part, by James Poysky, PhD. Read Dr. Poysky’s entire document, Learning and Behavior in Duchenne (download).