Parents who Accommodate OCD Behaviors May Worsen the Condition

A recent study shows that parents who accommodate obsessive-compulsive behavior in their children may actually be triggering more serious symptoms—but cognitive behavioral therapy may help in reversing the symptoms.

In the study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida, 49 children ages 6 to 18 with OCD took part in 14 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy with their parents, where emphasis was placed on helping parents reduce “family accommodation,” or trying to soothe their child’s anxiety by offering comfort, giving the child objects, or even doing tasks for them like homework.

The therapy also include exposure-response prevention, which is based on the idea that by facing their fears, people will eventually stop their behaviors as they find better ways to cope with anxiety.

Tests were given before the sessions to measure the children’s level of OCD and note how often parents enabled their behavior. Researchers found that the more serious the OCD symptoms, the more the parents accommodated their children.

After therapy, parents did not accommodate or facilitate the behavior as much, and parents who changed the most also saw the most progress in their children.

The researchers noted the study’s limitations, including the lack of a control group, the fact that most participants were white and middle- or upper-class, and that parents reported their own levels of accommodation. The authors recommend that further studies be conducted on the subject.

Source: Los Angeles Times Health Blogs, Well-Meaning Parents May Be Worsening Their Children’s OCD, June 17, 2009

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