Living with obsessive‑compulsive disorder (OCD) : a South African narrative

Kohler, Kirsten Celeste ; Coetzee, Bronwyne Joosean ; Lochner, Christine (2018)

CITATION: Kohler, K. C., Coetzee, B. J. & Lochner, C. 2018. Living with obsessive‑compulsive disorder (OCD) : a South African narrative. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 12:73, doi:10.1186/s13033-018-0253-8.

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Background: Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is a highly prevalent and debilitating psychiatric disorder known to interfere with several life domains. Yet little is known about the subjective experiences of living with OCD amongst South Africans and more so, the ways in which it impacts daily functioning and quality of life (QOL). Methods: The aim of this study was to explore daily functioning and QOL among South African adults living with OCD. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 adults with a primary diagnosis of OCD. We used ATLAS.ti v7 to analyse the data, thematically. The study was conducted at the SU/UCT MRC Unit on Risk and Resilience in Mental Disorders in South Africa. Results: Three key themes were identified namely, (1) realisation of OCD, (2) disruptions to daily life and (3) managing the disruptions to daily life. Participants recounted their earliest recollections of OCD, the instances when they recognised something was wrong and ways in which they came to terms with their OCD. Disruptions to daily life included poor sleep quality, inability to enjoy leisure activities which impacted on socialisation and impairment in school/work performance. Perceived social support from family members, friends and colleagues were invaluable to helping participants manage these disruptions. Further, strategies such as self-talk, diary-keeping and humour helped them cope. Conclusion: While some individuals with OCD have found ways to cope with and accept having OCD, all participants perceived their QOL to be significantly reduced and their functioning impaired due to the condition, on multiple levels. The importance of acceptance in OCD ties in with research on the potential value of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which could form an adjunct to more conventional techniques such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy. The themes emanating from this study can be used to help clinicians better understand what treatment works best for patients with OCD—and whether this treatment be focused on the individual or together with close members of their microsystem, such as spouses/partners. Further these findings may potentially help to improve access, affordability and the quality of life of South Africans living with OCD from various income backgrounds.

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