Pharmacological Treatment of Childhood Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: From Theory to Practice

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Discusses pharmacological treatment of childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), chronic and underrecognizedpsychiatric condition that affects up to 2% to 3% of children and adolescents. Research in OCD in children, including neuropharmacology, brain imaging, genetics, and clinical phenomenology, informs current views of OCD pathophysiology. Contemporary research supports the notion of a dysregulation in serotonin subsystems in the central nervous system, with target areas of dysfunction including basal ganglia and orbitofrontal cortex. Pharmacotherapy, along with cognitive-behavioral approaches, constitutes the indicated treatment for childhood OCD. Pharmacological treatment is best guided by a phenomenological understanding of the type of obsessions and compulsions, the intensity and frequency of their presentation with attention to behavioral reinforcements, and psychosocial factors that affect the course of the disease. Serotonin-enhancing agents, such as fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline and citalopram (SSRIs) are first-line pharmacological agents, whereas refractory symptoms can be treated by augmentation with neuroleptics or other agents. Clomipramine is as effective as the SSRIs but its use may be accompanied by increased side effects. Genetic factors probably influence susceptibility to OCD as well as response to treatment, and the elucidation of these and other risk factors will be important elements in the future understanding and treatment of this disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-79
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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