Can Trauma Cause OCD? | Banyan Mental Health
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Can Trauma Cause OCD?

What Is Trauma Bonding

Can Trauma Cause Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Traumatic experiences can stay with a person for the rest of their life. Even when they don’t notice it, the brain can develop defense mechanisms in response, often in the form of other mental health disorders. One such example is OCD, which can impact how a person moves throughout the day and can be debilitating for many people. But exactly how deep do these connections go? Banyan Mental Health asks the question: Can OCD cause trauma?

Understanding OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychological condition characterized by repetitive, intrusive, and distressing thoughts, images, or impulses (obsessions) that result in repetitive and ritualistic behaviors or mental acts (compulsions). OCD affects individuals of all ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds, and can significantly impede their daily functioning, relationships, and quality of life.

Symptoms of OCD can include:

  • Intrusive, unwanted, or distressing thoughts, images, or urges that persist despite attempts to ignore or suppress them.
  • Repetitive, ritualistic behaviors or mental acts that are performed in response to obsessions or according to rigid rules.
  • Preoccupation with cleanliness, hygiene, or contamination, which might lead to excessive hand-washing or cleaning rituals.
  • Fear of harm or danger to oneself or others, which may lead to behaviors revolving around checking or that are reassurance-seeking.
  • Need for symmetry, order, or exactness, which may result in repetitive or counting rituals.
  • Hoarding or accumulating objects that have little or no value but that provide a sense of security or comfort.
  • Difficulty making decisions or completing tasks due to excessive doubt or uncertainty.
  • Excessive attention to details or rules that may lead to perfectionism and difficulty delegating tasks.
  • Social or occupational impairment due to the time-consuming and disruptive nature of compulsive behaviors.
  • Distress or anxiety when unable to engage in compulsive behaviors or when attempting to resist or ignore obsessions.

Common obsessions include fears of contamination, doubts about safety or morality, unwanted sexual or aggressive thoughts, and perfectionism, while common compulsions include excessive cleaning, checking, ordering, counting, and repeating actions or phrases. OCD is commonly treated with a combination of medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which utilizes exposure and response prevention (ERP) techniques to assist patients in overcoming their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Can OCD Be Caused by Trauma?

Research does suggest that undergoing a traumatic experience can be a contributing factor in the development of an OCD diagnosis. A traumatic event can include living through natural disasters, sexual abuse, accidents, or neglect, amongst other factors. These are all experiences that can drastically alter a person’s overall mentality regarding life, relationships, and personal well-being.

Trauma can also exacerbate OCD symptoms by increasing anxiety levels and triggering intrusive thoughts, prompting individuals to engage in compulsive behaviors to alleviate their distress or regain a sense of control. That being said, OCD and trauma do not always coincide. Someone can live through a traumatic event, process what happened, and move on. Ultimately, in some cases, trauma can cause OCD  and should be taken seriously. In any case, addressing the issues present by a mental health professional is the best and most effective course of action.

Treating OCD and PTSD

If you are struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder as a result of a traumatic experience, our residential mental health facilities offer OCD treatment programs that can turn your life around for the better. Additionally, patients can begin to address any residual symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, ones that may have led to co-occurring disorders or other difficulties. Don’t assume that you need to face this alone. Our adult mental health services are designed to help our patients learn to make the most out of life.

Call Banyan today at 888-280-4763 to learn about our available options for mental illness treatment and how our programs can benefit you.

Related Reading

The Different Subtypes of OCD

The Effects of Trauma on the Brain

Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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