Insights Into Identifying OCD

Posted by Phil Cardenas on Aug 27, 2013

Too often Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is used as a catch-all diagnosis when the problem is something completely different. Misdiagnosing OCD can have serious consequences when a treatable problem is overlooked.

OCD is a neurobiological disorder characterized by obsessions and compulsions that take up at least an hour a day and cause significant distress to the person suffering from OCD. Taken separately, obsessions and compulsions can be symptoms of other disorders, and those disorders often do not include distress or remorse. They can include behavior that is self-destructive such as compulsive gambling, or even behavior that threatens harm to others. They can be serious problems, but they are not OCD.

The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) evaluated ongoing research and refined its definition of and diagnostic criteria for OCD. Besides being time-consuming or causing clinically significant distress or impairment, the DSM requires that the symptoms are not better explained by another of several recognized disorders such as hoarding, eating disorders, autism spectrum disorders, or other psychological illnesses.

The only way to know with any certainty that you or a loved one has OCD is with a thorough screening by a professional qualified in diagnosing OCD. It is important to note that not all psychological professionals are qualified to diagnose OCD, any more than all physicians can diagnose every medical condition.

Beyond OCD is a non-profit organization dedicated to better understanding, diagnosis and treatment of OCD. If you suspect you or a loved one may have OCD, we offer a Self-Screening Test on our website. The test is self-administered and all information is strictly confidential. Your results will not be recorded by Beyond OCD.

It’s important to stress that while the OCD Self-Screening Test can give you insights into your thoughts and behaviors, only a qualified mental health professional can conduct an appropriate evaluation and make an accurate diagnosis. We offer this self-test as a first step to better understand OCD.

Just as the DSM-5 offers improved methods for diagnosing OCD, the understanding and treatment of OCD is growing rapidly with evolving treatments such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Cognitive Therapy, and Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP). Metacognitive Therapy (MCT) is a therapy that focuses on changing perception and reaction to intrusive thoughts and behavior.  Preliminary studies are encouraging, but additional research must be conducted to support it as an effective treatment for OCD. Because these therapies are constantly evolving, it is important to find a therapist who is trained in their application and current on the latest developments. 

One in 40 U. S. adults has OCD. If you learn that you or a loved one is suffering from OCD, we want you to know that you’re not alone. Beyond OCD is committed to offering the latest information on the disorder and carefully chosen sources for treatment. To learn more about OCD and its treatment, visit our web site at It’s there to help you get the information you need to go beyond OCD.


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