OCD: Making the diagnosis
A physician or psychiatrist can diagnose OCD on the basis of an assessment that includes:
- asking questions about obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours
- assessing the extent to which obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours are affecting a person’s life and relationships
- checking for symptoms of other forms of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and phobias
Devices that study patterns of brain waves, called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners and positron emission tomography (PET) scanners, help researchers study the brains of people with OCD. Recent research suggests that people with OCD have patterns of brain waves that differ from those without the disorder. However, these scanners are not standard diagnostic tests for OCD. A diagnosis can usually be made based on a physician’s assessment.
Are you concerned that you might have OCD? Use the following list to check:
- I have upsetting thoughts or images that enter my mind repeatedly.
- I feel as if I can’t stop these thoughts or images, even though I want to.
- I have difficulty stopping myself from doing things again and again, such as counting, checking on things, washing my hands, doing things until they seem perfect or collecting objects.
- I worry a lot about things that could happen to me or my loved ones.
If you answer "yes" to some of the statements above, you may have OCD. Because the symptoms of OCD rarely disappear without treatment, you should contact your family doctor if you have obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviours that are interfering with your life. A family doctor can refer you to a psychiatrist for appropriate and effective treatment.
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