Obsessive compulsive symptoms in youngsters should not be ignored

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WASHINGTON: Obsessive compulsive symptoms (OCS) in youth could be a red flag for serious psychiatric conditions, a study finds.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Researchers found children and young adults with OCS who also admitted to having bad thoughts were more likely to also experience psychopathology, including depression and suicide. The study examined OCS in more than 7,000 participants aged 11 to 21.

Researchers divided OCS into four categories: bad thoughts, repeating/checking, symmetry, and cleaning/contamination. More than 20 per cent of youth admitted to having bad intrusive thoughts, which included thoughts about harming oneself or others, picturing violent images, or fear that one would do something bad without intending to. These children were more likely to develop serious psychopathology beyond obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), including depression and suicide.

“Our hope is that these results will propel both mental health professionals and non-mental health practitioners, such as pediatricians, to probe for these symptoms during their patients’ visits,” said the study’s principal investigator Raquel Gur. “These symptoms may be vital for identifying adolescents who are on a potentially debilitating psychiatric trajectory.”

“Repetitive actions are common in young children, and are in fact a healthy part of development,” said lead author of the study Ran Barzilay. He went on to add, “It’s when these symptoms continue into adolescence and start to interfere with day-to-day activities that we really need to examine the cause and treatments available.”

OCS was seen to be common in individuals who did not seek mental health treatments (38.2 percent). Only three percent met the threshold for OCD. It was also found to be more common in females and after puberty. The researchers suggest OCS may be a window for clinicians to probe and identify serious psychiatric conditions. (ANI)