‘Their behaviour can change overnight’: The disorder that causes sudden OCD in children

A Llandudno mum is raising awareness of a little-known neuropsychiatric condition that can cause children to develop obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) overnight.

Aly Shields’ 12-year-old son was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome and OCD after his behaviour suddenly changed.

It was only after further medical investigation that it was established he was suffering from PANS or PANDAS.

The condition is triggered by a misdirected immune response which results in an inflammation of a child’s brain.

Symptoms can appear following a streptococcal infection such as sinusitis, ear infections or scarlet fever.

Their behaviour can change overnight, or it can be gradual. They can’t sleep, they can’t eat, they can’t drink. It can start with something as simple as their handwriting changes, or they start to be very irritable, but anxiety plays a massive part in this.


Aly Shields

Campaigners say it can be treated with antibiotics if caught early enough.

Despite the condition requiring simple treatment, doctors say children are being misdiagnosed with psychiatric conditions in some cases.

The really key thing about all of these symptoms is that they occur in a child who was previously completely developmentally normal – it’s like a switch has been thrown, and these symptoms come on overnight.


As well as OCD and/or tics, children can experience symptoms including:

  • Enuresis and/or urinary frequency
  • Insomnia and/or sleep disturbances
  • Food restrictions
  • Anxiety (heightened anxiety, separation anxiety, irrational fears, panic episodes)
  • Emotional lability and/or depression
  • Irritability, aggression, and/or severely oppositional behaviours
  • Behavioural (developmental) regression (increase in temper tantrums, loss of age-appropriate language, clingy behaviour not related to anxiety).
  • Sudden deterioration in school performance (due to difficulties with memory, concentration, hyperactivity, impulsivity, new deficits of visuospatial skills)
  • Motor or sensory abnormalities (dysgraphia, clumsiness, tics, new sensory sensitivities to light, noise, smell, taste or texture).

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