Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Diagnosis

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Diagnosis

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV-TR (American Psychiatric Association, 2000)to meet the criteria for obsessive compulsive disorder diagnosis, the following must be true:

The person must have obsessions or compulsions (generally is it is now accepted that OCD always consists of both).


  • Obsessions are defined as recurrent persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced as intrusive and inappropriate and cause marked anxiety or distress.
  • They are not simply excessive worries about real life problems. The anxiety cannot be about bills or a real illness or job stress which are not necessarily intrusive or inappropriate.
  • The person attempts to ignore or suppress thoughts impulses or images or to neutralize them. In order for obsessive compulsive disorder diagnosis to be made the person must be actively trying to avoid experiencing their anxiety.
  • The person must recognize they are a product of his mind.

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  • Compulsions are defined by repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rigid rules. People with OCD engage in the compulsion because of the obsession.
  • The behaviors or acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing a dreaded event or situation. They are not really connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to assist with or prevent or they are excessive. For example the person with OCD may feel that if they recite the alphabet three times every ten minutes, their spouse will not get in a car accident. People with the obsessive compulsive disorder diagnosis do not check the stove once to ensure they don’t burn the house down. This would be a normal thing to do and is related to the fear and not obsessive.
  • The person has to recognize that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable (not if it’s a child).
  • Additionally to make this diagnosis ,the obsessions or compulsions must cause distress, are time consuming or significantly interfere with the persons routine functioning or activities and relationships. A person with and OCD diagnosis is not functioning well across all domains of their life. Their behavior is interfering in their happiness or success in some way.
  • In order to have obsessive compulsive disorder diagnoses, the person’s obsessions or compulsions cannot be better explained by another disorder. For example, a child may have a lot of anxiety about separating from their parent. That child may likely have separation anxiety even though it may have the component of obsessions or compulsions.
  • The obsessions and compulsions are not due to substance abuse or a medical condition.
  • American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000. Leave obsessive compulsive disorder diagnosis for signs of OCD

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