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Diagnosing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is diagnosed based on a clinical assessment performed by a mental health professional, usually a psychologist or psychiatrist.  This assessment includes an interview with the patient and a review of any previous assessments in their medical records, and can also include an interview with the patient's family members or close friends.  The goal of this assessment is to determine whether the patient meets the clinical criteria for OCD based on the reports that they or their family members and friends provide. 

There are no laboratory tests or imaging tests (such as CT scans or MRI scans) that can help make a diagnosis of OCD. However, these sorts of tests are often important in order to rule-out any other general medical conditions that may be associated with the condition.

Sometimes, clinicians may use scales and questionnaires to help identify patients with OCD and to document the severity of their patient's symptoms.   The most widely used scale is the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS), which is scored based on a 20 minute interview performed by a clinician and is normally used to rate the severity and change over time in the obsessive and compulsive symptoms of individuals already diagnosed with OCD.

OCD should not be confused with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), which is a different condition altogether. OCPD describes people with very rigid, perfectionistic personalities who require orderliness and the feeling of being in control in every situation. People with OCPD tend not see their obsessiveness as being a problem, and certainly their desires for order and perfection are not experienced as intrusive or unwanted (ie. ego-dystonic), as is the case with OCD. The Leyton Obsessional Inventory (LOI) is a self-report questionnaire that can help to distinguishing people with OCD from those with OCPD [ref].

 

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Symptoms & Definition

Causes