How to deal with the constant obsessing/fixation?


New Member
I don't know if it just seems markedly increased because he hasn't been home from the hospital very long or if it truly HAS increased, but my GOODNESS it seems like every 5 seconds this child is fixated on/obsessed about something and it's driving me mad! It was this obsession, this *need* for things that drove his two big meltdowns yesterday.

I just seems constant. First when he came home from the hospital he found a catalog that had a $500 blow up waterpark...he NEEDS it. So he went on and on and on about HOW could he earn it and WHO could he get to buy it for him? That was a 2 day obsession...he's still bringing it up occasionally. Video Games have always been a big obsession (trigger) because if he had his way, he'd play them all day long, but we have time limits on them and he NEEDS more time (that was his meltdown trigger last night). Yesterday afternoon, he told us how his friend has a Harry Potter computer game and he went on and on and on brainstorming about HOW he could get his hands on that game yesterday...could we go out and buy it? could we go to the library? could we go to his grandmothers library? could he get his other grandmother to take him to the store to buy it? could we buy it? could we order it online? HOW could he earn it? Could we get it right now? He NEEDS IT! Then he wanted Taco Bell when we had decided on Outback Steak House. When he realized that we were having Outback and he NEEDED Taco Bell AND Harry Potter's computer game, he had his major meltdown.

But, it just seems to be an all day, constant obsession to the next. I try my best to distract him, redirect him...but is there anything else I can do? Is there any chance either medication is contributing to this (Strattera & Seroquel)? We have our In-Take meeting at the Day Program tomorrow, but I'm not sure how much I'll really get to talk to someone of knowledge. At this very moment, we're in the transition between the psychiatric hospital and the Day Program (which will become our psychiatrist, I'm assuming), so I have no one to turn to but you guys.

Any suggestions?


My easy child has non-stop obsessions (mostly about buying something she wants NOW or having a playdate NOW, especially when it's 9 pm, and the stores are all closed or there's no chance in heck a parent would let a child come over). In easy child's case, we've decided it's part of her anxiety disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) tendencies) or part of depression (the need for instant gratification to make herself feel better).

The only people who can judge whether the medications are contributing to the problem are you and the docs. If the obsessions are worse, it could be Strattera. If the obsessions are the same, it may be the medications aren't right or at a therapeutic dose. For what it's worth, we are finding that Prozac is a helpful medication for this issue. We're still titrating up, and the obsessions seem more in control now. Prozac is approved for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in children.


Active Member
sounds like a major spending spree to me! wonder if it could be reacting to the recent transitions.


Well-Known Member
Has he ever seen a neuropsychologist for possible Aspergers? Those kids obsess all the time and it's part of the disorder.


New Member
Workin' on the neuropsychologist. :wink: We finally got a list of them and now my husband is changing jobs at the end of the month and thus, changing insurance companies. Ugh. Puts the whole thing on hold.


That sounds just like my difficult child. I attribute it to her anxiety, like smallworld said. She truly does not realize what she's doing...or how often what she "needs" changes. Some days it makes my head spin.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
Both kt & wm need things. in my humble opinion, they "need" these things to fill an emptiness they are feeling.

Having said that, I'd speak with the day treatment program. Take a list of concerns & behaviors that are most troublesome. Ask if the treatment plan can include these issues.


Both kt & wm need things. in my humble opinion, they "need" these things to fill an emptiness they are feeling.
Several months ago, after the umpteenth thing difficult child "needed" that day, I told her that material things don't bring happiness...that happiness comes from the inside. She broke down in tears and said, "Haven't you ever heard that things aren't always what they seem?", which of course got my attention. Turns out she is trying to fill a void somehow. It ended up being one of the more insightful conversations I've had with her. It's not very often that I get a glimpse into her deepest feelings.


Active Member
MWM, I also was thinking that something on the autism spectrum sounded possible.

This "neediness" - we found you can't deflect; you can't block it; you can't shout it down; you can't do much of anything, except go with the flow. Support them through the necessary reality check.

Even easy child did this at times. She would want stuff, I would say no, she would accuse me of being mean, I would explain that things cost money and I didn't have enough money. She then said, "You have plenty of money, I just saw you get some out of that wall."

I explained that I had got money from the bank and I needed to use all of that money to buy food. She looked a bit sceptical - that's a lot of food. I explained that I had to plan ahead and make sure we had enough of everything we needed. I got out my shopping list and showed her. We went shopping and I showed her the final bill. Of course while we were shopping she wanted stuff but we have a strict rule - if it's not on the shopping list, we don't get it. And while that rule does get bent at times ("Blast! I forgot to put muesli on the shopping list, I opened the last packet this morning!") the rule didn't get broken for kids saying, "While we're here, can I have that toy?"

After the grocery shopping and especially the meat shopping, I showed her the dockets for everything and talked about the numbers. How much money is left?

Most of the time this was enough. There were times especially early on, when she said, "OK, go back to the wall and get more money, it's got plenty."

THEN I had to explain how it will stop giving me money if I use more than I've put in. "The money is only there because I put it in. I can't use more money than I was able to put in. The money that does get put in has to last us until I get more money. If I buy you a toy, we might have to miss a meal later in the week. You might be prepared to do that but your brother and sister wouldn't."

It's tedious to explain it, but it is worth the effort. It also stops YOU being the big bad mean ogre not buying them toys. Basically, blame the bank.

It's harder for difficult children. Kids on the spectrum who are really obsessing find it hard to accept anything blocking their access to "what they need". You need some fancy footwork to avoid being in the firing line. A tantrum is almost inevitable, but if it is railing against the universe it's still preferable to the child railing at you. I ignore it, as much as I can, or sympathise with, "yeah, kid, life sucks. You want a toy, I want a Ferrari."

Seriously, I have also often walked difficult child 3 through my bank statements and bills, to show him how expensive life can be when you have to take responsibility for EVERY expense, big or small.

Then we come to the flip side - "How can I get what I want?"
Because after you've explained everything, they still come back to, "gimme."

That's when we set up our own saving plan. Is he going to be patient enough to save? Is he going to want to earn extra money?

We brought in another system we call the "family shop". Example from easy child again - she was collecting Sylvania Families, little dolls house creatures and furniture. She always wanted more. Every time we were out, she wanted to buy more.
Each of our kids gets pocket money (or did, until they are old enough to earn their own money). They get $1 a week per year of age, half of which goes into the bank. They can only access bank money to buy a present for someone (birthday or Christmas). The rest - not given in hand, but written up on a "Mum and Dad owe me..." sheet. If we knew how much was on the sheet when we went shopping, and we knew easy child could afford the next stick of furniture, we would buy it if she asked. But once the money is spent, she has to save up again.
But if there's a sale... we would buy ONE extra item and put it "in the family shop". That way she got to take advantage of the sale long after the price went back up (or the item went out of stock).

The reasons we do this - so often the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is made much worse by anxiety, and fear that the item will no longer be available. The common wail of anguish we would hear was, "What if someone else buys it?" Well if it's in the family shop, they can't. It's safe.
The flip side is, they can't change their mind and say, "I don't want that one now." Too late, they're committed.
The other rule - only one item in the family shop, per child, at a time.

But it did help a lot to reduce anxiety. If we were out and they saw another item, they knew not to even bother asking, if they had an item at home "in the family shop".

If they were really desperate (as difficult child 3 gets) we would give him extra chores, such as weeding the garden, to earn extra money. It put all that panicked energy to work. No whining or complaining allowed or the deal is off; no saying, "What, you want MORE done for $10?" We would agree that there would be no complaining or the amount of money offered would drop. I also try to break up the task, so he knows he's earned $5 per garden bed, for example, depending on how bad the weeds are.
The down side of this is that it's hard to g et him to help for nothing, especially if he's got a toy in mind.

He still "NEEDS" on a regular basis, but he's less insecure about it now and much more realistic. The current object of desire is a Wii. He buys every magazine, enters every competition, drives me crazy. I use the drive as bribes. "I'll buy you the next magazine if you tidy ten things out of your room." I also use it to help him get over some particularly tricky school subjects - when certain work is complete, he gets t he magazine. By having it "in the family shop" he can get it as soon as he's earned it, and not have to wait. The shops are a long way away and we mightn't go there for another two weeks or more.

I hope this can give you some ideas.



Active Member
I have done a lot of observing about obsessions as I have a easy child who is totally obsessive (video games these days). I also have my difficult child who has Autistic tendencies and has had serious obsessions since he was 2.

Along the way between the two kids, I've seen obsessions being a normal part of human behavior, a definite offshoot of Autism, spurred on by anxiety, and worsened by a bad medication reaction. I've seen it play both a good and bad role in my childrens' lives. What I have observed in my difficult child who is now very close to neurotypical with only remnants of Autism shining through is that obsessions play a vital role in his life due to his neurological wiring. It's like a drug to him: too much or too little obsessive interest/activity causes boredom, angst, and seriously threatens functioning. But he functions best and is happiest when he has a certain level of obsessive interest/activity. When the scales tip in either direction I go looking for answers because it's a sign that he's tired of the old obsessions and needs a new one to fill that void or else there is something in his life causing anxiety.

Hope this helps. I know it's making you crazy but he's going to need some understanding until he's over this hurdle--trust me, it's no fun for him either.


New Member
Is this new behavior? If it is new, it could have something to do with the medication. If it was there all along, then something is not being addressed. It sounds sort of like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)/anxiety to me. I never saw this kind of behavior with mine on an AP. I don't know much about the Strattera.

I hope that the meeting goes well and you can sort out what is going on.


New Member
I haven't read the other replies. So please excuse me if I'm repeating someone else.

I don't know if the obsessions could be attributable to the medications. Was he involved with obsessive behavior before the medications? Like, when he was younger and maybe in preschool or K? If so, he *probably* has Asperger's. Did you ever do Tony Attwood's questionnaire?

ODD, like so many parents here say, occurs with other disorders.


I call it Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) tendencies; difficult child's evaluations refer to it as perserveration. Whatever... "Redirecting" his attention has never worked. Nothing has ever worked for this problem. When he gets stuck on a thought/want/idea, it's like his brain has a magnent, e.g., redirect and his thoughts go right back to being fixated on the topic.


Active Member
I like the magnet analogy, Sheila. It really is something you can't do a darn thing about, except live with it and help them deal with it. There is a lot of anxiety driving it, though. Sometimes helping to damp down the anxiety can help; the obsession becomes less intense.



New Member
That sounds like perseveration to me. There's a difference between Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and autism-like obsessions/perseverations.


Mom? What's a difficult child?
Thanks Bystander-
difficult child 1 gets stuck on things.. she has fixations, that may last a couple of days or so. We are on a burrito craze right now!!! Or she gets caught up in wanting to do something and can't get over it, without getting extremely upset if she doesn't get her way! Like if we are on our way home and she decides she doesn't want to go home she will lose it!! Go into a whole thing on how everything is horrible and nothing is good. Screaming, kicking... it can last over an hour even once we are home she will be walking through the house mumbling I don't want to be home...

It is like a magnet, she gets something in her mind and wants it now! But it doesn't last, and she doesn't have obsessions, like a subject,(trains etc) but she will perseverate at times, just wont stop, keeps repeating things...

It gets tiring!!! But I agree with what the others have said I think they are filling some void... emptiness. Chaos


New Member
My difficult child was always like that. You know what cured it?? He's out on his own and paying his own bills, so now he thinks twice about what he wants and needs because he's the one buying it, not us. I think most of his came from the fact that he learned early on that his obsessing and manipulating got him what he wanted. Yup!! If he kept it up long enough mommy couldn't stand it anymore and would just give in to shut him up!! He still to this day can't save for anything ahead of time. He would get something in his head and couldn't wait until allowance day, so he got in the habit, with my help :), of constantly borrowing his allownce to get something. He is now 20 and I see how that hurt him. Every week his paycheck is spent before he gets it and he's usually borrowing from his roommates or his boss until his next paycheck.

I don't know if that is anything close to how it works in your house, but I know that is what happened in mine. I know it's so hard to not give in when they get on something because their badgering can drive you right up a wall, but learning to save money and not always getting what they want is a great life lesson to teach them when they are younger.