Over the years, mental help resources are becoming more and more accessible, not only in terms of treatment but also in diagnosis. This is great news for people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
A brief Google search can tell you everything you could possibly need to know about your mental health. Arguably, online OCD tests can also help people take that first step towards betterment.
But how reliable are these online OCD tests? Spoiler: they’re not, at least not for a diagnosis. But they’re not entirely useless.
What is OCD? Symptoms and Definition
OCD is typically classified as a chronic anxiety disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It is characterized by two main co-occurring elements:
- Repetitive and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) are often distressing and make it difficult to focus on anything else.
- Ritualistic behaviors (compulsions) arise from obsessions, providing temporary relief from them.
The defining factor that separates OCD from normal obsessions and compulsions is the intense and neverending nature of these symptoms. That being said, OCD is a spectrum; some people become completely debilitated by it, while others can be high-functioning.
Interestingly, these obsessions and compulsions can revolve around different things for different people. Hence, different subtypes of OCD exist, including contamination, checking, symmetry and order, relationship, religious, and sexual orientation OCD. This list is by no means exhaustive.
Furthermore, OCD typically co-occurs with other mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, addiction, eating, and sleeping disorders.
If any of this sounds familiar, your next step should be to seek a proper diagnosis from a trained therapist.
How is OCD Diagnosed?
OCD diagnosis is complex and elaborate. Unfortunately, there is no blood scan, brain test, or universal questionnaire for OCD diagnosis.
Instead, diagnosing OCD involves multiple sessions with your therapist, who will typically conduct structured diagnostic “interviews.” In these interviews, your therapist will ask you various questions to gauge the types and severity of your obsessions and compulsions.
These questions are based on the OCD criteria set forth by the DSM-5— the ultimate handbook for mental health professionals.
The goals of these lengthy and involved interviews are as follows:
- Identifying your specific obsessions or subtype of OCD. It is possible for you to have more than one OCD subtype, and equally likely that your obsessions don’t fall into any predefined category.
- Measuring the severity of your intrusive thoughts and obsessions through very specific questions. When people obsess over something, they research the topic extensively, think about it every waking hour, and talk about it every chance they get. Hence, these questions measure how much you engage in these obsessive thoughts.
- Identifying your compulsive or ritualistic behaviors. Such behaviors temporarily alleviate the emotional stress of your obsessive and intrusive thoughts.
- Measuring the severity of your compulsions. In other words, how often do you act on your compulsions, and how much do they interfere with your social, school, or work functioning?
Evidently, the diagnosis process for OCD is not easy; it requires a lot of time, mental stamina, and money. So, can an online OCD test serve as an alternative?
What is an Online OCD Test?
Online OCD tests are tools that can help you determine whether you should seek professional help. There are countless such tests on the internet, comprising specific questions about the various symptoms of OCD.
All tests vary, and some are more reliable than others. The better ones of the lot are much more in-depth and utilize the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scales (Y-BOCS). Keep in mind that the Y-BOCS score isn’t a proper diagnosis but rather a tool to achieve one.
The results of a typical online OCD test will reveal some basic information:
- Your OCD subtypes
- The severity of your intrusive thoughts and their effect on your life
- The severity of your compulsive behaviors and their effect on your life
The results become available immediately after your take the test. Moreover, online OCD tests are 10-minutes long on average, which beats having to sit through hour-long sessions week after week.
But is it enough?
How to Use an Online OCD Test
It is important to remember that online OCD tests are mere screening tools and cannot substitute a proper diagnosis from a trained professional. They can help you corroborate whether you should seek help from a therapist, but they cannot replace the therapist altogether.
Some online OCD tests are certainly more accurate and reliable than others. However, no online OCD test can provide a proper diagnosis, nor do they claim to.
It is entirely possible for an online OCD test to conclude you have OCD even when you don’t. Conversely, your results might say that you don’t have OCD, but you’re convinced that you do (ironically, this is a symptom of health anxiety OCD).
In either case, you should take the results of the online OCD test with a grain of salt. The road to recovery begins with a complete and proper diagnosis, which only a therapist can provide.
How is OCD Treated?
The treatment for all forms of OCD is the same: Exposure response prevention therapy (ERP) and medication.
ERP is a form of psychotherapeutic treatment lasting 12 to 24 weeks, depending on the severity of your OCD. It exposes you to situations that can trigger your obsessions and compulsions, albeit in a safe and controlled environment.
To put it another way, you can think of ERP as a role-playing exercise, whereby your therapist plays out provoking situations and helps you maneuver them better.
If your OCD is too debilitating, your therapist might prescribe some medications alongside your ERP therapy. These include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and antipsychotics.
However, bear in mind that medications aren’t a cure-all for OCD. The foremost treatment for OCD is behavioral therapy, and medications merely supplement the therapy.
Apart from these two common treatments, some cutting-edge alternatives are also underway. OCD antibodies, artificial intelligence, glutamate-focused medication, and neural manipulation show a lot of promise for the future of OCD treatments.
When seeking a proper diagnosis, online tests can be helpful in giving you that initial push towards treatment. Some of these tests are reliable, while others, not so much.
So, before seeking treatment for your OCD, it’s always best to get a proper diagnosis from a trained professional. Remember: an online test is nothing but a way to confirm your suspicions enough to justify a visit to the doctor.
Article Submitted By Community Writer