How is OCD diagnosed?

If you are concerned that you have OCD, and you want to seek professional help, the first step would normally be to visit your family doctor. Your family doctor can provide an assessment and diagnosis, and help you access appropriate treatment.

If you visit a doctor to talk about OCD, they are likely to ask you direct questions about possible symptoms. For example:

  • Do you wash or clean a lot?
  • Do you check on things a lot?
  • Is there any thought that keeps bothering you that you would like to get rid of but cannot?
  • Do your daily activities take a long time to finish?
  • Are you concerned about putting things in a special order or do you find mess very upsetting?
  • Do these issues trouble you?
  • How are they affecting your everyday life?

A doctor will then consider your answers against a list of medical criteria in order to make a diagnosis. If you receive a diagnosis of OCD, it should also say how severe your OCD is; for example, if you have mild, moderate or severe OCD.

It can be extremely difficult to discuss your experiences with a doctor, particularly if you experience distressing thoughts about issues such as religion, sex or violence. However, it is important to try and talk as honestly as you can, so your family doctor can suggest the right type of help for you.

If you find it difficult talking about your OCD, you may find it useful to prepare beforehand. You could think about how you would answer the questions above and write down the answers to take with you. Then, if you start to feel embarrassed or overwhelmed when you are with your family doctor, you can refer to your notes – or even hand them to the doctor.

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