June 19, 2009

Parents soothing OCD child may not help

For a child with obsessive-compulsive disorder, soothing anxiety or helping with OCD behaviors could lead to more severe symptoms, U.S. researchers said.

University of Florida researchers said often parents of children with OCD will help their children complete rituals related to their obsessions and compulsions, or reassuring a child that his or her hands are clean, 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, lead author Lisa Merlo, assistant professor of psychiatry, said in a statement.

If your child is upset, you try to comfort them. 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.

The study included 49 children ages 6-18 with OCD and their families. The researchers gauged how severe each child's condition was and compared it to how many accommodating behaviors parents reported.

The, study, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, found that the more severe the child's OCD, the more the child's family seemed to accommodate OCD behaviors.

You would think if parents are helping, the kids would be less impaired, Merlo said. But what we are seeing is that it snowballs and makes it worse and worse.