Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders

What are Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders?

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.

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 constantfocus 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 it is a minor flaw.

Hoarding Disorder: Serious problems getting rid of or parting with possessions regardless of their actual value. The child or youth is veryupset 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

Substance/Medication-Induced Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorder: Symptoms that are due to a medication or to substance use or withdrawal

Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorder to Another Medical Condition: Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive and related disorders that are the result of a medical disorder

Other Specified Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorder & Unspecified Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorder:  Symptoms that do not meet the criteria for a specific OC and related disorder or if there is not enough information for a diagnosis. 

How do I know it's Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders?

An obsession is a persistent and unwanted thought, urge, or image that usually causes anxiety or distress. The child or youth will try to ignore or suppress the thought, urge, or image or to reduce its effect with some other thought or action (by performing a compulsion)

Compulsions are behaviours or mental acts that are repeated again and again in a specific way. Examples include repetitive hand washing, ordering, checking, praying, counting, and repeating words silently.

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.  

What can go along with OCD?

People with OCD tend to also have other mental health challenges, like

OCD usually affects males more in childhood and females in adulthood. When OCD starts in childhood or adolescence, it may be difficult for the person to socialize or live independently. They may have trouble succeeding at school or at work and may rely on their family more for social interactions and for financial help as they get older. 

What can be done?

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

Sometimes CBT and medication are used 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.


Where to from here?

Talk to your doctor and look for help from a mental health professional by:

For more information about options for support and treatment in BC, visit the Finding Help section of our site.

Below you will find some key resources. A full list of resources are on the right hand side bar. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Quick Reference Sheet
A list of the top websites, books, videos, toolkits and support services.

OCD In Kids (International OCD Foundation)
This US-based site provides information on OCD in children and teens, including articles by experts in the field, brochures, fact sheets, videos, and suggested reading. There are sections for parents and for kids.

BC Children's Hospital

This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.

Provincial Health Services Authority

Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is one of six health authorities – the other five health authorities serve geographic regions of BC.

Ministry of Health

British Columbia Ministry of Health

RBC Children's Mental Health Project

RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.

BC Children's Hospital Foundation

Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.