Posts Tagged ‘ obsessive compulsive disorder ’

A Scary Disorder Linked to Strep Throat

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Last week, Grant Acord, a 17-year-old student in Oregon, was arrested on charges of attempted aggravated murder, among other things, after police found evidence supporting their suspicion that he was planning to build a bomb and blow up his school. Yesterday, his mother said in a statement that her son suffers from “PANDAS, a rare form of OCD.”

A few years back we ran a story about PANDAS, which stands for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections. Our article contained several examples of young children who had been developing completely typically until a strep infection triggered a radical change in their personality and behavior, marked by the same characteristics as a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Though the condition is supported by experts as well established as Susan Swedo, M.D., chief of the pediatrics and developmental neuroscience branch at the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), it’s a controversial one; many doctors don’t believe it exists.

Meanwhile, the parents whose children are diagnosed with it–and the children themselves–suffer terribly. They watch their son or daughter turn into a different child. They struggle to understand how to calm their child’s fears and how to protect their other children from the physical harm the affected child often inflicts. One mom we interviewed for our story had to quit her job to care for her son, and sell her home in order to pay for his treatment. For parents like these, and the parents of Grant Acord, the controversy surrounding the diagnosis isn’t nearly as important as simply finding an effective treatment. (In some cases, antibiotics helps to ease symptoms.)

Researchers are studying and revising what’s known about the condition all the time. In fact, last year, NIMH changed the name PANDAS to PANS–for pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome. The new name was designed to create a broader category of OCD that isn’t directly linked to strep.

The story in Oregon, which technically has a “happy” ending, brings up important points. One is that it’s crucial for children with mental health issues to get the right help. And another is that we need to teach our children to do what Grant Acord’s classmate did when he thought something seemed strange: He spoke up, and may have prevented an awful tragedy.


Image: Girl at the end of a tunnel via Shutterstock.




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The Hardest Walk

Monday, June 4th, 2012

When your child takes his own life, what on earth do you do? For Denis Asselin, the answer has been to walk. For seven weeks and for more than 525 miles, Denis will have stopped along the way at some of the schools, homes, and hospitals that played a pivotal role in the life of his son, Nathaniel.

Nathaniel Asselin, the exceptionally handsome young man at right, suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which is when an imagined or slight flaw in one’s appearance becomes all-consuming. Up to 80 percent of people with BDD attempt or commit suicide; Nathaniel died in April 2011, at the age of 24. As difficult as his life was, it was filled with bright spots and much love. He and his younger sister, Carrie, shared an extraordinary bond, and he had a tight circle of close friends. Nathaniel was also a volunteer with his local EMS, and a middle-school cross-country coach beloved by his team.

Denis has found an incredible way to honor the life of his son and to raise awareness for BDD in particular. You can read a day-by-day account of his journey on his blog—and for those of you in Massachusetts, you might check out Denis’ route and track him down to say hello as he wraps up his final days of walking. This Thursday, June 7, the emotional odyssey will end in Boston, at a rally at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. If you’re unable to attend, you can still show your support for OCD and BDD by making a donation to the International OCD Foundation, and note that your contribution is in the memory of Nathaniel Asselin.

If you worry that you may know someone affected by BDD, look over this list of signs, and learn more about how to get help.

I just love this beautiful map drawn by Nathaniel’s mom, Judy.

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