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Wrong type of help from parents could worsen child's OCD
Date:6/17/2009

GAINESVILLE For most parents, soothing a child's anxiety is just part of the job. But for a parent whose child has obsessive-compulsive disorder, soothing anxiety and helping with behaviors linked to the disease could lead to more severe symptoms, University of Florida researchers say.

Often, parents of children with OCD will help their children complete rituals related to their obsessions and compulsions, such as excessive bathing or checking things like door locks, according to findings recently published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. These accommodations can be anything that makes the symptoms of OCD less impairing, from reassuring a child that his hands are clean and his baby brother is OK to even doing his homework for him or buying objects that make the child feel safe.

"Parents do that because that is what a parent whose child doesn't have OCD would do," said Lisa Merlo, Ph.D., a UF assistant professor of psychiatry and the lead author of the study. "If your child is upset, you try to comfort them. But what we know is, for patients with OCD, if they get an accommodation, that reinforces the OCD to them.

"It's validating the OCD in the kid's mind, and that's what you don't want to do."

About one in 200 children and teenagers in the United States have OCD, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

The study included 49 children between 6 and 18 with OCD and their families who came to UF for a type of treatment called cognitive-behavioral therapy. This form of therapy involves exposing children to their fears and teaching them better ways to respond and cope. During the sessions, therapists teach parents how they should deal with their child's OCD, too.

Prior to the start of the 14-session therapy, the researchers gauged how severe each child's condition was and compared it to how many accommodating behaviors parents reported. They found that th
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Contact: April Frawley Birdwell
afrawley@ufl.edu
352-273-5817
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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