Obsessive-compulsive disorder differential diagnosis

Jump to navigation Jump to search
Home logo1.png

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Priyanka Kumari, M.B.B.S[2] Sonya Gelfand, Abhishek Reddy, Kiran Singh, M.D. [3]


The differential diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) includes tics, mood and anxiety disorders, and other compulsive behaviors, such as trichotillomania or neurodermatitis.[1]

Differential Diagnosis

  • OCD should be differentiated from the following conditions:[2]
  • Certain psychiatric conditions are diagnosed alongside OCD including; Anorexia nervosa, social anxiety disorder, bulimia nervosa, Tourette syndrome, compulsive skin picking, body dysmorphic disorder, and trichotillomania.
  • There is some evidence of a link between drug addiction and obsessive compulsive disorder, according to some studies. Panic attacks are common among OCD sufferers. Although those with any anxiety disorder are at a higher risk of drug addiction (possibly as a coping mechanism for the increased levels of anxiety), drug addiction in obsessive compulsive patients may be a type of compulsive behavior rather than a coping mechanism.
  • OCD sufferers are also more likely to suffer from depression. Mineka, Watson, and Clark (1998) proposed one explanation for the high rate of depression in OCD populations, stating that people with OCD (or any other anxiety disorder) may feel depressed due to a "out of control" type of feeling.[4]
  • PANDAS refers to childhood streptococcal infections (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections) could be responsible for some cases of OCD. Antibodies to streptococcal bacteria become involved in an autoimmune reaction. Though this theory is not conclusive, if it proves to be correct, there is reason to believe that OCD can be "caught" to some extent through strep throat exposure (just as one may catch a cold). If OCD is caused by bacteria, however, there is hope that antibiotics will be used to treat or prevent it in the future.[5]
  • OCD sufferers are aware that their thoughts and behaviors are irrational, but they feel compelled to follow them in order to avoid panic or dread. Untreated OCD is often regarded as one of the most vexing and frustrating of the major anxiety disorders because sufferers are consciously aware of their irrationality but powerless to push it away. Most OCD sufferers will hide their behaviors from others to avoid negative attention because they understand the abnormal nature of their compulsions. This, combined with the fact that the compulsions in some sufferers are entirely mental, has earned the disease the moniker "the secret illness."
  • Everyone has unpleasant thoughts at some point in their lives, but these are usually justified concerns that disappear after a reasonable amount of time has passed. People with OCD find it difficult to get any disturbing thoughts out of their heads, which often leads to feelings of distress and anxiety[6][6][7]
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder is frequently confused with obsessive compulsive personality disorder. However, the two are not the same condition. Former disorder is ego dystonic, which means it is incompatible with the sufferer's self-concept. Ego dystonic disorders cause a great deal of distress because they go against a person's perception of himself. OCPD, on the other hand, is ego syntonic, which means that the individual accepts that the symptoms of the disorder are compatible with his or her self-image. Ego syntonic disorders, for the most part, are not distressing. People with OCD are often aware that their behavior is irrational, and they are unhappy with their obsessions, but they still feel compelled to follow them. Persons with OCPD, on the other hand, are unaware of anything abnormal about themselves; they will readily explain why their actions are rational, and convincing them otherwise is usually impossible. People with OCD are anxious; people with OCPD, on the other hand, enjoy their obsessions or compulsions.[8] This is a significant difference between these two distinct conditions.
  • Frequently, these rationalizations do not apply to the overall behavior, but to each individual; for example, a person who checks their front door obsessively may argue that the time and stress involved in one more check is significantly less than the time and stress involved in being robbed, and thus the check is the better option. In practice, if the individual is still unsure after that check, it is still preferable in terms of time and stress to do another check, and this reasoning can go on indefinitely.
  • Overvalued ideas are a symptom of OCD in some people. In such cases, the person with OCD will be unsure whether or not the fears that drive them to perform their compulsions are rational. It is possible to persuade the individual that their fears are unfounded after some discussion. ERP therapy may be more hard to implement to such patients because they are often unwilling to cooperate, at least at first. As a result, OCD has been compared to a disease of pathological doubt, in which the sufferer, while not delusional, is unable to fully comprehend what types of dreaded events are realistically possible and which are not.
  • OCD is distinct from compulsive behaviors such as gambling and overeating. People with these disorders usually get some enjoyment out of their activities, whereas OCD sufferers don't want to do their compulsive tasks and don't get any pleasure out of them.


  1. Differential for OCD
  2. Rasmussen SA, Eisen JL (1992). "The epidemiology and differential diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder". J Clin Psychiatry. 53 Suppl: 4–10. PMID 1564054.
  3. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders : DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association. 2013. ISBN 0890425558.
  4. Mineka S, Watson D, Clark LA (1998). "Comorbidity of anxiety and unipolar mood disorders". Annual review of psychology. 49: 377–412. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.49.1.377. PMID 9496627.
  5. Belkin, L. > "Can You Catch Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2006-04-12.
  6. Carter, K. "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder." PSYC 210 lecture: Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford, GA. 14 Feb. 2006.
  7. Barlow, D. H. and V. M. Durand. Essentials of Abnormal Psychology. California: Thomson Wadsworth, 2006.
  8. Carter, K. "Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder." PSYC 210 lecture: Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford, GA. 11 April 2006.

Template:WikiDoc Sources