When the ladybug has to count her spots

Screeshot of &quot;Ricky and the Spider&quot;<br>Picture: UZH<br>

About two percent of all children suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which consists of obsessive thoughts and acts. Obsessive thoughts are intrusive thoughts such as fear or contamination, injury or violent notions that are perceived to be pointless or distressing. Obsessive acts are ritualized acts that have to be repeated frequently, such as washing one’s hands, asking questions, counting, touching, checking or collecting. Without treatment, OCD often has serious consequences, such as children no longer being able to go to school on account of their symptoms.

Game supports psychotherapists
Nowadays, cognitive behavior therapy, possibly supplemented with medication, is considered to be the most reliable method of treating OCD in children. To help psychotherapists with evidence-based OCD treatment, the Center of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Zurich has developed the computer game “Ricky and the Spider”. The game incorporates the key treatment elements of the cognitive-behavioral approach and makes it easier for children to understand the disorder, its consequences and the treatment.
Ladybug has to count dots
In the game, a spider forces Ricky the Grasshopper and Lisa the Ladybug to do things they do not really want to do. For instance, Ricky is only allowed to hop across the meadow in a particular pattern and Lisa has to count the spots on her wings every evening before she goes to sleep. Fearing the spider, they become entangled deeper and deeper in OCD’s web. In the end, Ricky asks Dr. Owl for help.
Distribution of treatment
Veronika Brezinka, who devised the game, hopes that it will help evidence-based treatments to spread beyond the university. “The game is designed to encourage affected children to confront their OCD and help psychotherapists to treat the disorder,” explains Brezinka. Much like the computer game “Treasure Hunt”, which was developed at the Center of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry three years ago, “Ricky and the Spider” is not a self-help game, but rather a professional tool and should only be used for the purposes of psychotherapeutic treatment.
Background
The computer game “Ricky and the Spider” was developed for the purposes of special consultation sessions for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Psychotherapists can order it as of December 5, 2011 at www.rickyandthespider.uzh.ch. After “Treasure Hunt” (www.treasurehunt.uzh.ch), “Ricky and the Spider” is the second computer game developed by the Center of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Zurich. “Treasure Hunt” is geared towards anxious or depressive children and has been downloaded by over 1,600 psychotherapists from 29 countries since 2008.

“Ricky and the Spider” is to be presented in Zurich on December 3 and 4 within the scope of the annual conference of the Swiss Society for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (www.zwaenge.ch). The conference will inform specialists (12/3), and sufferers and their relatives (12/4) about the latest findings and treatment approaches for OCD in adults and children.

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