Health Information

Diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

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If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), your obsessive and compulsive behaviors are extreme enough to interfere with your everyday life. This is not the same as the "compulsive" behavior many people normally display, such as high standards of performance, perfectionism, and organization in work and recreational activities. Normal "compulsiveness" often serves a valuable purpose, contributing to a person's self-esteem and success on the job. OCD, on the other hand, involves obsessions and rituals that are very distressing and interfere with daily functioning.

Diagnosis of OCD is usually based on the following:

Initial Assessment

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. This may be done with a structured interview and/or questionnaire. You may also be given a psychological assessment. OCD may be diagnosed if the specified symptoms consume at least one hour each day and/or result in both emotional distress and disturbed functioning, but are not caused by medication, drug abuse, or a medical condition . You usually know that the behaviors are excessive or unreasonable. When you have OCD, the symptoms are disruptive enough to cause problems at school, work, and/or in family and peer relationships.

Evaluation of Other Mental and Neurologic Disorders

Other psychiatric disorders, such as depression , generalized anxiety disorder , Tourette syndrome (a neurologic disorder), eating disorders (such as anorexia and bulimia ), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) , and personality disorders often occur with OCD. You may be tested for these and other psychiatric disorders.

Revision Information

  • Foa EB, Grayson JB, Steketee GS, et al. Success and failure in the behavioral treatment of obsessive-compulsives. J Consult Clin Psychol . 1983;51:287-297.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Anxiety Disorders Association of America website. Available at: http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/symptoms . Accessed September 9, 2008.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml . Updated April 2008. Accessed September 9, 2008.