Medication Side Effects

All OCD medications can cause side effects, although most (but not all) side effects occur in the first weeks of a patient's use of the medication and decrease with time. The most common side effects include drowsiness, insomnia, dry mouth, nausea and upset stomach, perspiration, nervousness, rash, changes in libido, changes in appetite, and weight gain.


The psychiatrist who prescribes your child's OCD medication will usually schedule monthly follow-up appointments to monitor his response to the drug and any side effects it may cause him. It is not uncommon for a doctor to advise a lower dosage to offset a bothersome side effect. If there is no improvement in your child's symptoms, he may increase a dosage in order to enhance the drug's effectiveness.

Less common side effects that may require a doctor's immediate attention include any extreme degree of those side effects listed above, heart palpitations, seizures, and any suspected serious drug interactions.

Atypical Antipsychotics

This is a class of medication that is typically used for diagnoses of bipolar disorder, severe depression, and schizophrenia where the symptom of thought disorder is a significant issue. Thought disorder refers to the person's illogical association and sequencing of ideas, thoughts, and words as a result of brain malfunction. This symptom can make it sound as if the beginning of a child's sentence does not match its second half, for example, “The sun is out today; I'm going to be punished.” When a psychiatrist prescribes an atypical antipsychotic drug for someone with OCD, it is usually done in small doses with the specific goal of improving reality testing for abnormal beliefs. These medications are sometimes prescribed for short-term use for older children with OCD. However, they frequently bring more severe side effects than an SSRI medication. A common side effect is weight gain. Among the common brand names associated with this antipsychotic category of medications are Zyprexa and Abilify.


Never try a psychotropic medication on your child without a doctor's prescription. It's equally important not to stop a medication or change your child's medication dosage without discussing it beforehand with your child's doctor. Hearsay benefits of a particular drug for another child will not necessarily be replicated with your child. In fact, there could be a harmful interaction with a medication he is already taking.

Always ask your child's treating physician about a new medication if you would like to know if it might be suitable for your child. It's also important to let your child's doctor know about any psychotropic medications that you or another family member may have taken in the past or are now taking that have brought benefits for OCD or another anxiety disorder.

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