Medication for Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder in Children

Medication can play an important role in treating children and adolescents with obsessive–compulsive disorder, or OCD. Many children and teens with OCD find that a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication is helpful in overcoming the anxiety related to the condition. Younger children tend to respond well to the therapy alone.

Child and adolescent psychiatrists at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, offer a medication consultation, in which you meet with them to discuss this treatment option. During the appointment, they can address any questions or concerns you have. Our specialists are experts in matching the right medication with your child’s needs.

After your child starts taking a medication, our psychiatrists meet with you and your child on a regular basis. During these visits, your child’s doctor adjusts the dosage to minimize side effects and ensures the medication is providing symptom relief. These meetings usually begin on a bi-weekly basis, and eventually the time between visits may stretch to a month or longer.

Medication can be a short- or long-term treatment option, depending on your child’s response to it and the persistence of symptoms.

In some children, doctors can eventually taper the dose, until medication is no longer needed. NYU Langone doctors monitor the tapering process during regular follow-up visits.

Antidepressant Medications

The most common type of medication used for treating OCD in children and adolescents is a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications work by initially raising levels of a brain chemical known as serotonin, which results in other changes that help improve mood and reduce anxiety.

Antianxiety Medications

A doctor may also prescribe an antianxiety medication, such as alprazolam or clonazepam, for children and teens with severe OCD symptoms that prevent them from attending school or performing everyday activities. These medications can provide short-term relief until the SSRIs start to work.

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