Did You Know Strep Can Cause OCD Symptoms? Learn About PANDAS/PANS in My Interview with Beth Maloney
Most of us know that Strep can attack our joints. Most of us know that Strep can attack our heart. But did you know that Strep can attack our brain? It hides behind OCD symptoms. It hides behind children who all of a sudden are afraid to eat, afraid to sleep. Who start to wet the bed. Who start to rage. Who start to develop compulsions, tics and struggles they’ve never had before. It hides under the mystery and denial of PANDAS/PANS.
What if I told you that a simple Strep infection gone undetected, unnoticed, untreated can quietly make it’s way to the brain. What if I told you it can do so symptom-free until one day your child starts to develop OCD symptoms. Symptoms that can be mislabeled and misdiagnosed. Symptoms that won’t go away. Symptoms that therapists and doctors will shrug off as classic OCD. Symptoms that without antibiotics and medical intervention are there for the long hall for years to come.
As a child therapist I didn’t understand PANDAS. And then one day my child developed issues around eating. Not the “I’m picky about my food” kind of eating. No, it was more like the “I am paralyzed with fear and I will starve to death rather than eat” kind of issue.
No one can completely understand PANDAS until their child evolves into something they don’t recognize. Until their child is consumed with irrational fears and thoughts. Until their child is barely able to function or eat or sleep.
The cruel reality of PANDAS is it doesn’t respond to your typical OCD protocol. I know, I am an OCD specialist. The irony is not lost, trust me. I did all the usual things. I got my son into Exposure Response Therapy. I got him on SSRIs. Nothing helped. Until I finally embraced the possibility of PANDAS and put him on antibiotics.
Over a year I had watched my son slowly wilt into a 40-pound bag of bones. When his shirt was off I could clearly count all his ribs. Panic would pulse through my body. I had watched my son inspect his food. He was overwhelmed with fear. What if the food was watching him from heaven? What if the food tasted weird? What if the flavor stayed in his mouth forever and ever? What if he throws up? What if he gets too full and gets sick? No amount of debating or rationalizing would subside these irrational thoughts. I watched as mouthfuls of food were spit out. As mounds of paper towel consumed more food than his body did. As food got refused and his list of acceptable foods went down to three things.
Two days on antibiotics my son whispered to me, “Mom, food doesn’t scare me anymore!” I watched him as he sat at the dinner table, his small frame leaning over a plate, as he asked for more. I let him stay up late that night. Afraid to interrupt the miracle. Relief pouring out of me.
He is now eating more. He is now open to Exposure Response Prevention challenges. He wants to get better. He tells me when he has new fears. We challenge his irrational thoughts and we eat anyway. We still have a battle ahead of us, but we are finally on the right track.
Do you want to learn more about PANDAS/PANS? Beth Maloney is the author of Saving Sammy and Childhood Interrupted. She is wise and passionate. She is a voice in the darkness, when so many professionals and doctors refuse to accept a condition that is stealing our children away.
It is time PANDAS/PANS comes out of the darkness. That parents, therapists, medical providers educate those around them about this condition and don’t blindly deny something that clearly exists.
Please join me and listen to my interview with Beth. She offers great insight and suggestions for those wanting to educate themselves more on this condition. Frankly, we can’t afford not to. Listen here:
[Post recording Beth Maloney contacted me to clarify that strep can sometimes be difficult to treat with Penicillin alone. For that reason, Amoxicillin and Augmentin are the preferred choices because they both combine Penicillin with clavulanic acid, thus producing a more robust response.]
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