OCD Diagnosis: Tests, Screening, Criteria

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)—a psychiatric disorder characterized by obsessive, distressful thoughts and compulsive ritualistic behaviors—can be diagnosed by either a primary care provider or mental health professional.

Like most mental health conditions, there is no blood test or imaging study to confirm a diagnosis. However, decades of research have gone into many mental health conditions, and mental health professionals have acquired a lot of information so they can diagnose your condition as accurately as possible. 

An anxious senior woman sitting outdoors on a park bench while rubbing her index finger.

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At-Home Testing

In general, it’s not possible—or reasonable—to self-diagnose yourself. However, some online quizzes might offer you insight into the possibility of having OCD.

The current gold standard for diagnosing OCD is a questionnaire used by mental health professionals called the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS). 

The Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS)

The Y-BOCS asks about:

  • The interference and distress obsessive thoughts and compulsions cause in your life.
  • Your level of control over obsessions and compulsions.

You can find a version of this questionnaire from the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation.

If you have an appointment scheduled, it may be beneficial to print this out, answer the questions, and show it to your health care provider.

While the Y-BOCS questionnaire is the gold standard, it is also quite in-depth and can seem overwhelming.

If you’re looking for a more straightforward online quiz, you might consider the one found on PsychCentral. The PsychCentral questions focus more on symptoms and less on severity. While this quiz may indicate you have OCD, it does not cover your OCD symptoms’ severity.

Please remember both these tools are simply that—tools. Only a trained medical professional can give you an official diagnosis and offer you treatment options. 

Professional Screenings

There are many ways you can go about seeking help and relief from obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Most people will start with their primary care provider, others may start by seeing a psychologist or other mental health professional. Neither way is wrong. 

Prescribing Physicians

It’s important to note that while psychologists and non-MD therapists are an excellent resource for those with OCD, they cannot prescribe any medications.

When you see your primary care provider or mental health professional, they will often ask why you think you may have OCD. They’ll be interested in learning what behaviors are causing you concern at this time.

Some questions you can expect to have your doctor ask—or fill out on a questionnaire—include:

  • How long have these behaviors been going on?
  • Do you do have these thoughts or do these behaviors all the time or only on occasion?
  • Is there anything you avoid because you are self-conscious of your behavior or because the thoughts are distressing?
  • On an average day, how much time do you spend thinking about or acting on your specific symptom?
  • Is there anything that makes your symptoms worse?

Diagnostic Testing

While there is no blood test doctors use to check for OCD specifically, your health care provider might request lab work to ensure there isn’t an underlying medical issue that might be contributing to your symptoms or interfere with treatment.

Many times they’ll want to check your thyroid function, a complete blood count (CBC), and metabolic functions. 

Consider a Differential Diagnosis

OCD can be difficult to diagnose and your provider will go through all the possible options that can also present similarly to OCD. Other diagnosies that might overlap include:

  • Other anxiety disorders
  • TIC disorder or Tourette’s syndrome
  • Mood disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Eating disorders

Each of these disorders has its own criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5)—the book all mental health professionals use as a guide for diagnosing conditions.

The good thing to remember is any of these diagnoses are treatable. They can be challenging to live with, but specialists have learned a lot about OCD and the other mental health conditions mentioned above over the last few decades.

We now have multiple ways to treat each condition. If one method isn’t working for you, let your provider know until you find the right treatment option for you.

A Word From VeryWell

While living with OCD can be stressful, it feels more stressful to seek help for many. Many times people are afraid of being judged, ignored, under, or over-treated.

Your provider is focused on helping people through arduous, scary, and overwhelming moments in life. They don’t go into their chosen profession to judge or shame people, which is just one reason why you shouldn’t be afraid to hide alarming thoughts from them. They have the tools and resources to help you.