Call us


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is estimated to affect 1 to 3% of children and adolescents. A combination of genetics, life events and family factors is thought to play a role in why a child might develop OCD. In some cases, however, children may very suddenly develop OCD-like symptoms as well as several other distressing behaviours. In some of these cases, the child has later been found to have an infection such as streptococcal (strep). This condition is now known as PANDAS (Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections).

“PANDAS occurs when strep triggers a misdirected immune response and results in inflammation on a child’s brain. In turn, the child quickly begins to exhibit life changing symptoms such as OCD, anxiety, tics, personality changes, decline in math and handwriting abilities, sensory sensitivities, restrictive eating, and more.”


Children with PANDAS and their families can often be distressed and disturbed by the very sudden, sometimes even overnight, development of a host of symptoms that are out of character for the child. While symptom presentation varies from child to child, the range of symptoms for a child with PANDAS can include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviours such as rituals, repetitive behaviours, or intrusive thoughts
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Tics – repetitive movements or sounds such as eye-blinking, head-jerking, shoulder movements, grunting, throat-clearing, coughing and/or repeating phrases/sounds
  • Repetitive, rapid “jerky” movements known as “choreiform movements”
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Developmental regression such as baby talk, sleep difficulties, bedwetting
  • Decline in school performance or school refusal
  • Separation anxiety
  • Sensory sensitivities such as pain when being lightly touched or an inability to tolerate certain textures
  • Hyperactivity or ADHD-like symptoms

Research suggests that PANDAS symptoms can respond well to anti-biotic medications as well as behavioural interventions similar to those used to treat OCD. Therefore, intervention from multiple professionals, including medicine and psychology, can often be required. For more information about PANDAS, visit

Blog post written by Cassie Lavell, Psychologist at our sister clinic, The Children’s Centre for Anxiety and OCD.