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Can Trauma Cause OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can make you feel like you’re not in control. Even if you’re fully aware of your actions, you still can’t seem to break the cycle because of unresolved trauma beneath the surface. You may wonder, “How can trauma cause OCD?” Understanding this link is your first step toward healing.

OCD Statistics

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), OCD is a “mental disorder characterized by intrusive, obsessive thoughts and compulsive, repetitive behaviors that often significantly interfere with work, school, relationships, and other activities and responsibilities.”

OCD is one of the most common, highly debilitating conditions that exist. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates OCD as a top ten cause of disability worldwide. SAMHSA mentions that the lifetime prevalence of OCD in the United States “ranges from 1.6 perfect to 2.3 percent” of the population.

Co-Occurring Disorders

OCD often co-occurs with substance use disorder (SUD) or other mental health disorders. SAMSHA points to studies that have found that “90 percent or more of individuals with OCD meet lifetime criteria for at least one other diagnosable mental or substance use disorder.”

When seeking treatment for OCD, it’s important to find a quality program that will screen you for co-occurring disorders. If the conditions aren’t treated simultaneously, one may worsen even if another improves.

How Does Trauma Cause OCD?

You may be wondering, “How does trauma cause OCD?” According to a 2014 study in Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, there is a “high prevalence rate of OCD among individuals with a traumatic history in comparison to the prevalence rate of the general population.” This rate ranges from 30% to 82%.

The study says that trauma-related distress has been defined as “psychological distress as a direct result of experiencing a stressful event.” Everyone’s trauma is unique, so there is no one set of symptoms. However, the symptoms can include anxiety, fear, depression, anger, and dissociation.

Subconscious Trauma

After a traumatic event, a person can experience psychological, physical, and emotional distress. In order to cope with this distress, they may form obsessive-compulsive traits. For example, if a traumatic experience caused you to no longer feel safe, you may subconsciously transfer this fear into obsessive-compulsive acts like constantly checking locked doors or closed windows.

Often, OCD may not make logical sense. In the example above, the fear of being unsafe can translate into OCD by folding a dollar bill a certain number of times or flicking the light switches. These acts may provide a momentary ease of the fear even if you don’t consciously understand why you’re doing it.

Why Does Trauma Cause OCD?

Another important question is why does trauma cause OCD? Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine states that traumatic events result primarily in psychological symptoms.

Some symptoms include “repeated and unwanted re-experiencing of the event, hyperarousal, emotional numbing, and avoidance of stimuli (including thoughts) which could serve as reminders for the event.” The study mentions that many people with OCD can experience at least some of these same symptoms.


OCD is made up of obsessions and compulsions. The study points to a theory that suggests obsessions are “more likely to occur when an individual is exposed to stressful situations,” such as trauma. These situations can trigger obsessional thoughts.


Compulsions can also occur because of trauma-related distress. Individuals may have a desire to prevent unwanted traumatic events from re-occurring. As a result, they may respond with compulsions in a hyper-vigilant attempt to neutralize distress.

Treatment for Trauma and OCD

If you’re experiencing OCD as a result of trauma, it’s important to receive care as soon as possible. OCD can make your life feel unbearable, taking away your time and energy. It may also create deep emotional distress that can affect every area of your life. The first step is finding the right treatment that will help you heal from both trauma and OCD in a way that suits your needs best.

Healing at The Guest House

At The Guest House, we take pride in our world-class trauma-specific care. Our programs are unique and vastly different than your average cookie-cutter treatment approach.

Our beautiful 52-acre estate will help you discover nature’s beautiful healing abilities. You can reconnect with yourself as you learn to release the pain of trauma and OCD.

We offer many therapies in the great outdoors. You may want to try out adventure therapy, equine therapy, or something else that’s new and exciting for you. You will also have the ability to spend time outside to draw, journal, or simply breathe in the fresh air for a moment of true peace.

Traditional and Holistic Therapies

You’ll find traditional therapeutic modalities like talk therapy and group sessions help you process your experiences. When you have the ability to share your thoughts and feelings in a safe space, you can find a sense of liberation and ease.

At The Guest House, you will find a large variety of holistic therapies to help you move through trauma and heal your mind, body, and soul. Methods like conscious connected breathwork, meditation, and yoga can help you achieve inner peace and a deeper spiritual connection.

The Guest House specializes in trauma healing, no matter what kind of trauma you may have experienced. Every single person comes to us with their own unique set of needs, goals, and intentions. We offer individualized care to ensure that you get the best treatment possible.

Healing from OCD and trauma is possible. With the right tools and a positive outlook, you can begin to enjoy life again and finally feel free.

Trauma and OCD have a strong link. Traumatic situations can bring about obsessive-compulsive actions, helping a person to ease their pain for a short moment in time. In order to truly heal from OCD, it’s important to find treatment that serves co-occurring disorders and specializes in trauma. The Guest House is a trauma-specific care center that serves the needs of many people experiencing trauma, OCD, substance use disorder (SUD), mental health disorders, and more. We believe in a blend of traditional and holistic therapies that will allow you to find the treatment that works best for you. Our unique approach will help you re-discover yourself and heal your mind, body, and soul as one. Call us today at (855) 483-7800.