When a physician suspects that a patient has obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD, he or she will want to perform a series of diagnostic evaluation tests in order to confirm the diagnosis. These tests will include a physical examination and routine laboratory tests to rule out the possibility of another medical condition that could have caused the symptoms associated with OCD. A psychological evaluation will also be done in an attempt to determine whether or not another form of mental illness could be the underlying cause of the patient's symptoms.

Physical Examination and Laboratory Tests

When evaluating a patient in order to determine whether or not they have OCD, the patient's medical history will be examined and particular attention will be paid to any history of OCD or other mental illness that may have affected another family member.

A routine physical examination will be done checking all the patient's vital signs, heart, lungs, and abdominal in an attempt to determine any other medical conditions that may be caused by the symptoms of OCD or whether there is some other unrelated medical issue that could be causing the patient's symptoms.

Routine blood tests will be ordered that will include a CBC or complete blood count, the blood will be checked for the presence of alcohol or drugs, and a sample of blood will be tested for any indication of a thyroid problem.

Psychological Evaluation

A psychological evaluation will also be performed by the primary care physician or mental health care professional who will inquire about the patient's symptoms, thoughts and behavioral patterns. The patient will be asked when their symptoms began and about the severity and frequency of their symptoms including how well they are managing them in their everyday life.

The psychological evaluation will also include questions about whether or not the patient has had any suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harm others. Family or friends may also be asked to participate in the evaluation to discuss any signs or symptoms that they have witnessed or are concerned about.

Diagnostic Criteria

In order for a diagnosis of OCD to be made, the patient must have a specific range of symptoms as outlined in the “DSM” or “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”. These include the general symptoms of persistent irrational or unrealistic thoughts that lead to repetitive compulsive behaviors.

The patient must also express the ability to control or suppress these thoughts and have the realization that these thoughts, images, or impulses are created by their own mind. It must also be ruled out that these thoughts are not caused by real issues that are simply causing the individual to worry excessively.

The patient must also meet the criteria for having compulsions that cause them to engage in ritualistic or repetitive behaviors in order to alleviate their obsessive thoughts. These include repetitive acts or rituals such as excessively washing their hands, counting over and over again, or other mental or physical repetitive acts that are performed in order to relieve the anxiety from their obsessive thoughts.

Diagnosing an obsessive-compulsive disorder can sometimes be challenging as the symptoms can often mimic other mental illnesses including “GAD” or “generalized anxiety disorder”, schizophrenia, and depression, however, it is essential that an accurate diagnosis be made in order to receive the proper form of treatment.