High rates of OCD symptom misidentification by mental health professionals

Kimberly Glazier, Rachelle M. Calixte, Rachel Rothschild, Anthony Pinto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: More than a decade may pass between the onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms and initiation of treatment. One explanation may be health care professionals' limited awareness of OCD symptom presentations. We assessed mental health care providers' ability to identify taboo thoughts as manifestations of OCD. METHODS: A random sample of 2,550 American Psychological Association members were asked to give diagnostic impressions based on 1 of 5 OCD vignettes: 4 about taboo thoughts and 1 about contamination obsessions. RESULTS: Three-hundred sixty (14.1%) providers completed the survey. The overall misidentification rate across all vignettes was 38.9%. Rates of incorrect (non-OCD) responses were significantly higher for the taboo thoughts vignettes (obsessions about homosexuality, 77.0%; sexual obsessions about children, 42.9%; aggressive obsessions, 31.5%; and religious obsessions, 28.8%) vs the contamination obsessions vignette (15.8%). CONCLUSIONS: Mental health professionals commonly misidentify OCD symptom presentations, particularly sexual obsessions, highlighting a need for education and training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-209
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Clinical Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Misidentification
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Symptom presentation
  • Taboo thoughts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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