Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms can feel embarrassing or shameful. For this reason, OCD can go undiagnosed for much too long, during which time compulsive behaviour can become ingrained and damaging. This may mean adults become housebound or children cannot attend school.
If you or someone you know has obsessions or compulsions that are unreasonable and impact on daily life, don’t delay going to visit a doctor.
There is no single ‘test’ for OCD, but a health professional can make a diagnosis based on an assessment of the person’s behaviours, thoughts and feelings.
To be diagnosed as having obsessions, you must have:
- recurrent, persistent, intrusive thoughts and ideas that cause distress and anguish, and thoughts that are unreasonable and excessive and which cannot be ignored.
To be diagnosed as having compulsions, you must have:
- rituals and patterns of behaviour that take up considerable time
- repetitive physical or mental acts, such as silent counting or handwashing behaviours, or rituals performed to ease anxiety about unrealistic obsessions
Diagnosis can sometimes take time. Health professionals need to distinguish between other similar mental health issues such as depression, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. Beginning the assessment process is a positive step towards recovery.
Where to get help
If you are experiencing symptoms of OCD, talk to your doctor. Or you can contact one of the services below to speak with someone urgently or chat online:
- Kids Helpline (telephone and online counselling for ages 5-25) - call 1800 55 1800.
- Mensline Australia (online counselling and forum for men) - call 1300 78 99 78.
- Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) – call 13 11 14.
- Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) - call 1300 659 467.
Last reviewed: December 2018