Childhood Post-Infectious Neuroimmune Disorders are characterized by the acute onset of debilitating symptoms including:
- Significant change in emotional stability and behavior
- New-onset anxiety symptoms (obsessive compulsive symptoms, trichotillomania and restricted eating)
- New-onset tics and movements disorders
- Profound changes in mood regulation (panic attacks, rage, aggression, and suicidal thoughts)
- Major decline in motor function impacting handwriting and learning
In this group of disorders, psychiatric illness arises from an organic etiology; symptoms are indicative of an infectious trigger and a misdirected immune system. A child beset by emotional or behavioral symptoms is exhibiting an aberrant response to infection. Often, the underlying cause is missed, and, without medical intervention, the child’s functioning deteriorates in school, home, and/or community settings.
Children are frequently misdiagnosed, because of a lack of understanding and awareness, with a litany of psychiatric disorders including: Attention Deficit Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, eating disorders, and Bipolar Disorder.
PANDAS and PANS
Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) was first described at length in 1998 to describe sudden onset of OCD and other physical and behavioral changes in children following streptococcal infection. This disease appears to share many characteristics with Sydenham’s Chorea and Autoimmune Encephalitis. Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) shares many similar symptoms but is triggered by an infection or environmental factor other than streptococcus. Neither condition is well understood, and it is imperative for research to move faster to develop much needed therapies for children.