Abstract

Background: Mental and medical health professionals misidentify obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) at alarmingly high rates. This study assessed psychology doctoral students’ awareness of OCD. Method: Doctoral students from APA-accredited clinical, counseling, or school psychology programs in the Greater New York Area participated. The study consisted of three assessment points; diagnostic impressions for five distinct vignettes were obtained at each of assessment. An educational OCD video intervention was presented to both study conditions.

Results: Eighty-two students, across seven doctoral programs participated. Participants reported less awareness (not at all aware or not very aware) of the non-contamination and non-symmetry obsessions (17.1%-36.0%) compared to contamination or symmetry obsessions (1.3%-3.9%). Participants were also more likely to misdiagnose the noncontamination and non-symmetry as compared to the contamination and symmetry OCD cases (17.7-33.3% vs. 0.0- 6.3%, respectively). After exposure to the video intervention, the OCD misidentification rate dropped from 18.5% to 5.4%.

Conclusion: A widespread lack of awareness and misidentification of OCD symptoms beyond contamination and symmetry obsessions exists. The video intervention was effective in reducing OCD misidentification rates. Graduate students in the mental health field could benefit from targeted training to accurately diagnose OCD.

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