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Additional Information About PANDAS | Sudden Onset OCD 

PANDAS, short for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus, is a mysterious disorder that is extremely debilitating to those affected. Often, one day a child is happy, and the next they are overwhelmed with symptoms associated with severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Many parents can pinpoint the specific day or week in which their child’s personality completely changed.

pandas-sudden-ocdPANDAS is a complex disorder, needing specific medical and psychological diagnosis and treatment. PANDAS is caused by the body’s autoimmune reaction to a strep infection, not strep itself. Autoimmune reactions to other, similar infections, such as Lyme’s disease and influenza, have also been connected to OCD symptoms, known as PANS (which is somewhat different than PANDAS).

PANDAS often affects children from age 3 through puberty. Several symptoms that are associated with PANDAS, include sudden onset OCD (obsessions and compulsions), personality changes, sudden unexplainable rages, separation anxiety, issues with food intake, reduction in fine motor skills, and tics.

Current evidence-based treatment protocol for PANDAS should include antibiotics to treat an active infection, in addition to ERP therapy to treat the OCD behaviors. The gold standard for successful OCD treatment for both children and adults is CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), specifically, ERP (exposure and response prevention), which should be provided by a qualified and specifically trained therapist. Research has supported that CBT / ERP is a successful treatment method for children with PANDAS, particularly treating their obsessive fears and compulsive behaviors.

SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), commonly used for OCD, can also be helpful for those with PANDAS. However, children with PANDAS can sometimes experience more severe side effects to SSRI’s. It is important to discuss the costs and benefits of SSRI’s with a physician / psychiatrist who is familiar with PANDAS and OCD treatment.

Sudden onset OCD symptoms associated with PANDAS is scary for children and parents. Because of the sudden nature of the disorder, the diagnosis can have a particularly negative and dramatic effects, leaving parents searching for experienced clinicians and physicians. At The Center for Anxiety and OCD at GroundWork Counseling in Orlando our child therapist specializes in treating children with OCD and anxiety disorders, providing evidence-based ERP to children suffering from obsessive and compulsive behaviors associated with PANDAS.


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