Assessment and Diagnosis
It is common for people with OCD and related disorders such as BDD to experience shame and to hide their symptoms. However difficult it feels to tell other people, you should remember that hiding the symptoms will not help you cope with OCD and there are many ways to get help.
For most people with OCD and related disorders professional help will be needed at some time. If you think you need professional treatment, your general practitioner (GP) is usually the best place to start. Alternatively some people with OCD seek private treatment.
While not all GPs are aware of OCD, BDD and related disorders, your GP will have an understanding of psychological disorders and is there to help you. OCD Action has a special GP information card which you can take with you. This card is available to download on the OCD Action website (www.ocdaction.org.uk/support-info/gp-card) or via the Charity’s helpline on 0845 390 6232.
All the information that you tell your GP is confidential and cannot be shared without your permission. If you are worried about seeing your GP, you could take a friend along with you.
If your GP suspects that you may have OCD, they should refer you to a mental health professional for an assessment. This assessment may be carried out by a mental health nurse, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other qualified mental health expert. As part of the assessment process you will be asked a number of questions. Some of these do not relate to OCD but focus on the symptoms of a range of other mental health problems.
It is very important not to feel scared or embarrassed by the assessment process, and to give a full and honest account of the problems that you are having. This helps ensure that the assessment is accurate and that you get the treatment that you need.
These questions that you may be asked include (but are not limited to): For OCD
- Do you wash or clean a lot?
- Do you check things a lot?
- Is there any thought that keeps bothering you that you'd like to get rid of but can't?
- Do your activities take a long time to finish?
- Are you concerned about putting things in a special order?
- Are you very upset by mess?
- Do these problems trouble you?
- Do you worry a lot about the way you look and wish you could think about it less?
- What specific concerns do you have about your appearance?
- On a typical day, how many hours do you worry about your appearance?
- What effect does it have on your life?
- Does it make it hard to do your work or be with friends?
You may also be asked if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts. They will also want to ask about the development of your symptoms and if there are emotional links to any childhood experiences.
One of the main things that professionals consider in diagnosing OCD or a related disorder is how your symptoms affect your life. They will especially consider how long rituals take, how often thoughts occur and how bad they make you feel, the extent of any avoidance behaviour and ultimately, how much your OCD is stopping you live the life that you want to live.
It is important to remember that many people feel that they have some “OCD like” symptoms or behaviour. Perhaps they double check the door at night or get upset if things are not in a specific order. If this behaviour is not having any noticeable impact on their life, if they are not finding it intolerable, then a health professional is unlikely to diagnose them as having OCD.
If, following the assessment process you receive a diagnosis of OCD, you should then be referred for treatment. This usually means working with a psychiatrist, psychologist or a nurse therapist. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) with Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and/or medication may be prescribed. Remember, OCD Action can provide you with more information about your treatment options and how to get help.