Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is made up of two different parts: obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, ideas or urges that are distressing. They may seem very strange or have to do with things you wouldn’t normally think about doing. You can’t control obsessions and they cause a lot of anxiety.

Compulsions are things that you keep doing to lessen feelings of anxiety. For example, if a child or youth has obsessions about getting very sick, they might wash their hands a lot. Compulsions take up a lot of time and affect the way you live.

The purpose of the repetitive behaviour or mental act is to prevent or reduce the anxiety or distress or to prevent a feared event or situation. But, these behaviours or mental acts are clearly excessive and aren’t really connected to the obsession they are trying to reduce or prevent.

Most people with OCD have both obsessions and compulsions. The disorder can take up a lot of their time and interfere with their social, school, or work lives. A child or youth doesn’t always know that their OCD beliefs are untrue. Some are convinced that their beliefs are true. This insight or lack of insight can change over time. Poor insight can make it difficult to treat OCD successfully.

A child or youth may avoid things or situations that trigger obsessions or compulsions. Those living with OCD may not see that their obsessions or compulsions are unreasonable.

Types of disorders related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder: An over concern with one or more defects or flaws in your appearance and a constant focus on it or trying to fix it. A child or youth might constantly compare their appearance to others or spend too much time looking in the mirror or grooming. Others cannot see the defect or think of it as a minor flaw.
  • Hoarding Disorder: Serious problems getting rid of or parting with possessions regardless of their actual value. The child or youth is very upset with the idea of discarding possessions.
  • Trichotillomania (Hair-Pulling Disorder): Pulling out hair causing hair loss in spite of repeated attempts to decrease or stop
  • Excoriation (Skin-Picking) Disorder: Picking at skin causing skin lesions in spite of repeated attempts to decrease or stop
OCD Treatment Cape Town | Dr Kerryn Armstrong

The most common and effective types of treatment for Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders are:

1. Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on the way we think, feel and behave. It teaches the child or youth how to:

  • relax

  • identify anxious thoughts and behaviours

  • challenge those thoughts and behaviours

  • slowly change their behaviour

2. Medications such as antidepressants

Dr. Kerryn Armstrong will sometimes use CBT and medication together. These treatments do not cure OCD or related disorders, but they do help in managing the symptoms. Some people also find one on one or group therapy counselling sessions useful.