COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 Resource Center

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
December 10, 2020
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COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated OCD symptoms in children and adolescents

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Children and adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder have experienced worsened symptoms amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published in BMC Psychiatry.

“This disorder is particularly interesting to study in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic because OCD is a disorder with many different clinical expressions, including health anxiety, fear of bacteria and dirt and excessive hand washing or use of disinfection,” Judith Becker Nissen, DRMA, department of child and adolescent psychiatry at Aarhus University Hospital, said in a press release. “It's therefore important to examine how such a significant crisis can affect the expression, frequency and progression of the disorder.”

To examine how patients aged 7 to 21 years with OCD reacted to COVID-19, researchers distributed a questionnaire to a clinical group of 65 newly diagnosed patients at a specialized OCD clinic, as well as to a survey group of 37 previously diagnosed patients who completed primary treatment. Researchers measured the clinical variables related to OCD and associations between total OCD severity change scores with possible predictor values.

Results showed 44.6% of patients in the clinical group and 73% of patients in the survey group reported a worsening of symptoms. Further analysis showed 32.3% of clinical group patients vs. 54.1% of survey group patients reported heightened anxiety and 33.8% of patients in the clinical group vs. 43.2% of patients in the survey group reported worsening of depressive symptoms. The aggravation of OCD correlated with the worsening of anxiety, depressive symptoms and avoidance behavior in both groups.

“[The study results] may be related to both the direct threat of the infection and to the consequences of having to maintain social distancing, social isolation and the significant level of focus on hygiene,” Nissen said in the release. “The crisis is not over yet and it's therefore very important that we continue to focus on vulnerable children and young people in the future.”