How Do You Test For OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (commonly abbreviated to OCD) is a behavioral disorder affecting at three-quarters of a million people in the UK at any one time. However, this number is likely a severe underestimation given that many people go their entire lives without seeking a diagnosis for OCD, let alone treatment. In addition the impact is even greater when you consider that those suffering from OCD generally include at least one loved one in their compulsions. 

Fortunately, though, there have been significant advancements in our understanding of this once-incurable disease. 

Today, there are extensive and accurate diagnostic tools to help test for OCD. But it’s not as straightforward as you might think. 

What is OCD? Definition and Symptoms 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)— the “gold standard” for diagnosing mental illnesses — classifies OCD as a chronic anxiety disorder. It characterizes OCD by two overarching symptoms: 

  1. Obsessions — these are recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or impulses, which are generally intrusive and unwanted. These obsessive thoughts often engender a great deal of anxiety and distress and make it difficult to focus on anything else. Hence, an individual will attempt to suppress and neutralize such thoughts with other thoughts or actions. 
  2. Compulsions — these are repetitive, borderline ritualistic behaviors an individual feels driven to perform in response to obsessive thoughts. These compulsive behaviors provide temporary relief from distressing thoughts. In reality, though, they only perpetuate the cycle of OCD. 

While obsessions and compulsions usually co-occur, a person with OCD can experience one or the other. 

The defining factor that differentiates normal obsessions and compulsions is the severity and everlasting nature of these symptoms. Obsessions and compulsions are a part of human nature, but most people can cast them aside as one-off occurrences. 

However, someone with OCD is physically and mentally unable to dismiss these obsessions and compulsions. That being said, though, OCD is a spectrum; some people are completely impaired by it, while others learn to mask their symptoms. 

Furthermore, OCD is typically comorbid with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, addiction, and eating and sleeping disorders. 

What are the Types of OCD? 

The symptoms of OCD are generally categorized as obsessions and compulsions. Interestingly, though, these obsessions and compulsions can take different forms for different people. In other words, different OCD patients can obsess over different things and perform unique compulsive behaviors. 

Hence, OCD is a very case-specific disorder, manifesting in infinite ways. 

Accordingly, different subtypes of OCD demarcate the subject matter of one’s obsessions and compulsions. 

Typically, people cite four broad categories of OCD: 

  1. Contamination and washing OCD
  2. Checking OCD
  3. Symmetry OCD
  4. Taboo thoughts OCD

However, countless other subtypes of OCD exist, including: 

  • Relationship OCD
  • Hoarding OCD
  • Sensorimotor/ somatic OCD
  • Religious OCD
  • Sexual orientation OCD
  • Pure OCD
  • Rumination OCD

This list is by no means exhaustive. 

Side note: it is extremely common to experience different subtypes of OCD simultaneously. 

Is There a Test For OCD?

When we suffer from physical ailments, doctors will typically draw some blood samples or run some scans. From these tests, they’ll be able to trace the cause of your sickness and diagnose it accordingly. 

However, OCD has no traceable, definite cause. 

While experts have a few theories brewing, they have yet to identify the cause of OCD. Furthermore, everyone’s experience with OCD is different; there is no unanimous list of symptoms you can check off like a test. 

Of course, some online OCD tests can help you decide whether you should pursue professional help. But that’s the thing; at the end of the day, only a trained professional can properly and accurately diagnose OCD. 

How is OCD Diagnosed?

The diagnosis process for OCD is long and complex. Unfortunately, there is no blood test, brain scan, or universal questionnaire to help test you for or diagnose OCD. 

Instead, diagnosing OCD involves multiple sessions with your therapist, who will conduct systematic “interviews.” Throughout these sessions, your therapist will ask you several questions to determine the nature and extent of your obsessions and compulsions. 

Moreover, these questions are based on the OCD criteria outlined by the DSM 5— the most comprehensive mental health diagnosis manual. 

By engaging with you in these elaborate interviews, your therapist hopes to achieve the following: 

  • Identify your specific obsessions or “subtype” of OCD. Since OCD obsessions are case-specific and unique, it is entirely possible that your obsessions don’t adhere to any predefined category.
  • Identify your compulsive or ritualistic behaviors, which are also case-specific and unique. Such behaviors temporarily soothe the emotional turmoil of your obsessions. Hence, what may be soothing for someone else with OCD may not be soothing for you. 
  • Measure the severity of your obsessions through concrete questions. Your obsessions will make you do things like extensively research the topic or talk about it 24/7. Hence, your therapist will try to gauge how much you engage in these obsessive thoughts. 
  • Measure the severity of your compulsions. In other words, how much do your compulsions and urges disrupt your day-to-day-life? 

As you can see, diagnosing OCD is no easy or straightforward task for any involved party. Hence, only a trained therapist can properly diagnose OCD. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about testing for OCD. 

How do doctors test you for OCD? 

Your therapist will diagnose you with OCD after multiple sessions involving long, structured “interviews.” These interviews involve questions that help your therapist identify your OCD subtype, the compulsions you perform, and the severity of your obsessions and compulsions. 

Is there a test for OCD?

There is no universal test for OCD diagnosis. OCD is a case-specific disorder, meaning that everyone experiences OCD differently. 

Hence, a standard test can not accurately diagnose or detect OCD. 

Can a blood test detect OCD? 

Blood tests can not detect OCD since OCD does not affect your physiological condition. Furthermore, even though OCD is a mental disorder, a brain scan is equally incapable of detecting OCD. 


Despite great advancements in the medical field, there is no straightforward or universal test for OCD. 

While online OCD tests can give you a push in the right direction, the only way to get a proper diagnosis is through a mental health professional. 

Admittedly, the process of OCD diagnosis can be long, tedious, and exhausting. But it’s all worth it. Once you get medically diagnosed with OCD, you can finally start your journey toward recovery.