Although children as young as 5 can be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), few research studies have looked at treatments specifically geared toward young children with this disorder. Now, a new study from the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center provides some of the first evidence-based data on a successful intervention for early childhood OCD.
According to the study’s findings, published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children with OCD between the ages of 5 and 8 may benefit from a form of psychotherapy, known as family-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), that is uniquely tailored to the child’s developmental needs and family context. The overall focus of family-based CBT is to provide both child and parents with a set of tools to help them understand, manage and reduce OCD symptoms.
Researchers worked with 42 young children with OCD who were randomized to receive 12 sessions – completed over 14 weeks – of either family-based CBT or family-based relaxation treatment (RT), an approach that teaches the family and child relaxation techniques aimed at reducing some of the stress inherent with OCD. Just over half of the patients were randomly assigned to CBT and 48 percent were assigned to RT. Overall, 74 percent of patients completed all 14 weeks of treatment.
The CBT program was found to be significantly more effective than RT in decreasing OCD symptoms and, most importantly, helping a large number of children achieve clinical remission. Specifically, 69 percent of the children who completed all 14 weeks of CBT treatment achieved remission compared to 20 percent who fully completed the RT program. Even those children who started, but did not complete, the CBT program did well, with 50 percent achieving clinical remission.
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