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Obsessive–compulsive disorder and tics in children and adolescents 

Obsessive–compulsive disorder and tics in children and adolescents
Obsessive–compulsive disorder and tics in children and adolescents

Martine F. Flament

and Philippe Robaey

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date: 06 July 2022

Paediatric OCD is the disorder, in child psychiatry, whose clinical picture most closely resembles its adult counterpart. Despite a relative diversity, the symptom pool is remarkably finite, and very similar to that seen in older individuals. Prevalence, comorbidity, and response to behavioural and drug treatment also appear similar across the lifespan. For tic disorders, there is continuity between child and adult presentations, but the disease is much more prone to resolve spontaneously, or to be less disruptive in adulthood. Both OCD and tics occur more often in males than in females, and are likely to be linked to an array of neurobiological abnormalities, many of which remain to be understood. Invaluable benefits can now be obtained from available behavioural and pharmacological treatments, but complete remission remains uncertain and long-term management may be required. Thus, the treatment of OCD and tics in children and adolescents remains a clinical challenge. It requires careful assessment of the targeted symptoms and, in many cases, comorbidity; attention to the quality of the child's functioning at home and with peers; use of specific CBT interventions, which are not readily available (or accessible) in all communities; patience and caution in the choice and adjustment of medication; and vigilance in watching potential side effects. Given the possible chronicity of OCD and/or tic disorders, and their changing patterns in severity and impact over the childhood and adolescent years, optimal treatment generally requires a long-term ongoing relationship with the child and family. Current conceptualizations of OCD and tic disorders have been shaped by advances in systems neuroscience and functional in vivo neuroimaging. Continued success in these areas should lead to the targetting of specific brain circuits for more intensive research. This should include testing novel pharmacological agents, tracking treatment response using neuroimaging techniques, and possibly investigating circuit-based therapies using deep-brain stimulation for refractory cases. The identification of the PANDAS subgroup of patients, with an abrupt onset and dramatic exacerbations, certainly brings new insights into the pathophysiology of OCD and tic disorders, and may lead to new assessment and treatment strategies. The increasing evidence for susceptibility genes in OCD and tic disorders will also doubtless point to new therapeutic directions. Furthermore, it is likely that many of the empirical findings used in research on paediatric OCD and tic disorders will be relevant to a better understanding of both normal development, and other disorders of childhood onset.

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