Pediatric Anxiety Research Center
Bradley Hospital

Conditions We Treat at the Pediatric Anxiety Research Center

It’s important for families to recognize the warning signs for an obsessive-compulsive (OC)-spectrum or other anxiety disorder. The Pediatric Anxiety Research Center currently offers treatment for these conditions.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Body dysmorphic disorder is a body-image disorder involving persistent and intrusive thoughts about a perceived flaw in one’s appearance. These thoughts often consume a lot of time and energy, interfere with functioning, and cause significant emotional distress.

Dermatillomania (Skin-Picking)

Dermatillomania, also known as excoriation, is characterized by repetitive picking at one’s own skin to the extent of causing damage. The face is the most common location for skin picking, but it can involve any part of the body. A person with dermatillomania may use fingernails, teeth, tweezers, pins, or other implements to pick at normal skin, freckles, moles, scabs, sores, acne blemishes, or imagined skin defects that no one else can see. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, intrusive thoughts and images, known as obsessions, and ritualized, repetitive behaviors called compulsions that reduce anxiety associated with obsessive thought.

Common obsessions include, but are not limited to: 

  • Fears of contamination
  • Harming/being harmed by others
  • Magical/superstitious thought.

Sometimes, youth experience nonspecific obsessions relating to the sensation that things are not “just right.”  

Common compulsions include, but are not limited to: 

  • Avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations
  • Repeating/ordering things until they feel “just right”
  • Seeking reassurance or checking in certain ways.

Panic Disorder

A panic disorder is diagnosed when children experience spontaneous, seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of having another one. Agoraphobia may also be diagnosed when the child avoids places or situations because of worry about having a panic attack.


Specific phobias are strong fears of certain objects or situations. Common phobias include fear of animals, darkness, loud noises, storms, and hypodermic needles.

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

SAD is a disorder in which the child experiences excessive anxiety pertaining to separation from home or a loved one.

Common symptoms include;

  • Recurrent worries of separation or anticipation of separation
  • Refusal to leave home 
  • Sleep problems, stomachaches, and irrational fears.

Symptoms typically persist for a minimum of four weeks.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder involves significant worry in the context of social or performance situations resulting in avoidance behavior. The child may experience fear in a particular social situation (for example, public speaking) or in a variety of social situations.

Tic Disorders

Tics are sudden, rapid, recurrent movements or vocalizations that are generally experienced as irresistible. Tics are classified as either motor tics or vocal tics and can be simple or complex.

Examples of motor tics are:

  • Eye blinking
  • Nose wrinkling 
  • Hand gestures.

Examples of vocal tics are:

  • Throat clearing
  • Sniffing 
  • Sudden changes in speech volume.

Tourette’s disorder is characterized by multiple motor tics and one or more vocal tic. Tics occur many times a day for more than a year.

Chronic motor or vocal tic disorder involves either motor or vocal tics that are experienced for at least 12 months.

Trichotillomania (Hair-Pulling)

Trichotillomania is characterized by the recurrent pulling out of one’s own hair, resulting in noticeable hair loss. Hair pulling may occur anyplace on the body where hair grows, with the most common sites being the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes.

Tic Disorders in Children and Adolescents

Michael Walther, PhD, staff psychologist at Bradley Hospital, discusses how to identify tic disorders in children and treatment options.