The University Record, February 4, 2002

U-M study seeks to help teens with obsessive-compulsive disorder

By Kara Gavin
U-M Health System

Coping with the stresses of adolescence is tough enough. But as many as one in 50 teenagers bears the added burden of a mental illness that causes anxiety-producing obsessions in their minds or compulsions to perform certain acts over and over again. Many never get effective help for their condition, called obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD.

A new study at the U-M Health System (UMHS) will try to help teens with OCD cope with their condition, while providing much-needed scientific answers about how well non-medicating therapies help adolescents. The trial opens this week and will enroll its first group of participants immediately for three months of weekly group therapy.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder may produce inescapable thoughts, or an unstoppable urge to wash one’s hands many times in a row, many times a day. Each person with OCD has a unique set of obsessions or compulsions, and severity can vary widely, but in all cases the disorder interferes greatly with daily life.

Medications and individual sessions with a therapist may benefit those who seek help. But the new study will look for the first time at the effectiveness of gathering a small group of young OCD patients together for guided treatment by a mental health professional.

Study leader and assistant clinical professor Joseph Himle and his colleagues from the Department of Psychiatry will conduct the study, leading twelve weekly 90-minute sessions for groups of teens, 13–17 years old, including three sessions involving the participants’ parents or guardians.

The study will compare how well members of the two groups deal with their obsessions or compulsions, through interviews and questionnaires given before, during and after the study.