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What is Y-Bocs?

The truth is we all have “OCD moments” from time-to-time – even if we do not have or have not been diagnosed with the condition. It’s human nature to want things to be neat and tidy. It’s also natural to occasionally become overly consumed with worrying about something. It happens. Does it automatically signal an impending OCD diagnosis? No, primarily because to be diagnosed with OCD, the obsessions and compulsions must be constant, uncontrollable, and distressing. In other words, your symptoms must significantly disrupt or impair various areas of your life.

But what if you have been officially diagnosed with OCD and want to know the severity of your condition? Well, thankfully, there is an assessment that will not only help you and your clinician determine the degree or severity of your OCD symptoms, but also the best course of treatment for it. This assessment is called the Y-BOCS. What is Y-BOCS? And, how does it relate to OCD? Well, today is your lucky day because this article will tell you everything you need to know about the test called “Y-BOCS?”


What Does Y-Bocs Stand For?

Y-BOCS is the abbreviation for “Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale.

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What is the Purpose of Y-Bocs?

Y-BOCS is a scale (assessment) used to measure the severity of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms. Wayne K. Goodman and his colleagues developed this rating scale to help clinicians (i.e. psychologists, psychiatrist, etc.) determine the degree of OCD symptoms and track the progress of individuals who are in treatment for it. It is regularly used in clinical practice and in studies exploring OCD causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Note: Y-BOCS measures obsessions independently from compulsions. In other words, it measures the level of OCD symptoms without being prejudiced towards or against any form that the obsessions or compulsions may take.

What Does Y-BOCS Involve?

Y-BOCS is a 10-question, clinician-conducted scale that rates or measures the degree (severity) of a person’s OCD symptoms. It is not, however, designed to diagnose OCD. During the assessment, a clinician instructs the individual to complete the Y-BOCS checklist. Once completed, the checklist is scored and the clinician reviews the individual’s responses with him or her.

The clinician then explains how the responses were scored and what the scores mean. The goal is to help an OCD-sufferer identify all of the thoughts, urges, images, and behaviors associated with his or her form of OCD. Y-BOCS scores results also help the clinician develop a customized treatment plan for the individual.

What Do the Scores Mean?

The total Y-BOCS scores can range from 0-40. The higher the score, the greater the intensity of the OCD symptoms. Obsession and compulsion subscale scores can range from 0-20, however only the total Y-BOCS scores are used to determine the severity of your OCD symptoms. Five categories (depending on the severity of OCD symptoms) determine the total Y-BOCs scores.

If you receive a total Y-BOCS score that is less than 7, you are most like subclinical (early stage).

If your total score is between 8 and 15, you most likely have a mild version of OCD. If your total score falls between 16 and 23, you most likely have a moderate version of OCD. If your total score is between 8 and 13, you most likely have a severe version of OCD. And, if your total score falls in the range of 32 and 40, you most likely have the most intense version of OCD.

Is Y-BOCS a Reliable Measure?

Yes, it is.

According to Goodman and his colleagues (1989), Y-BOCS is a reliable assessment that adequately measures the most prevalent symptoms of OCD. The researchers also affirmed that Y-BOCS can effectively adapt to changes in an individual’s OCD symptoms. Moreover, Y-BOCS has high internal conformity (agreement) and high inter-rater credibility.

Can Y-BOCS Be Used to Assess Pediatric OCD Symptoms?

Yes, it can!

In fact, the Children’s Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (CY-BOCS) is one of the most common scales used to determine the severity of childhood OCD symptoms. This version of Y-BOCS is designed to assess the degree of OCD symptoms in children and adolescents, ages 6 and 17-years-old.

CY-BOCS is usually administered by a clinician in a semi-structured environment. The goal is to measure the severity and level of disturbance of one’s obsessions and compulsions. A youth’s total CY-BOCS scores are primarily dependent upon the clinician’s judgment and weekly reports from the child or adolescent and his or her parents.

Weekly reports on each item are averaged to determine the total score for each measure and the severity of the OCD symptoms overall. Although the CY-BOCS has become a popular rating scale to assess OCD symptoms in children and adolescents, its effectiveness has garnered mixed results.

According to researchers, while the intensity and disturbance factor were adequately measured for obsessions and compulsions, measuring “resistance” or the ability to prevent, fight, or stop the obsessions and compulsions in children and adolescents proved unreliable. As a result, more research is needed on why some children and adolescents can “resist” the obsessions and compulsions and others cannot.


You’ve been officially diagnosed with OCD – now what? You have so many questions. How severe are your OCD symptoms? And, how can clinicians develop a treatment plan specific to you? The good news is these questions can be answered (for the most part) from your results on the Y-BOCS. This test can provide you with insight of where you are on the OCD spectrum and help your clinician develop a treatment plan (based on the severity of your symptoms) that is customized to your particular symptoms. The result? More effective treatment and an opportunity to become free from OCD’s hold over your life. Thus, Y-BOCS may be the first step on your path towards recovery. So, in that sense, Y-BOCS, primarily for adults, truly is the gold standard treatment for OCD symptoms.


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DR. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham has a B.A. in English, an M.M.F.T in Marriage and Family Therapy (Psychology), and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She is currently a medical, health & wellness contributor, copywriter, and psychological consultant

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