Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder often characterized by unwanted thoughts or repetitive behaviors. In children, OCD is difficult to diagnose and a definitive diagnosis is often delayed.
A new German study discusses diagnostic and treatment challenges of OCD, in the journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. In the article, Susanne Walitza, M.D., and colleagues point out that appropriate early recognition and treatment can positively affect the course of the disease.
Walitza discovered that compulsive washing, the most common obsessive-compulsive manifestation among children and adolescents, is present in up to 87 percent of all patients.
Children may also demonstrate compulsive repetitive behavior and checking, and obsessive thoughts of an aggressive type.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is present in more than 70 percent of patients. Obsessive-compulsive disorder presenting in childhood or adolescence often becomes chronic and impairs mental health onward into adulthood.
Researchers believe the specific manifestations of obsessive-compulsive disorder can be diagnosed early with psychodiagnostic testing.
Behavioral therapy, although time-consuming, has been found effective and is considered a first-line treatment. In behavioral therapy, the patient is confronted with the situation that precipitates the obsessive-compulsive manifestations, while suppressing the manifestations.
Second-line treatment consists of behavioral therapeutic intervention combined with drug therapy.
Despite intensive treatment, the pervasive nature of the disorder often means that patients will need ongoing psychotherapy or combination therapy to prevent a later recurrence.
Experts believe much is still to be learned about the disorder. Currently, researchers believe the disorder stems from a complex, multifactorial combination of psychological, neurobiological, and genetic factors.