Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental illness that is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead you to perform repetitive behaviors. Usually, OCD will be centered around certain specific themes, such as a fear of germs or hoarding.
OCD is a fairly common disorder, affecting as many as 1 in 100 people in the United States. Additionally, this disease does not discriminate between, age, race, or gender, as it affects men, women, and children of all racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds at an equal rate. Although there is no cure for OCD, patients are able to experience much improvement through medications and behavior therapies. Therefore, if you suspect that you or someone you know might be affected by OCD, diagnosis is the first step to figuring out a treatment plan.
In order to diagnose obsessive-compulsive disorder, your doctor will likely perform the following exams:
- Physical exam: In order to rule out other conditions that might be causing your symptoms, a physical exam is usually performed before anything else.
- Lab tests: Lab tests are done in order to check things such as your complete blood count, your drug and alcohol levels, and to assess your thyroid function.
- Psychological exam: Finally, a doctor or mental health care provider will discuss with you your thoughts, feelings, symptoms, and behavior patterns. They also may want to speak with someone who spends a lot of time with you, such as a spouse or family member, in order to get the most accurate picture of your symptoms.
It can be difficult to diagnose OCD because it closely resembles other conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Therefore, doctors must stick to strict criteria in order to give you the correct diagnosis and treatment for your condition.
To be officially diagnosed with OCD, you must meet specific criteria laid out by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
An obsession is defined in the manual as being a recurrent, persistent, unwelcome thought, impulse, or image that is intrusive and causes distress. Also, obsessions are attempted to be ignored or suppressed through the compulsions.
According to the DSM-5, a compulsion is characterized as a repetitive behavior that you feel driven to perform. An example would be excessively washing your hands or silently counting things. They are usually done in an attempt to neutralize your obsessions. Even though compulsions are meant to reduce or prevent your distress, they end up being excessive and are not realistically related to the problem they are trying to resolve.
The general criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder includes:
- Having either obsessions, compulsions, or both
- Likely not realizing that your obsessions and compulsions are excessive or unreasonable
- Obsessions and compulsions are interfering with your daily life both socially and in the work place.
Even though there is no definitive test to confirm OCD, if your symptoms are consistent with these criteria, then you will be successfully diagnosed. Once diagnosis is achieved, treatment is able to begin.