The UCLA Childhood OCD, Anxiety & Tic Disorders Program

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The UCLA Childhood OCD, Anxiety & Tic Disorders Program
760 Westwood Plaza, 67-467
Los Angeles, CA 90024
United States
(310) 825-0122
Email contact form

The UCLA Childhood OCD, Anxiety & Tic Disorders Program

The UCLA Childhood OCD, Anxiety & Tic Disorders Program is a clinical research program that specializes in the evaluation and treatment of anxiety and related problems in children and adolescents. Their primary goal is to provide effective treatments for youngsters suffering from anxiety disorders, including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Selective Mutism (SM), Tic disorders, Social Phobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Separation Anxiety Disorder(SAD), and Trichotillomania.

OCD is a disorder where the individual is plagued by uncontrollable obsessions and compulsions that interfere with his/her daily functioning. It is an anxiety disorder that can start at any age, although most commonly it begins in childhood through to early adulthood. While it is a waxing and waning disorder, if left untreated, it can escalate in severity over time.

Obsessions are characterized by persistent, irrational ideas or images that keep returning again and again. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that are intended to prevent or correct some dreaded event. The most common obsessions are repetitive thoughts, impulses or images that are anxiety provoking. They occur against one's will, are intrusive and persistent and are, often, personally repugnant. These can include:

  • Fear of becoming contaminated
  • Fear that something terrible might happen if something isn't done correctly
  • Fear of causing offense
  • Fear of throwing something away that might be important
  • The urge for things to feel just right
  • Scrupulous or religious thoughts

Compulsions are conscious behaviors or rituals that are done to alleviate anxiety caused by the obsessions and are carried out even though the person is aware that these actions are senseless or excessive. Compulsions can often take the form of:

  • Washing or cleaning hands excessively
  • Ritually checking things excessively
  • Doing things "perfectly"
  • Saving things
  • Repeating things
  • Avoiding things
  • Making mental checklist or saying mantras over and over

The UCLA Adult OCD Program provides a range of services to accommodate all types of OCD and OC spectrum disorders. Services are available to suit variations in intensity of OCD from mild, to moderate, to severe.

Typical treatment for OCD includes cognitive behavior therapy or medication. Often, a combination of both is beneficial.

Cognitive behavior therapy for OCD takes the form of Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). This is the process of gradually exposing oneself to the object or situation that causes anxiety and then refraining from doing the associated compulsion. Initially ERP causes anxiety, but this decreases over time as the compulsion is resisted. It is a highly successful and effective treatment for OCD. Studies show that this therapy can help between 60-90% of patients. It can improve symptoms by between 50-85%. Many people maintain their treatment gains over time but they may require 'top-up' therapy occasionally if symptoms flare up during stressful times.

People with mild forms of OCD, that is people who are able to work and maintain a full active life but find it a struggle, will be able to find appropriate treatment in an outpatient setting. Outpatient therapy usually involves seeing the therapist once or twice a week for 1-hour sessions.

People with more moderate-severe OCD where the OCD affects work and social functioning, or even makes working impossible, may need more intensive therapy. Intensive therapy is frequently done in a partial hospital setting. This involves between 2 and 6 hours a day of therapy, every day for a number of weeks.

People who are disabled by their OCD, that is, unable to work or live independently, who need assistance from friends or family may need to consider a residential OCD program that provides around the clock supervision and control of compulsions. (UCLA does not have a residential program).

Whatever the severity of the OCD, treatment should begin with a thorough evaluation and assessment. Following evaluation, a therapist can recommend the level (intensity) of treatment required that will be most effective for each individual.

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