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Health Tips for Parents


Health Tips for Parents

2010 Issues

Does my child have OCD?


HT - Child with OCDFew children are without certain worries or fears, but for the estimated 1 to 2 percent of children with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these thoughts and behaviors become so intense they can be both greatly distressing and disruptive of the child’s ability to function.

Children with OCD are plagued by uncontrollable obsessions (persistent, irrational thoughts and fears) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors or rituals meant to prevent or correct a dreaded event) that can significantly impair their everyday functioning. Obsessions associated with OCD commonly involve germs or contamination, but they can also include such fears as throwing away something that might be important or violating religious or moral codes. Frequently seen compulsions include excessive hand washing, ritually checking objects and repeating mantras.

For children and adolescents, compulsions can often hinder schoolwork: The need, for example, to have numbers and letters look just right may lead students to constantly erase until there are holes in the paper and the assignment is never completed.

“Though OCD is often portrayed as a fear of contamination or the need to be orderly,” states R. Lindsey Bergman, Ph.D., director, UCLA Pediatric OCD Intensive Outpatient Program, “the severity and types of symptoms exhibited by children with OCD vary greatly.”

Treatment Research has provided evidence for two effective OCD treatments, Dr. Bergman says. One is medication, most commonly in the form of prescribed selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. The other — often used in combination with the medication — is a particular form of cognitive behavioral therapy called exposure and response prevention. “The child is exposed to the feared thought while resisting engaging in the compulsive behavior, in a graduated fashion — practicing at first with something that’s just a little bit scary,” Dr. Bergman explains. A reward system is used to reinforce the child’s attempts at engaging in exposure activities regardless of their success in resisting compulsions. Over time, and with follow-up at home, compulsive behaviors are extinguished as the exposures demonstrate that negative consequences do not result when the compulsive behavior or ritual is resisted.

HT - OCD HelpGroup Therapy

Proves Helpful “Children with OCD often feel very alone in that many of them haven’t met peers with the disorder,” Dr. Bergman notes. “Getting them in group settings and allowing them to share their experiences and work together can be incredibly helpful.” As patients near the end of their time in the program, the treatment team works to ensure a continuity of care to help reduce the risk of relapse.

The UCLA Pediatric OCD Intensive Outpatient Program

Provides three hours of daily individual and group treatment for children ages 8-17, along with family therapy, parent education and support, and medication management.

The program is offered four days a week for a minimum of two weeks, depending on the severity of the child’s disorder. The treatment team, which includes the primary therapist, clinical child psychologists and child and adolescent psychiatrists all work as a team to develop an individualized treatment plan in collaboration with the patient and parents.


This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. All health and health-related information contained in this publication is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional.

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