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Kids and OCD: Will Doctors Prescribe Antidepressants?

By October 14, 2011Uncategorized

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common affliction that can affect children as young as three or four. Adults are often treated for OCD with antidepressants like Paxil; should it be used to treat children’s OCD symptoms, as well?

OCD is believed to affect as many as 1 in every 100 kids, according to information by the International OCD Foundation. When it comes to diagnosing children with OCD, doctors generally lean toward an OCD diagnosis when kids start behaving in a repetitious way that borderlines on obsession because of how time-consuming it is for them (such as chronic hand washing). Kids often don’t realize that there is something strange about the way they are behaving.

“For the most part, adults realize that these symptoms don’t make any sense,” says Jeff Szymanski, executive director of the International OCD Foundation. “Kids don’t necessarily have that perspective.”

When treating OCD in children, things can get a little bit tricky since adult treatments, like Paxil, have been proven to be very dangerous medications. Some doctors prefer to use a behavioral treatment to decrease the child’s anxiety levels associated with the behavior. Doing this usually requires the children to refer to their OCD as a “bully” and then mentally chase it away. This is meant to help the kids deal with whatever scary and unwanted thought causing the repetitive behavior.

Sometimes this doesn’t work as a lone treatment, and this is where some doctors could turn to medications to help. However, according to information from a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, kids who were treated for OCD with cognitive behavioral therapy combined with medication showed more improvement than those who took medication alone. Those medications, antidepressants and SSRI medications like Paxil, have been proven to cause patients to experience suicidal thoughts and aggressive behaviors — particularly in kids. This seems like an awfully large risk when compared to the benefits.

For those parents and health care professionals who are hoping to get some information about children with OCD, you can find an abundance of information and other resources at the International OCD Foundation’s new OCD in Kids website. Here you can find stories from other children struggling with OCD so that kids can learn about their peers’ experiences. This website was launched earlier this week as a part of OCD Awareness Week, which will end with a national event hosted in Boston this Saturday. The International OCD Foundation’s website will be streaming video from that celebration on its website.