Case Studies


The Worry Hill - A Child-friendly Approach to OCD

May/June 2008


Maria was 9 years old when she heard a TV news item about an outbreak of hepatitis that originated at a local bakery. Long after the alarm had subsided, she couldn't stop worrying about it. At first, she feared that she might have contracted hepatitis and began washing her hands with increasing frequency. Then she began to worry that she herself could spread hepatitis and be responsible for the deaths of others. She refused to touch or hug anyone, including her parents. This was followed by a constant fear that she'd contaminate the seats on which she sat at home, at school, and on the bus. Maria began wiping herself clean to the point that she was chafed and bleeding. By the time she came in for treatment a year later, she was spending 45 minutes in the shower, 30 minutes at the sink each time she washed her hands, and 45 minutes cleaning up after each time she used the toilet. She barely made it to school most days. Maria's mother felt compelled to assist her daughter with her cleansing rituals and to provide endless reassurance that she wouldn't get hepatitis. If she didn't do so, Maria could be in the bathroom for four to six hours, and definitely wouldn't make it to school that day.

Maria has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), an often debilitating condition that affects from one to three percent of children in the U.S. A growing body of evidence suggests that neuropsychiatric, genetic, immunologic, behavioral and cognitive factors may all play a role in the…

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