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Diagnosis of OCD

2-minute read

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.

Diagnostic criteria for obsessions include:

  • recurrent, persistent, intrusive thoughts and ideas that cause distress and anguish, and thoughts that are unreasonable and excessive and which cannot be ignored.

Diagnostic criteria for compulsions include:

  • rituals and patterns of behaviour that take up considerable time
  • repetitive physical or mental acts, such as silent counting or hand washing 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:

Last reviewed: January 2017

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