What is an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) test?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It causes repeated unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions). To get rid of obsessions, people with OCD may perform certain actions over and over again (compulsions). Most people with OCD know that their compulsions don't make sense, but still can't stop doing them. Sometimes they feel these behaviors are the only way to prevent something bad from happening. Compulsions may temporarily relieve anxiety.
OCD is different than regular habits and routines. It's not unusual to brush your teeth at the same time every morning or sit in the same chair for dinner every night. With OCD, compulsive behaviors can take up several hours a day. They can get in the way of normal daily life.
OCD usually starts in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. Researchers don't know what causes OCD. But many believe genetics and/or a problem with chemicals in the brain may play a role. It often runs in families.
An OCD test can help diagnose the disorder so you can get treated. Treatment can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
Other names: OCD screening
What is it used for?
This test is used to find out if certain symptoms are being caused by OCD.
Why do I need an OCD test?
This test may be done if you or your child is having obsessive thoughts and/or showing compulsive behaviors.
Common obsessions include:
- Fear of dirt or germs
- Fear that harm will come to yourself or your loved ones
- An overwhelming need for neatness and order
- Constant worries that you've left something undone, like left the stove on or door unlocked
Common compulsions include:
- Repeated hand washing. Some people with OCD wash their hands more than 100 times a day.
- Checking and rechecking that appliances and lights are turned off
- Repeating certain actions such as sitting down and getting up from a chair
- Constantly cleaning
- Frequently checking buttons and zippers on clothing
What happens during an OCD test?
Your primary care provider may give you a physical exam and order blood tests to find out if your symptoms are being caused by certain medicines, another mental illness, or other physical disorders.
During a blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
You may be tested by a mental health provider in addition to or instead of your primary care provider. A mental health provider is a health care professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health problems.
If you are being tested by a mental health provider, he or she may ask you detailed questions about your thoughts and behaviors.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for an OCD test?
You don't need any special preparations for an OCD test.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is no risk to having a physical exam or an exam by a mental health provider.
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
What do the results mean?
Your provider may use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to help make a diagnosis. The DSM-5 (fifth edition of the DSM) is a book published by the American Psychiatric Association. It provides guidelines for diagnosing mental health conditions. The DSM-5 defines OCD as obsessions and/or compulsions that:
- Take up an hour a day or more
- Interfere with personal relationships, work, and other important parts of daily life
The guidelines also include the following symptoms and behaviors.
Symptoms of obsession include:
- Repeated unwanted thoughts
- Trouble stopping those thoughts
Compulsive behaviors include:
- Repetitive behaviors such as hand washing or counting
- Behaviors done to reduce anxiety and/or prevent something bad from happening
Treatment for OCD usually includes one or both of the following:
- Psychological counseling
Several new options for treating OCD are currently being studied. Talk to your provider to learn more, including when or if they will become available.
Is there anything else I need to know about an OCD test?
If you are diagnosed with OCD, your provider may refer you to a mental health provider for treatment. There are many types of providers who treat mental health disorders. Some specialize in OCD. The most common types of mental health providers include:
- Psychiatrist , a medical doctor who specializes in mental health. Psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental health disorders. They can also prescribe medicine.
- Psychologist , a professional trained in psychology. Psychologists generally have doctoral degrees. But they do not have medical degrees. Psychologists diagnose and treat mental health disorders. They offer one-on-one counseling and/or group therapy sessions. They can't prescribe medicine unless they have a special license. Some psychologists work with providers who are able to prescribe medicine.
- Licensed clinical social worker (L.C.S.W.) has a master's degree in social work with training in mental health. Some have additional degrees and training. L.C.S.W.s diagnose and provide counseling for a variety of mental health problems. They can't prescribe medicine but can work with providers who are able to.
- Licensed professional counselor. (L.P.C.). Most L.P.C.s have a master's degree. But training requirements vary by state. L.P.C.s diagnose and provide counseling for a variety of mental health problems. They can't prescribe medicine but can work with providers who are able to.
- Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are specially trained nurses who have a master’s or doctoral degree in psychiatric nursing. They assess, diagnose, and treat a variety of mental health disorders. Some ARPNs can prescribe medicines.
L.C.S.W.s and L.P.C.s may be known by other names, including therapist, clinician, or counselor.
To find a mental health provider who can best treat your OCD, talk to your primary care provider.
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