Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I have been meaning to write this letter for a few months. During the summer you printed a letter from a mother about her daughter’s behavior (8-24-2018). The writer wanted to know whether it was natural to hate her child. She went on to explain that her 12 year old had a “vile temper” and “evil disposition. She also noted that “until five months ago, she was my best child… she was an excellent student, respectful, obedient, helpful, with a sunny personality.” That got my attention, as did the line that she went to sleep one night like an angel and awoke in the morning like a “possessed demon.”

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Mrs. Bluth, this sounds exactly like P.A.N.D.A.S or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus. Often, children who are happy and functioning normally, will wake up like a child possessed and the family is left in a state of confusion.

In some cases, what has happened is that the child has strep, which in these cases mimics what we know to be symptoms of a major mental illness. The situation is made worse by the child being put on psychotropic medications that induce a zombie-like state.

P.A.N.D.A.S is not a mental illness. It is somewhat more physiologically based and, sometimes, all that is needed is a protocol of long-term antibiotics to kill the strep along with high doses of the right type of probiotics to keep the child’s system balanced. There may also be a necessity for medication to keep the child’s mood stable.

Sadly, instead, some children have been institutionalized based on a misdiagnosis.

P.A.N.D.A.S symptoms include:

  1. The sudden onset of uncontrollable emotions – screaming, rocking back and forth, violent temper tantrums, crying jags, door slamming, and throwing things
  2. Tics
  3. Anxiety
  4. Poor academic performance and/or change in handwriting
  5. OCD like symptoms
  6. Eating disorders
  7. Heightened sensory sensitivity
  8. Aversion to cleanliness and personal hygiene
  9. Fearfulness
  10. Night Terrors
  11. Humming noises.

These are just a few of many other symptoms, and the intensity may vary from child to child.

On occasion, when a child has strep, the anti-bodies created by the body do not attack the virus, they simple cross the blood-brain barrier and invade the brain, causing an upheaval in the way it functions. It is really heart-wrenching, and something I experienced with my own child.

When my child was first afflicted at age 11, there was almost no knowledge of this condition and my pediatrician didn’t want to believe it. Today, however, there are ways to test for the conditions and resources we can take advantage of.

A blood test can be done for ASO Titers and an Anti-DNase B. These two tests measure the antibodies the body’s immune system produces to fight the strep bacteria. A titer is a measure of the concentration of antibodies in the blood. An elevated count is an indication of strep.

The following three resources will shed a world of light on dealing with P.A.N.D.A.S.

  1. The film “My Child Is Not Crazy”
  2. Saving Sammy, a book by Beth Maloney
  3. Childhood Interrupted, a follow up book by Beth Maloney that offers definitions, support networks and how to deal with doctors and medical professionals.

As an aside, there is also something called P.A.N.S. or Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome. What doctors are discovering is that the “illness” can be from other things like chickenpox, the flu or Lyme disease.

As parents we try to do the right thing for our children and grope in the dark for answers. With Hashem’s help, we do what we can.

It is heartbreaking to hear a mother say she abhors her daughter. I can understand hating the behavior, but never the child herself! She doesn’t do it on purpose.

I hope this letter helps families even just a bit and that there is a refuah for the family that wrote in.

Ora Frid

Dear Friend,

Since that letter appeared in August, I have received a number of letters from other people who were going through the same experience with their children and were looking for sources of understanding and help. So when I received your letter filled with in depth information and compassion, I chose to revisit the issue and share it with those in need.

Although what you put forth sounds well researched, I know that, like with all illnesses, there are variances and differences from patient to patient. My advice to anyone experiencing this type of situation is to speak with a trusted medical professional in conjunction with your own research and due diligence. Understanding what you are dealing with is half the battle.

Never give up hope because a cure already exists for every ailment known to mankind, and for those yet to manifest themselves. Hakodosh Boruch Hu will be our strength and out Healer, if only we turn to Him along with our own efforts to find a cure.

Thank you, good friend, for your sharing your journey into the unknown with us, I am certain you have put a number of frightened, confused and saddened parents at ease and set them on the path of hope and healing.

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