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Therapy to overcome fears helps children with obsessive-compulsive disorder

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Psychological treatment that teaches children to face their fears is the most effective treatment for pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), according to a new Mayo Clinic analysis of previously published research.

The treatment, a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) called exposure and response prevention, produces almost twice as much benefit compared with medications used for childhood OCD, says Jonathan Abramowitz, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic psychologist and lead researcher on the study. The study is published in the spring issue of Behavior Therapy, and is the first meta-analysis (a quantitative approach to combining the results of previous studies) to focus on children with OCD.

OCD is an anxiety disorder that affects about 1 percent of children and adolescents, and 2 to 3 percent of adults.

Just like adults with OCD, children with OCD are plagued with persistent, distressing and illogical fears. These obsessions, such as fear of dirt or germs, compel the child to perform repetitive behaviors, such as excessive hand washing. The obsession and compulsive behavior can interfere with school, friends and family life.

Dr. Abramowitz and his colleagues reviewed 18 studies on OCD treatment published from 1983 to 2004. The studies examined the effectiveness of CBT or medication therapy.

Both CBT and antidepressant medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and clomipramine (Anafranil) are considered standard treatment for OCD. And many children with OCD are able to benefit from either form of treatment, or their combination.

Dr. Abramowitz and his colleagues compared the results from 10 studies of CBT and 11 studies of medication treatment to determine whether either treatment has an advantage.

"Because very few studies have directly compared the effects of medication versus CBT for treating children, our results give parents and health care providers more insight as they choose treat
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Contact: Shelly Plutowski
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
4-May-2005


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