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People may think of OCD as a behavioral tic—a constellation of odd, eccentric rituals performed on cue. According to Albert J. Bernstein, author of Emotional Vampires at Work, sufferers are  “. . . deathly afraid of doing anything wrong.”

Patricia Grisafi—an OCD sufferer—describes OCD as a chronic condition where people battle thoughts that “. . . [their] choices have catastrophic consequences.” This state of affairs can start early, and can have devastating consequences.

University of Florida researchers explain that children with OCD experience greater peer bullying. Behavioral oddities surface as unnecessary recording of minutiae, timidity, a lack of confidence, overly conscientious attitude, repeated checking, and a rigidly structured, organized approach to life in an attempt to ward off potential danger, and to exert control in a world they perceive as capricious and unpredictable.

The UF researchers suggest bullied children internalize negativity—a pattern that makes them even more of a recluse and target for abuse. Storch, a study author, exhorts parents to help children identify and to develop life strategies.

No child wishes to be the brunt of abuse. But children may be primed for bullying if their parents (or caregivers) create problems. Dr. Martin H. Teicher argues that children, in response to a threatening and unpredictable home life, can experience brain abnormalities and psychiatric disorders. Limbic irritability (a condition that produces pervasive low-grade unhappiness), PTSD, hypervigilance, chronic fear that creates an inability to control fight or flight response, depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide may be the adult baggage. Although OCD can be genetic, research indicates that people who were abused as children have a greater propensity to experience arrested brain development and “a biological basis for fear.”

OCD brains respond to errors with hyperactivity. They are less able to recognize that not all dangers are significant, and/or to put the brakes on anxious, out of control thoughts. Afraid and withdrawn (or inexpressive) are defensive strategies children have learned to cope with menacing environments.

Children who live with an angry swirl of shouting/blame, and who are bludgeoned with emotional and/or physical abuse may not be able to recover. For OCD sufferers, life is an obstacle to be overcome, rather than a gift to be enjoyed.

Our brains are sculpted by our early experiences. Maltreatment is a chisel that shapes a brain to contend with strife but at the cost of deep, enduring wounds.”


Grisafi, P. (2018, August 1). The terrible ‘what if:’ How OCD makes every day a matter of life or death. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Kids with obsessive-compulsive disorder bullied more than others, study shows. Science Daily. (2006, August 16). Retrieved from

Obsessive-Compulsive disorder (OCD) in children. Cedars Sinai. Retrieved from—pediatrics/o/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd-in-children.html

Stuck in a loop of ‘wrongness:’ Brain study shows roots of OCD. Science Daily. (2018, November 29). Retrieved from

Teicher, M. H. (2000). Wounds that time won’t heal: The neurobiology of child abuse. Dana Foundation. Retrieved from

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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