A new study shows using talk therapy in conjunction with medication can produce better results for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder in children.
Published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study measured different treatment approaches in 124 patients between 7 and 17 years old diagnosed with OCD, and found a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication resulted in a "significantly greater response rate."
OCD can affect up to 1 in 50 kids and teens, according to background research from the study. The anxiety disorder often causes children to become preoccupied with whether something is harmful or dangerous, or with thoughts that something bad may happen. Rituals, or compulsions, are adopted to try to ward these "bad things" off.
Commonly prescribed medications for OCD -- generally serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) such as Prozac or Zoloft -- can cause side effects. Lead study author Martin Franklin told Reuters that often when kids don't get better on one drug, doctors will try adding a second or switch to a new medication. Which means the risk of these side effects is compounded. Franklin and his team wanted to explore other options that wouldn't introduce unnecessary risks, he said.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a time-limited form of psychotherapy used to treat mental disorders. Judith S. Beck, Ph.D., President of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, wrote on The Huffington Post: "In the context of solving your current problems, you learn skills, such as how to correct your unrealistic or unhelpful thinking and how to modify your behavior to reach your goals."
A 2007 study drew similar conclusions about the benefit of CBT for adults with OCD. "Specifically, the pooled data showed that patients receiving any form of cognitive behavioral therapy had significantly fewer obsessive-compulsive symptoms post-treatment than subjects receiving treatment as usual," Reuters reported.