Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

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.

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:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2018

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

OCD is an anxiety disorder. People living with OCD are troubled by recurring unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses, as well as obsessions and repetit...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) - Beyond Blue

Obsessive compulsive disorder can lead to unhealthy patterns of behaviour that can cause difficulties in daily functioning

Read more on Beyond Blue website

OCD in children & teenagers | Raising Children Network

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. It can stop children and teenagers from enjoying life. Here’s how to help your child with OCD.

Read more on website

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Explained | THIS WAY UP

What is Obsessive Comulsive Disorder (OCD)? Understanding the signs, symptoms & treatment options available for those dealing with OCD.

Read more on This Way Up website

Obsessive compulsive disorder - family and friends - Better Health Channel

Living with a person with OCD can have a major impact on family and friends.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Obsessive compulsive disorder | Your Health in Mind

A person with OCD feels overwhelmed by unwanted thoughts, which often disgust or horrify them.

Read more on RANZCP - The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists website

Online Treatment Course for OCD | THIS WAY UP

Learn practical strategies for managing obsessive thoughts and compulsive urges with our clinically-proven online course for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Read more on This Way Up website

MindSpot OCD Course to manage obsessions and/or compulsions - MindSpot Clinic

The MindSpot OCD Course can help people manage obsessions and/or compulsions.

Read more on MindSpot Clinic website

Hoarding Disorder - WayAhead

Hoarding is a disorder that presents persistent difficulty with discarding or parting with possessions. The person who experiences hoarding disorder perceives the items to be a necessity, therefore the need to save them.

Read more on WayAhead Mental Health Association NSW website

Course Finder - MindSpot Clinic

MindSpot treatment courses can help you to better manage your anxiety, stress, worry, depression and low mood.

Read more on MindSpot Clinic website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo