A type of family-based cognitive behavioral therapy effective in treating adolescents for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may help children as young as 5 years old, researchers say.
Similar to other studies demonstrating the efficacy of various types of talk therapy, recent clinical evidence shows significant improvement in symptoms for nearly three-quarters of adolescents participating in the therapy with their parents. “I really think that the results highlight this family-based cognitive behavioral therapy model as the first-line treatment for children with OCD, study leader Jennifer Freeman told Reuters this week.
Affiliated with Brown University’s medical school, Freeman conducted the research at the Pediatric Anxiety Research Clinic at Rhode Island Hospital and at a similar program at Bradley Hospital nearby in Providence. In this new study, Freeman and colleagues from the three medical centers randomly assigned 127 children, ages 5 to 8 to one of two groups, including a control. A study group of 63 received a modified type of the family-based cognitive behavioral therapy proven effective in older children, which involves building an understanding of the condition to help ameliorate symptoms. In various exercises, children and their parents learn techniques for managing OCD compulsions, the researchers reported this week.
Naturally, the researchers sought to involve parents more heavily in the therapy than would be appropriate for older children. After a 14-week regimen, an evaluator independent of the study found that 72 percent of the kids in the therapy group had shown significant improvement, compared to 41 percent of those in the “relaxation” control group.
Still, Freeman and her colleagues continue to watch follow-up data on the study, eager to see how long the effects of treatment would last. The duration of any remission from symptoms will allow researchers to determine where to go next.
According to the National Institutes of Health, OCD affects some 2.2 million adults with some evidence suggesting a genetic risk for the condition. Although the condition is associated more with boys, U.S. health officials say OCD strikes men and women in roughly equal numbers, often with an onset in early childhood. For many childhood sufferers of OCD, however, the condition disappears in adolescence and adulthood. The International OCD Foundation describes the experience of suffering obsessive thoughts and behavioral compulsions, with a national listing of therapies who specialize in the area.
Source: Freeman J, Franklin M, Moore P, et al. Family-Based Treatment of Early Childhood Obsessive-Compulsive DisorderThe Pediatric Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treatment Study for Young Children (POTS Jr)—A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014.