PANDAS / PANS Therapy – Sudden Onset Childhood OCD
(GroundWork offers virtual sessions for PANDAS / PANS clients residing in: Florida, Maine, Vermont, South Carolina & Montana)
At GroundWork in Orlando, we provide specialized OCD therapy – this includes working with children and families impacted by PANDAS / PANS.
What is PANDAS?
Pandas stands for: “Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep” often resulting in sudden and severe onset of OCD in childhood. PANDAS, or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep, is a disorder that can develop in children after they have had a streptococcal infection. PANDAS can often present with intense and sudden onset of OCD symptoms. Symptoms typically include sudden and extreme changes in behavior, such as anxiety, mood swings, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, difficulty sleeping and eating, tics, and decrease in school performance. It is believed that PANDAS is caused by an autoimmune reaction to the strep infection which results in inflammation of the brain.
Parents often will describe children with PANDAS/PANDAS as normal one day, and experiencing debilitating OCD the next. It is vital that children with OCD receive the correct diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible, to prevent further deterioration in their behavior.
Obsessive Compulsive symptoms are a common symptom of PANDAS and can range from fear of contamination to checking behaviors. The International OCD Foundation provides a thorough guide for parents that we suggest reviewing.
Common Symptoms of PANDAS:
- Sudden onset of OCD symptoms
- Challenges/changes with eating
- Sensory issues (sensitivity to clothes, noises, and light)
- Changes in handwriting / fine motor skills
- Urinary changes or bedwetting
- Difficulty with focus
- Difficulties with memory
- Sudden onset of anxiety or panic attacks
- Suddenly unable to separate from their parent/caregiver, or to sleep independently
- Screaming for hours on end
- Fear of germs and/or other OCD symptoms
PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome)
PANS is a disorder similar to PANDAS, however it is not associated with a strep infection. It can come on suddenly and severely and presents with OCD symptoms that are similar to PANDAS. PANS can be caused by other infections, inflammation, or even psychological/environmental factors. Symptoms of PANS include sudden OCD behaviors, motor tics, emotional outbursts, mood swings, sensory sensitivities, sleep disturbances and more.
Medical and Therapeutic Treatment for PANDAS / PANS:
Medical treatment for both PANDAS/PANS typically involve antibiotics, or immune modulatory drugs such as corticosteroids, or ibuprofen/NSAIDS, and some new research has supported the use of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), which help reduce inflammation in the brain caused by an autoimmune response. Antibiotics can be used to treat the underlying strep infection that is causing PANDAS. Physicians will also often use throat swabs / cultures or blood tests to asses and diagnose PANDAS. It is important to work with a physician that specializes in these disorders, as some doctors are skeptical that these disorders even exist, despite the mounting evidence. The PANDAS Physicians Network is a good place to look when seeking a diagnosis from a specialist. With timely intervention, children with PANS / PANDAS can return to their normal selves and return to enjoying their childhood.
Therapy for PANS/PANDAS
In addition to medical treatments, therapeutic interventions can also be helpful in treating OCD symptoms associated with PANS/PANDAS.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is considered the gold standard for OCD treatment, has been proven to be effective in treating OCD associated with PANS/PANDAS. ERP is based on the principle of facing fears and gradually learning how to respond to them. ERP, a specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be part of the treatment protocol for addressing O-C behaviors for those impacted by PANS/PANDAS.
GroundWork offers specialized treatment for OCD associated with PANS/PANDAS, including ERP treatment. Working with a qualified OCD expert can be an important part of understanding and managing OCD symptoms. It is important to work with an experienced therapist who understands the complexities of OCD associated with PANS/PANDAS and can work with children and their families to create the most effective treatment plan and walk with them through this difficult time.
If your child is experiencing OCD symptoms, it is important to get a proper diagnosis and specialized OCD treatment. Contact GroundWork Counseling today to learn more about OCD treatment options for PANS/PANDAS.
Finding The Right Help
Numerous studies have shown that while CBT is the best treatment for OCD, yet many therapists have never received in-depth training in CBT for OCD, even though some therapists have been practicing for decades. This has created a severe shortage of professionals adequately trained in the most effective treatment for OCD and often leads to therapists relying on medications alone or other using other unproven methods that are not likely to be effective.
It is important to interview your prospective therapist to find out if they are trained to do Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and where they received their training (visit our list of suggested questions). Some therapists are better at treating OCD than others. Their answers to your questions will be a good guide for you. You can begin by asking them about what types of techniques they use to treat OCD. If the therapist doesn’t mention Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), or if they are vague, use caution. When you ask about Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) to treat OCD, be cautious of therapists who say that they use CBT but who won’t be specific. Be sure to ask about their training and background in treating OCD. A positive sign would be membership in the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) or a member of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapists (ABCT). Look for therapists who have sought specialized training offered by the IOCDF. An example would be the IOCDF Behavior Therapy Training Institute (BTTI) and the Annual IOCDF Conference.
Ready To Make A Change?
GroundWork is proud to offer both in-person and virtual appointments.
In Person Sessions: Central Florida
Virtual Session Available In: Florida, Maine, Vermont, South Carolina