Monday, April 28th, 2014
A new study has found that family-based cognitive behavioral therapy has measurable effects on children as young as age 5 who are diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), as Reuters reports:
The behavioral treatment, which involved parents heavily and is already known to work for older kids and teens, left almost three quarters of the young children significantly better off, according to objective measurements.
“I really think that the results highlight this family-based cognitive behavior therapy model as the first-line treatment for children with OCD,” Jennifer Freeman, the study’s lead author, told Reuters Health.
Freeman is affiliated with the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, the Pediatric Anxiety Research Clinic at Rhode Island Hospital and the Intensive Program for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder at Bradley Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.
People with OCD have a set of compulsions – feeling compelled to do something – that cause them distress or disrupt their daily lives. For example, a person may have an intense fear that something bad will happen unless they perform a certain action multiple times.
The condition has been found to run in families, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), but its cause is still unclear.
About 2.2 million U.S. adults are affected by OCD, with approximately one-third of those having developed symptoms as children, according to NIH.
Considerable research has shown that CBT alone or in combination with anti-anxiety medicine is effective in treating OCD among older children and adolescents, Freeman and her colleagues write in JAMA Psychiatry.
There was little evidence about what worked for younger children with OCD, however.
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Thursday, April 17th, 2014
New research has found that moving to a new home can be mentally stressful, especially for adolescents. Reuters has more on the study, which compared military with civilian families who were moving:
To see whether these kids nonetheless show signs of difficulty with moving, the researchers looked at medical records for 6- to 17-year-old children of active duty members from the Military Health System Medical Data Repository between October 1, 2006, and September 30, 2009.
Altogether, the records for 548,336 children were included in the analysis, and nearly 180,000 – about 25 percent – had moved to a new city or town at least once during the past year.
Researchers divided the children into two groups by age: 6 to 11 years old and 12 to 17. They looked at whether each child had had at least one healthcare visit – outpatient, emergency room or hospitalization – with a mental health diagnosis during fiscal year 2009.
The study team also collected additional data from the records about the children and parents, including psychiatric history, service branch, military rank, gender, race and age.
Finally, they calculated the odds of a child having a visit for mental health diagnoses including anxiety, self-injury, adjustment, developmental, personality and mood disorders.
The study found that compared to peers who had not moved, kids between the ages of 12 and 17 who had moved over the past year had 20 percent higher odds of visiting the emergency room for a psychiatric issue, along with 4 percent higher odds of an office visit and 19 percent greater odds of a psychiatric hospitalization. Children between the ages of six and 11 had about 3 percent higher odds of having an office visit for mental health reasons.
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that adolescents in particular – even more than younger people – have a difficult time making adjustments,” said Christopher Bellonci, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.
“The job of adolescents is to find a peer group and an identity outside of the home, and that is harder when your peer group and school are disrupted by a move when they should provide support and strength,” he told Reuters Health.
For families with an upcoming move, preparing kids and teens is key, said Bellonci, who was not involved in the study.
“Change is stressful, and parents should talk with their kids about the transition coming up,” Bellonci said.
If possible, parents should help kids brainstorm ways to make the new space -such as their bedroom – their own. Getting a chance to meet future teachers and peers can also help smooth the transition to a new city. For parents and kids alike, it’s all about fostering a new support system of friends and peers.
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Friday, April 11th, 2014
Pregnant women who take antidepressant medications during pregnancy may face a higher risk of delivering their babies prematurely, according to a new study that stopped short of declaring a direct link between the two. More from The New York Times:
Researchers reviewed data from 41 studies, some of which controlled for factors like smoking, alcohol or coffee drinking, weight gain during pregnancy, and other behavioral and health issues. They found no increase in the risk of early birth with the use of antidepressants during the first trimester, a 53 percent higher risk over all and a 96 percent higher risk with antidepressant use late in pregnancy.
Depression itself is a risk factor for premature births, and a few studies tried to account for this by using, as a control, a group of women with a diagnosis of depression who did not take antidepressants during their pregnancy. Generally, researchers still found a higher, though diminished, risk from taking antidepressants. The review was published in March in PLOS One.
Does this mean that all pregnant women should avoid these drugs? No, said the senior author, Dr. Adam C. Urato, an assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at Tufts University. Risks and benefits have to be balanced, he said.
“It’s very complex, and depends on the severity of the disease,” Dr. Urato added. “The point is that we have to get the right information out so that we can let pregnant women make an informed decision.”
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Friday, February 21st, 2014
Changing schools can be a wrenching experience for children, especially if they are leaving a school that is full of beloved friends and trusted teachers. Some kids, according to a new British study, even experience severe mental health symptoms, including psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. More from Time.com:
Dr. Swaran Singh, a psychiatrist and head of the mental health division at Warwick, became curious about the connection between school moves and mental health issues after a study from Denmark found that children moving from rural to urban settings showed increased signs of psychoses. The authors also noted that the students had to deal with not just a change in their home environment, but in their social network of friends at school as well.
Singh was intrigued by whether school changes, and the social isolation that comes with it, might be an independent factor in contributing to the psychosis-like symptoms.
Working with a database of nearly 14,000 children born between 1991 and 1992 and followed until they were 13 years old, Singh and his colleagues investigated which factors seemed to have the strongest effect on mental health. The children’s mothers answered questions about how many times the students had moved schools by age nine, and the children responded to queries about their experiences either bullying others or being victims of bullying. The survey even included a look at the children’s in utero environments, and their circumstances from birth to age 2, by asking the mothers about where they lived (in urban or village areas, for example), and about financial difficulties or other family social issues.
Based on their analysis, says Singh, switching schools three or more times in early childhood seemed to be linked to an up to two-fold greater risk of developing psychosis-like symptoms such as hallucinations and interrupting thoughts. “Even when we controlled for all things that school moves lead to, there was something left behind that that was independently affecting children’s mental health,” he says.
Factors such as a difficult home environment – whether caused by financial or social tension, or both – living in an urban environment, and bullying contributed to the mental health issues, but switching schools contributed independently to the psychosis-like symptoms.
For help keeping track of your child’s school assignments, download our free homework-tracker template.
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Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
Both physical and emotional effects of being bullied–including issues with walking or lifting heavy objects, plus anger, sadness, and fear–may accumulate over a period of years, leading to lower quality of life for people who suffer from bullies’ negative behavior. These are the findings of a new study by researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital. Reuters reports:
In the past, when researchers have surveyed students at one point in time, children and teens who were being bullied tended to score lower on measures of physical and mental health.
But few studies have examined whether the possible effects of bullying accumulate over the years, the researchers write in the journal Pediatrics.
They analyzed data from the Healthy Passages study, which surveyed students in Alabama, California and Texas about how much bullying they experienced and evaluated their physical and mental health.
Overall, 4,297 students completed the surveys in fifth, seventh and 10th grades.
The researchers found that about a third of the students had been regularly bullied at some point during the course of the study.
Generally, those who had been bullied in the past scored better on measures of physical and mental health, compared to those who were currently being bullied. Teens who were bullied throughout their school career scored the worst.
For example, about seven percent of 10th grade students who had never been bullied scored low on mental health measures. That compared to 12 percent who had been bullied in the past, 31 percent who were currently being bullied and almost 45 percent of those who underwent persistent bullying.
About eight percent of 10th grade students who were never bullied had poor physical health, compared to 12 percent of those who were bullied in the past, 26 percent who were currently being bullied and 22 percent who were continuously bullied.
Poor mental health included traits such as being sad, afraid and angry, according to Bogart. Poor physical health included limitations like not being able to walk far and not being able to pick up heavy objects.
“I think one key thing to take from this is that any adult that has any contact with children . . . (should) know what the signs of bullying might be,” Bogart said. “This study tells us some of them, but not all of them.”
“There are physical signs, but they’re not always physical,” she said.
For example, one non-physical sign that a young person is being bullied is that the child doesn’t want to go to school.
Bogart also said it’s important for parents to know if their child falls into one of the groups at high risk for bullying. Those groups include children with physical disabilities, those who are overweight and obese and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning.
“I think this says – especially for parents – to be really attuned to what’s going on in their kids’ lives by paying attention, knowing what’s going on during the school day and being aware so they’ll notice changes like these,” she said.
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