The treatment, a form of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) called exposure and response prevention, produces almost twice as much benefit compared with medications used for childhood OCD, says Jonathan Abramowitz, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic psychologist and lead researcher on the study. The study is the first meta-analysis to focus on children with OCD.

Dr. Abramowitz and his colleagues reviewed 18 studies on OCD treatment published from 1983 to 2004. The studies examined the effectiveness of CBT or medication therapy. "Because very few studies have directly compared the effects of medication versus CBT for treating children, our results give parents and health care providers more insight as they choose treatment,” says Dr. Abramowitz.

"Most importantly, the improvements that children make appear to last after therapy ends,” says Stephen Whiteside, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic child psychologist and co-author of the study. "That's because children learn skills in therapy that no one can ever take away from them.”

"Medication therapy is based on the idea that OCD has something to do with serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter,” says Dr. Abramowitz. "But experts remain unsure of exactly how medications work.” Also puzzling, the researchers noted a placebo effect. The analyses suggested that some children benefited from receiving a placebo instead of the real drug.

"The study supports clinical impressions that both antidepressant medication and exposure and response prevention therapy can reduce symptoms for children with OCD,” says Dr. Abramowitz. "But neither approach cures the disorder.”

Dr. Abramowitz says that more studies are needed to evaluate if the exposure and response prevention therapy could be used together, or in sequence with medication, to reduce symptoms more effectively.; Source: Mayo Clinic