Treatments for Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in Children

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How is obsessive-compulsive disorder treated?

Research shows that OCD can be most effectively treated with a combination of individual therapy and medications. Treatment should always be based on a comprehensive evaluation of the child and family.

Individual therapy usually includes both cognitive and behavioral techniques. Cognitive therapy focuses on helping the child or adolescent identify and understand their fears and learn new ways to resolve or reduce their fears more effectively. Behavior techniques help the child or adolescent and their families establish contracts or guidelines to limit or change behaviors (such as establishing a maximum number of times a compulsive hand-washer may wash his/her hands.)

Medications used most often to treat OCD are classified as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), medications that selectively affect neurotransmitters mechanisms in the central nervous system. If OCD is found to be linked to a streptococcal infection, then a series of antibiotic medications may be prescribed by your child's physician. Treatment recommendations may include family therapy and consultation with the child's school. Parents play a vital supportive role in any treatment process.

Specific treatment for OCD will be determined by your child's clinician based on:

  • your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of your child's symptoms
  • your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Where can I learn more about OCD?

There are a number of OCD-related books and websites available to you and your child.

Here are just a few resources that we recommend:


Recommended Reading

  • Talking Back to OCD: The Program That Helps Kids and Teens Say “No Way” – and Parents Say “Way to Go “by John March M.D.
  • Freeing Your Child from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Powerful, Practical Program for Parents of Children and Adolescents by Tamar Ellsas Chansky
  • What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming OCD (What-to-Do Guides for Kids) by Dawn Huebner
  • OCD Treatment through Storytelling by Allen H. Weg
  • The Thought that Counts: A Firsthand Account of One Teenager's Experience with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Jared Kant, Martin Franklin PhD, and Linda Wasmer Andrews
  • You Do That Too? by Rena Benson and Jose Arturo
  • Take Control of OCD by Bonnie Zucker
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