Hypersensitive children who religiously follow childhood rituals, like regular schedules for meal, bath, and bed times, could develop Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in later years, a new study reveals.
Prof. Reuven Dar of Tel Aviv University's Department of Psychology, first suspected the link while working with OCD patients who reported sensitivity to touch and taste as children.
Now, in the first comprehensive study of its kind, Prof. Dar and his fellow researchers have established a direct correlation between sensory processing, the way the nervous system manages incoming sensory information and ritualistic and obsessive-compulsive behaviours.
The study suggests that when children experience heightened levels of sensitivity, they develop ritualistic behaviours to better cope with their environment. In the long term, this is one potential pathway to OCD.
Two studies were devised to map the connection between sensory processing, rituals, and OCD.
Results from both studies indicated a strong connection between compulsive tendencies and hypersensitivity.
In children, hypersensitivity was an indicator of ritualism, whereas in adults it was related to OCD symptoms.
As a whole, these findings provide preliminary support for the idea that such sensitivities are a precursor to OCD symptoms. When children are extremely sensitive to certain types of touch or smell, they can feel that they are being attacked, or that the environment is threatening them, Prof. Dar believes.
Ritualism could develop as a defence mechanism, helping these children to regain a sense of control, which is also a symptom of adults with OCD.
The study has been published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.