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COVID-19 can 'trigger OCD in kids and young people'

OCD is a mental illness that causes repeated unwanted thoughts or sensations (obsessions) or the urge to do something over and over again (compulsions). Some people can have both obsessions and compulsions.

A new study, published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, has shown that many children and young people with obsessive thoughts and compulsions experienced that their obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, and depressive symptoms worsened during COVID-19.

OCD is a mental illness that causes repeated unwanted thoughts or sensations (obsessions) or the urge to do something over and over again (compulsions). Some people can have both obsessions and compulsions.

The study also stated that Covid-19 may be associated with adults developing psychiatric disorders.

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COVID-19 pandemic and OCD

Speaking about the study, author Judith Nissen from Aarhus University in Denmark said that the disorder is particularly interesting to study in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic because OCD is a disorder with many different clinical expressions.

She added that it's therefore important to examine how such a significant crisis can affect the expression, frequency, and progression of the disorder.

For the findings, the researchers sent a questionnaire to two groups of children and young people between the ages of seven and 21.

One group had been diagnosed with OCD in a specialised OCD section at the Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry - and all had been in contact with a therapist at the hospital. The other group was identified through the Danish OCD Association.

The majority of these children and young people had been diagnosed years ago. A total of 102 children responded to the questionnaire.

OCD symptoms worsened during a pandemic

"Their experience was that their OCD, anxiety, and depressive symptoms worsened during a crisis like COVID-19. This worsening was most pronounced for the group identified through the OCD Association," the authors wrote.

Almost half of the children and young people who belonged to the first group reported that their symptoms had become worse, while a third of them replied that their anxiety had worsened and a third that their depressive symptoms had worsened.

And of these, almost a fifth experienced that both symptoms had got worse.

In the other group, 73 per cent reported that their condition had worsened, just over half that their anxiety had worsened, and 43 per cent answered that the depressive symptoms had increased.

In particular, children who had begun suffering from OCD at an early age experienced the most pronounced worsening, the study noted.

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