What is PANDAS Syndrome? The Diagnosis Behind 'Saving Sammy'
PANDAS Syndrome is a sort of acquired or rapid onset of what we understand as OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). PANDAS Syndrome is an acronym for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections.
This condition is tied to the book Saving Sammy, written by Beth A. Maloney, a mother whose son "caught" OCD. The symptoms, according to the National Institute of Health, are:
- Presence of OCD and/or a tic disorder(similar to Tourette's Syndrome)
- Pediatric onset of symptoms (age 3 years to puberty)
- Episodic course of symptom severity
- A positive throat culture for strep. or history of Scarlet Fever.
- Association with neurological abnormalities such as hyperactivity
The children usually have dramatic, "overnight" onset of symptoms, including motor or vocal tics, obsessions, and/or compulsions. In addition to these symptoms, children may also become moody, irritable or show concerns about separating from parents or loved ones. This abrupt onset is generally preceeded by a Strep. throat infection.
PANDAS Syndrome isn't actually classified as a disease, since its diagnosis hasn't been agreed upon as a true cause symptoms that present as indicators of OCD.
We sent Sammy out. I knew that because of Sammy’s strange behaviors, it would take him at least ten minutes to reach the reception area; that gave me ten private minutes with the doctor to find out what on earth was wrong with my son. He gave me the diagnosis the psychologist had suspected: obsessive-compulsive disorder, commonly known as OCD.
“His behaviors are compulsions,” the doctor explained. “They are beyond his control.”
“You’re saying he can’t stop himself from doing any of this?” It was a tough concept to register.