Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition in which an individual experiences an uncontrollable and irrepressible urge to indulge in a particular behavior or have reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) over and over again. The condition can affect an individual from any sphere of life. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately one-third of the adults affected by OCD, experienced the first symptoms during their childhood.
OCD interferes with an individual’s day-to-day life, be it personal or professional. A new research, conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge, has revealed that adolescents with OCD face a major problem with their memory and learning abilities. Published online in the journal ‘Psychological Medicine’ in January 2018, the findings of this study have already been used to help children in realizing their potential and even go to University.
Lead authors Dr. Julia Gottwald and Professor Barbara Sahakian from the Department of Psychiatry at University of Cambridge, conducted the study to analyze if the early stages of OCD caused impairment of the flexibility for learning tasks and goal-directed control. This was important for the researchers, as flexibility in problem solving is an important skill in school.
Research was conducted on 36 adolescents with OCD and 36 healthy young individuals who had completed their learning and memory tasks. The participants underwent some computerized tests such as recognition memory (test to determine whether an individual remembers which object he/she had seen before) and episodic memory (the space they remember on seeing a particular object). In both the groups, a subset of 30 participants was created for each group, who were then made to carry out a task designed to measure the balance between the goal-directed and habitual behavioral control.
As per the researchers, impairment in learning and memory tasks was found in all the adolescents with OCD. There was also a lack in goal-directed control and cognitive plasticity during the early stages of the development of OCD.
Gottwald said that while many studies had focused on adult OCD, very little was known about the condition in teenagers. “Our study suggests that teens with OCD have problems with memory and the ability to flexibly adjust their actions when the environment changes”, she said.
Expressing her concerns over the study results, Sahakian said that she was not only surprised but was also concerned to see such broad problems of learning and memory in these young people so early in the course of OCD. “It will be important to follow this study up to examine these cognitive problems further and in particular to determine how they impact on clinical symptoms and school performance”, she added.
It is important to understand that if an adolescent experiences difficulty at school due to OCD, it might actually be hampering their self-esteem. In case, he/she has developed a trait of compulsive checking, it could also be affecting their memory and be a major cause in lowering his/her confidence level.
Child psychiatrist Dr. Anna Conway Morris from the University of Cambridge believes that the study has been very useful in assisting adolescents with OCD by providing the help they needed at school in terms of structuring the environment to ensure that there was a level playing field. This allowed them to receive the help they needed to realize their potential. One person with OCD was able to obtain good A Levels and to be accepted by a good university where she could get the support that she needed in order to do well in that environment”.
Further studies need to be conducted to determine the various ways in which these impairments might affect the adolescents and influence their performance at school. Identifying this would provide the best possible way to help a child recover.
OCD can affect anybody. If there is someone you know who is affected by it and is looking for assistance, seek help from one of the best mental health treatment centers in Arizona by getting touch with the Arizona Mental Health Helpline. Call our 24/7 mental health helpline (866) 606-7791 or chat online with one of our experts to get the complete details about the comprehensive treatment plans available to treat OCD and other mental health conditions.