October 5, 2011

Cognitive Therapy Helps Kids With OCD

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Children with obsessive compulsive disorder benefit from therapy as well as medication

(dailyRx News) For kids who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), antidepressants often aren't enough to relieve the irrational fears, repetitive behaviors and intrusive thoughts that come with the disorder.

But the addition of cognitive psychotherapy, that can help them retrain their minds to deal with these thoughts and compulsions, may relieve their symptoms much better.

"If your child suffers from OCD, consider calling a therapist."

The 2.2 million American adults who suffer from OCD have already been shown to respond positively to cognitive, or behavioral, therapy. But perhaps a third of adult patients most likely had OCD symptoms in childhood, and until recently not much was known about the best treatment for pediatric OCD. About one in every 100 kids has OCD, researchers estimate.

A recent study at University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, led by Martin Franklin, found that adding cognitive-behavior therapy to antidepressant drug treatment in children with OCD significantly improved their symptoms. Franklin and his colleagues studied 124 children aged 7-17 and diagnosed with OCD, dividing them into three groups. All of the patients were already on antidepressant medication.

One group continued the medication with no additional treatment. The second group also had seven 45-minute sessions with a psychiatrist over the 12 week study; in each session, the psychiatrist offered brief instructions and at-home practices of cognitive behavioral therapy. The third group received 14 hourlong sessions with a clinical psychologist, who administered standard cognitive behavioral therapy treatment for OCD.

At the end of the 12 weeks, patients in all groups were showing fewer OCD symptoms. The drugs-only group saw small improvements, while the second psychiatry group showed a little more improvement. For the third group, who received in-depth cognitive behavioral therapy from a psychologist, significant reductions in their symptoms were observed. Overall, the severity of this group's OCD symptoms declined by 58 percent more than the group who received medication only.

Researchers concluded that for child and teenage patients with OCD, the addition of cognitive therapy to medication resulted in a significantly greater response rate. Franklin said that the results underscore the importance of making such therapy more accessible to kids with OCD.

The findings were published in the September 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
October 5, 2011

Last Updated:
October 5, 2011