PANDAS is a fairly unknown and quite common cause of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). So as with many newer conditions, our number one question is always, “When did it start?”
What is PANDAS?
PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) occurs when a strep infection triggers a misdirected immune response that 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.
HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE AFFECTED?
It is estimated that PANDAS/PANS affects as many as 1 in 200 children.
WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR PANDAS?
The hallmark trait for PANDAS is sudden acute and debilitating onset of intense anxiety and mood lability accompanied by obsessive compulsive-like issues and/or tics in association with a streptococcal-A (GABHS) infection that has occurred immediately prior to the symptoms. In some instances, the onset will be 4 to 6 months after a strep infection because the antibiotics did not fully eradicate the bacteria.
When strep cannot be linked to the onset of symptoms, the NIMH states one should look into the possibility of PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndromes).
WHAT CAN PANDAS DO?
PANDAS is an autoimmune overreaction and it can cause acute severe behavior change that doesn’t go away. It’s not temporary. This can stick around. They’re antibodies against dopamine receptors, actual neural tissue. If your body is attacking your brain, you can have dramatic problems with your brain like OCD.
ARE THERE MULTIPLE TYPES OF PANDAS?
Yes, there’s also another version call PANS which is very similar but it might not be strep that does it. There’s a dramatic, very high likelihood that the same process is going on with a lot of mental health conditions like Lyme, etc, where this immune reaction is misdirected against your brain. Again, it can be demonstrated. So we’re looking at immune reactions against the brain that can have dramatics impacts in how you feel.
CAN IT BE TREATED?
Yes, the longer you’ve had it, the harder it is to reverse but there are ways to treat it. It’s not simple but there are methods, intravenous, like IVIG, plasmapheresis, they actually take the antibodies out of your blood and there are some natural treatments as well. This is not likely going to be on the radar screen of most mental health doctors and yet it’s a huge problem for the person with it because they’re likely to be misdiagnosed.