Helping children and teenagers with OCD

Children and teenagers who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCDs) are the focus of new research trials at Griffith University.

This exciting research program has attracted funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Foundation for Children.

The aim of the study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a brief, intensive cognitive behavioural treatment (CBT) for pediatric OCD. All children involved in the program receive a free assessment and evidence-based treatment for their OCD.

The treatment involves three intensive CBT sessions, followed by four Skype sessions. During the intensive sessions, children are assisted to gradually face their fears and to stop performing their habits or rituals.

Effects of taking a low-dose antibiotic

A secondary aim of the study is to examine whether taking a low dose, safe, antibiotic – d-cycloserine (DCS) – either before or after their intensive CBT sessions further enhances children’s treatment outcome.

“D-Cycloserine (DCS) is an antibiotic that research suggests improves the learning that occurs whilst in behaviour therapy and following therapy, therefore
speeding up the treatment and providing faster relief from OCD symptoms,” says Dr Lara Farrell, research leader from the Griffith Health Institute.

“This is the third trial we have conducted at Griffith using this medication, most recently with children and teenagers who have had specific phobias.”

OCD is a type of behavioural disorder that affects approximately 2% of children and adults.

“People with OCD may experience obsessions including uncontrollable, intrusive and distressing thoughts, as well as compulsions, such as repetitive behaviours or
rituals that they may feel they need to do in order to prevent something terrible from happening,” says Dr Farrell.

Obsessions often relate to fears or thoughts of contamination, harm, danger or religious / sexual intrusions, which are distressing for the child. Rituals can involve washing, checking, repeating, arranging or confessing habits and routines.

“OCD can be debilitating and disruptive for both the child and the family. Frequently, family members have to help the child ritualise, modify their routines
or accommodate to the demands of a child’s OCD. For example, some parents may be forced to wear surgical gloves to prepare food for their child due to their
child’s contamination fears, or assist the child to shower or clean their belongings.

Other parents may be caught in an endless cycle of answering repetitive questions for the child to alleviate their fears.”

The Griffith University OCD Busters team seeks to recruit a total of 100 children and adolescents aged 7-17 years.

Interested participants should contact: Dr Lara Farrell, Project Coordinator Dr Ella Milliner, and the OCD Busters Team on (07) 56788317, or email on
ocdbustersgc@griffith.edu.au