The nature and treatment of compulsions, obsessions, and rituals in people with developmental disabilities

Johnny L. Matson, Department of Psychology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA.
Timothy Dempsey


Developmental disabilities such as intellectual disability and autism are often accompanied by special sets of behaviors which are major challenges for the person and those in their community. Among the most worrisome of these are compulsions, rituals and obsessions. Often these behaviors are left untreated; however, when intervention does occur it is often with pharmacotherapy. There are psychological treatments for these issues as well but a concerted focus to develop these procedures, unlike efforts in differential diagnosis, has not occurred. Additionally, no reviews of how best to treat these problematic behaviors have been published to date. The present paper reviews what is available with respect to these treatment approaches with an eye to what appears to be effective, what has been treated and what is yet to be explored from a research point of view.