What about Medication?
Medication, particularly by itself, is not necessarily the treatment of choice for OCD in children and adolescents. (That would be CBT, alone or in concert with medication.) That said, it can be helpful for treatment of childhood OCD (again, especially when used with CBT). Actually, medication treats some of the
More and more often, therapists and even physicians are developing greater expertise in recognizing and treating OCD symptoms in children and adults. But of course, this is not always the case. You may not enjoy access to an excellent therapist or doctor. If this describes your situation, you might want to try searching your local directory under “mental health services.” You can also check the OC Foundation's Web site (
Can OCD medication be delivered through a transdermal patch?
Yes. There's now an antidepressant patch that may be used for OCD in some cases; however, it's new, so there are no long-term studies yet. A patch can be an excellent choice for children, who may resist taking medication. Please note, however, that patches carry many of the same risks as oral medications and must never be cut to size, except on the advice of your doctor.
Only a fraction of the number of medications approved for treating adult OCD have been approved for treating OCD symptoms in children. No medication that treats depression or anxiety is approved for children younger than eight years old (although they have been used in certain cases). Also, as children grow, the same medication may lose or change its effectiveness.
Medications Approved to Treat OCD in Children and Adolescents
While no medication treats the condition called OCD, several do treat its symptoms: anxiety, depression, and others. As with medication for adults, it may take weeks before any behavioral differences are noted. In the meantime, your child should be monitored closely in case of an adverse reaction. CBT should also be started, if at all possible.
New Treatment for Strep-Induced OCD
In cases in which OC symptoms worsen after a strep infection (further suggesting that OCD is a disorder of the brain, rather than of psychology), researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health tried using two procedures called plasma exchange and intravenous immunoglobulin, with positive preliminary results.
These procedures are used to treat other illnesses as well. In plasma exchange, some blood is taken from the body, cleansed of certain substances, and then returned. In the second procedure, the patient receives a shot of antibodies. The chief advantage of this treatment is that it is believed to alleviate symptoms markedly and reduce the necessity for long-term medication. However, this experiment was performed on a very small number of subjects. More research will be needed before we know whether this will prove to be an effective way to treat childhood OCD that has been aggravated by strep infection.
Although some researchers believe that OCD can worsen significantly following a strep infection, it should also be noted that strep infections are extremely common among children and rarely lead to OCD or other disorders. In other words, don't worry unduly because your child has a strep infection
Potential Side Effects
Just as adult patients may experience side effects from medication, so, too, can children. Children may experience the same side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, and dry mouth, but also others, such as hyperactivity or aggression. There are still others, and your doctor or pharmacist should give you a list of potential side effects, and go over with you what to expect or look out for.
As in all cases involving medication, it is important to keep a close eye on your child, not only when she begins the course of medication, but throughout treatment. Keep the proverbial “lines of communication” open between you and your child, and you and your child's physician, too.
Although serious side effects are rare, there are a few to watch out for. Serotonin syndrome (caused by an overabundance of serotonin, most often when medicines are combined) can induce shivering, profuse perspiration, confusion, and restlessness. It is extremely uncommon and often mild, but it can be fatal; so, it is imperative to inform all doctors of any medicines your child takes and, of course, to get medical attention for your child right away if it is suspected.
Compounding pharmacies make their own medications. If you need a hypoallergenic or dye-free version of a prescription, for instance, or a liquid or syrup form of a pill, you might try to locate a compounding pharmacy to solve this problem.
Other serious side effects include seizures and various motor and motion disorders.
Again, it's important to ask your doctor to provide you with a complete list of serious potential side effects. Keep in mind that they're rare, but not unheard of.