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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Test

What is an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) test?

An obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) test can help you find out if certain symptoms are caused by OCD or a physical condition. This helps to make sure you get the right treatment to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

OCD is a type of anxiety disorder. People with OCD may have obsessions, compulsions, or both:

  • Obsessions are repeated unwanted thoughts, urges, or images that can cause distress or anxiety.
  • Compulsions are behaviors that you feel like you need to do over and over to try to reduce your anxiety or stop the obsessive thoughts.

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. But with OCD, the compulsive behaviors usually take up more than an hour a day. You may be frustrated or embarrassed by your compulsive behaviors but feel unable to stop them. And if you're unable to perform the compulsive behavior, you may become more distressed. Stress may worsen these behaviors. The compulsions can take up a lot of your time, reduce your quality of life, and get in the way of your daily responsibilities.

OCD usually starts in teens or young adults but can start in childhood. The cause of OCD is unknown. However, many believe genetics, brain biology and chemistry, and your environment may play a role. It often runs in families.

An OCD test can help find out if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder so you can get treated. Treatment can reduce your symptoms and improve your 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 germs or contamination
  • 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 the door unlocked
  • Fear of losing or misplacing something
  • Fear of losing control over your behavior
  • Forbidden thoughts or images involving sex or religion
  • Aggressive thoughts toward yourself or others

Common compulsions include:

  • Repeated hand washing, often until chapped or sore
  • Checking and rechecking that appliances and lights are turned off or that the door is locked
  • Ordering or arranging items in a particular way
  • Repeating certain actions, such as sitting down and getting up from a chair
  • Constantly cleaning
  • Repeatedly checking buttons and zippers on clothing
  • Counting in a certain pattern over and over

What happens during an OCD test?

Your health 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 conditions.

If you are being tested by a mental health provider, they may ask you detailed questions about your thoughts and behaviors. You may also be asked to fill out a series of questions about these issues.

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 filling out a series of questions for 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?

To understand the results of an obsessive-compulsive disorder test, your provider will consider your symptoms, medical history, and the results of other tests.

Your symptoms would usually be considered obsessive-compulsive disorder when:

  • The thoughts or behaviors take up an hour a day or more of your day
  • You can't control your excessive thoughts and behaviors
  • The behaviors may give you some relief from anxiety, but you don't enjoy performing the behaviors
  • The thoughts and behaviors interfere with personal relationships, work, and other important parts of daily life
  • They are not caused by a substance use disorder

Treatment for OCD usually includes one or more of the following:

  • Talk therapy, also called psychotherapy or counseling.
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of talk therapy that helps you change negative thoughts or how you react to things that cause you to feel anxiety.
  • Other mental health counseling.
  • Medicines such as certain types of antidepressants.

Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.

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:

  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health disorders. Psychiatrists can prescribe medicine.
  • Psychologists are professionals trained in psychology. Psychologists may use one-on-one counseling and/or group therapy sessions. They often have doctoral degrees, but they do not have medical degrees. They can't prescribe medicine unless they have a special license. Some psychologists work with providers who can prescribe medicine.
  • Psychiatric or mental health nurses are nurses with special training in mental health disorders. Nurses who may have a master's or doctoral degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing include advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), certified nurse practitioners (CNPs), and clinical nurse specialists (CNSs). In some states, certain nurses can prescribe medicines.
  • Licensed clinical social workers have at least a master's degree in social work with special training in mental health. They can't prescribe medicine, but they may work with providers who can prescribe medicine. Providers who are licensed clinical social workers usually have LCSW or LICSW after their names.
  • Licensed professional counselors (LPC) may also be called clinicians or therapists. States have different names for these licenses, such as LMFT (licensed marriage and family therapist). These professionals usually have a master's degree in a field related to mental health. They can't prescribe medicine but may work with providers who can prescribe it.

If you don't know which type of mental health provider you should see or how to find a mental health provider who can best treat your OCD, talk to your regular health care provider.


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The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.