Animated cartoons developed to educate families about OCD

By Todd Taylor

A group of UF researchers teamed up with an animation company to create two cartoon videos for children with anxiety and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, and their families. The videos — Billy vs. Worry Monster and Billy Goes to School — were guided by data from a research study that identified themes that would be helpful for children and their parents to know before starting cognitive behavioral therapy.

“The videos will provide education about what cognitive behavioral therapy entails and how it can help,” said Joseph McNamara, Ph.D., co-director of UF’s Center for OCD, Anxiety & Related Disorders, or COARD, and the study’s principal investigator. “Our goal is that parents will have a better understanding of what cognitive behavioral therapy looks like and be reassured that it can help their child. Families can be so negatively impacted by these symptoms and their pervasive nature, and we want them to know that there is hope and that treatment can be incredibly effective.”

The videos will also serve as resources for children to feel empowered to share their experiences with their peers, said Ashley Ordway, clinical coordinator of COARD.

“Often times children feel ashamed by their symptoms our hope is that these videos can help them find their voice and feel courageous when they choose to share their experience with OCD and anxiety,” Ordway said.

The research team worked with Tiny Docs to create the videos — a Chicago-based company that creates health ‘caretoons’ to educate children and their families about surgical procedures and common health and wellness issues. Carol Mathews, M.D., director of UF COARD, and Yulia A. Strekalova, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in UF’s College of Journalism and Communications, served as co-principal investigators on the project.

“The hope is that these cartoons will educate families about OCD and other anxiety disorders and help destigmatize them,” said McNamara. “We’re also hopeful that other mental health providers will find these videos useful for their patients and families.”