We've all heard stories about people with OCD. They're the ones who have to have EVERYTHING just so. They have to vacuum their carpet until it wears out prematurely, they go back into their homes 20 or 30 times to make SURE the coffee maker is unplugged, they repeatedly wash their hands until they bleed. They also have obsessive thoughts about germs, crime, the weather and many other things.
Z has co-morbid OCD. It's never really bothered us too much, mostly because we didn't realize that a lot of his quirky behaviors were a result of OCD. Z's obsession with tornadoes and thunderstorms seemed like a normal childish fear when it started. Now it's become a full blown obsession, that takes over his life every time the rain clouds roll in.
Another quirk, that started several years ago, was the state of Z's room. Z's always been a packrat and can't bear to part with ANYTHING he's ever owned! This includes packaging from toys, deflated balloons, and toys that he's had since he was 2. When he was younger, we used to sneak things out of his room and put them in a box in our shed. If he didn't miss any of these things after a few weeks; we could safely dispose of them. When he got older we made Z responsible for cleaning out his room. We'd send him in there to clean on weekends. His possessions would get rearranged, but nothing ever got cleared out. We didn't realize what a huge problem this was for him until last fall. His room had reached the point where you couldn't walk through it. We knew that we had to get some order in Z's life before school started. It took the 3 of us 2 weeks to clear out and organize Z's room! We set up a 4 bin system: one for garbage, one for items to be donated to charity, one for items to keep, and one for the few items he wanted to save for his future family. This turned out to be a real ordeal! If left to his own devices, Z would have put everything in the keep and save bins, even the garbage. I had to throw away a pair of outgrown Pokemon bedroom slippers 3 times! Z kept sneaking them out of the garbage and back into his room.
About this time, our daughter, S, saw a TV show on hoarders. She told us that it's an OCD behavior. Apparently it gives people like Z comfort to be surrounded by everything they've ever owned. Just our luck; we couldn't have a compulsively neat OCD kid. We had to have Mr. Mess!
Compulsive shopping was another biggie with Z. When he was a toddler we couldn't get out of the store without Z buying something, even if it was only a trinket out of one of the vending machines. He didn't have the normal bratty child behavior, where he would scream until he'd get what he wanted. He would have a panic attack and become extremely agitated. As he got older we started paying Z for chores and made him spend his own money. This system has worked very well. He still shops a lot, especially online. He has 4 pages of bookmarked "want to buys". Most of the time he'll buy the first thing that he has enough money for, whether he really wants it or not. But, occassionally, he'll save up for something that he actually uses. We hope that these "baby steps" will lead to the point where he can responsibly handle his financesm when he's grown up.
The only "clean" OCD behavior Z has, involves the kitchen table at mealtime. It revolts Z to have even 1 drop of food spilled on the table. Anything spilled MUST be cleaned up IMMEDIATELY with a clean napkin! He also has a fit if food goes past the eating surface of his silverware and touches the handle. Again, he has to have a clean napkin to clean the handle. Either that or the offending cutlery goes to the dishwasher and Z gets a clean fork or spoon out of the drawer. Finger licking, at the table, is a no-no at our house too.
In researching OCD, I learned that only 20% of the behaviors are cured with medication alone. Behavioral therapy using exposure and ritual prevention is what is most successful. Anxiety subsides if the person is overexposed long enough, to the object of their obsession AND prevented from doing the ritual associated with this obsession.
We have been implementing this method when Z exhibits his OCD behaviors and have been noticing improvements here and there. On our journey, we've learned not to expect overnight miracles. Just like any kid his age, Z has a lot of maturing to do. Overcoming a few minor handicaps just makes the journey a little rockier for him. We can handle this.