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Researchers link between OCD and eating disorders in teenagers

Wednesday 8 June 2011

A research collaboration between the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust's (SLaM) OCD Service for young people has shown that childhood obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a risk factor for developing an eating disorder during adolescence.

The results of the joint IoP and SLaM study have been published online in Psychological Medicine. The research project found that amongst children and adolescents who had obsessive compulsive disorder more than one in ten had developed an eating disorder in later life, higher than what would be expected among the general population.

The research project is the largest follow-up study of children and adolescents with OCD undertaken in the United Kingdom. Researchers contacted 126 young people and their parents several years after their original appointment for OCD. The researchers followed up all children and adolescents up to 9 years after they were initially assessed, and asked a number of questions about eating disorders.

Dr Nadia Micali who led the team of researchers from the IoP, part of King's College London, said the study aimed to better understand the risk factors which may be associated with the development of eating disorders among young people.

'Among the young people we followed up with, females who experienced OCD during childhood, and also have a family history of eating disorders, are at high risk for developing an eating disorder later in life,' Dr Micali said.

'Recognising childhood OCD as a contributing factor to developing an eating disorder in adolescence may help clinicians detect higher risk individuals and implement early treatment or even prevention.'

SLaM's national and specialist OCD Service is the only service of its kind in the UK offering assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with OCD and related conditions, including body dysmorphic disorder, tic disorders, Tourette's syndrome, anxiety and habit disorders, including trichotillomania.

Dr Isobel Heyman, who leads SLaM's OCD Service, said this kind of research helps to improve the treatment of young people with OCD, both at SLaM and by local services across the UK.

'Longitudinal studies like this are essential to establish the outcomes of children who present at a young age with mental health problems," Dr Heyman explained.

'Our clinic at SLaM aims to offer current best practice assessments and treatments but we always want to develop and improve treatment and understanding. We invite families attending our clinic to participate in research.'

The OCD service assesses and treats young people with complicated or unusual OCD from all over the United Kingdom. Many of these children receive their treatment through taking part in ongoing treatment studies.

'We strive to keep in touch with the children we have treated over the years and are particularly grateful for the interest and commitment of families who agree to collaborate in research. This type of long-term study would be impossible without this partnership between the clinic and former patients and their families,' Dr Heyman said.

SLaM's child and adolescent OCD service also assesses and treats OCD-related anxiety disorders in young people with a developmental disorder, for example high functioning autism spectrum disorders or neurological conditions

The service provides a range of evidence-based care packages tailored to meet the needs of the young person and their parents or carers. Many of the young people we see are offered individual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which may involve parents or carers and other family members.

'Is childhood OCD a risk factor for eating disorders later in life? A longitudinal study', was published online in Psychological Medicine. Please click on link


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