Compassion Behavioral Health / Resources / Articles / Exploring the Relationship Between OCD and Trauma
CBH Staff

Exploring the Relationship Between OCD and Trauma

ocd and trauma treatment at CBH in south florida

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are both conditions that can severely impact a person’s daily life. At the surface, their symptoms do appear to share some similarities, but is there a definitive relationship between the two? 

Today, we are going to examine similarities and key differences between OCD and trauma. If you are looking for treatment for one or both conditions.

Is OCD Related to Trauma? 

According to a report from Baylor University, some similarities between OCD and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) do exist, though they are expressed by an individual in different ways. Some individuals may also experience both simultaneously, such as developing obsessive habits over time out of a desire to avoid future traumatic triggers. 

For example, people who live with OCD and PTSD may experience similar symptoms with some key distinctions: 

Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts triggered by PTSD are often related to past experiences. For example, someone who was the victim of an assault may not be able to prevent the memory from replaying in their mind years later or they may suspect other people as unsafe. 

People that have OCD fixate on potential negative outcomes that have not yet happened. They may perform a repeated action like continuously checking the oven because they are worried about a house fire and cannot accept that the appliance has been turned off. To alleviate these anxieties, they may return to the oven and press the “off” button a few times to be certain. 

Behavior Patterns 

PTSD and OCD can result in people living with these conditions adopting certain behavior patterns to alleviate undesired anxiety, worry, or other negative emotions. Again, the intent and focus of these behaviors differ between the two conditions. 

PTSD-influenced behavior patterns often revolve around a desire to prevent traumatic triggers from occurring. This can include perfectionist behaviors or rituals that provide a sense of relief that they have sufficiently avoided or reduced the risk of trauma from reappearing. 

Behavior patterns related to OCD are typically motivated by a desire to prevent a theoretical negative event from happening. Adhering to strict rules, rigid thinking patterns, and a sense to do something “the right way” are often methods that a person will adopt to help alleviate stress and worry. 

Learn more about our evidence-based mental health treatment programs
Contact Us

[ctabox]Learn more about our evidence-based treatment programs:[/ctabox]

Avoiding Triggers 

People may take deliberate actions to avoid triggers that spur their PTSD or OCD symptoms. For PTSD, this might involve an action like avoiding a certain place associated with a traumatic experience. An example of an OCD-related avoidance behavior could be refraining from cooking because they always obsess over cleaning the stove once they are finished.

Underlying Motives

Both PTSD and OCD behaviors are largely motivated by preventing undesired negative emotional responses. However, a person suffering from PTSD may not want to relive memories that trigger their traumatic past experiences. A person with OCD may engage in certain behaviors that prevent a perceived inevitable future event

Treatment for OCD and PTSD 

Treatments for OCD and PTSD include psychotherapy and, if necessary, medication. 


Both conditions can benefit from antidepressant medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which can also aid in alleviating anxieties. 


Though both can be treated with the aid of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), other therapeutic approaches differ for these conditions. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a well-known effective treatment for many cases of PTSD while someone living with OCD may undergo other therapies like aversion therapy, psychoeducation, systematic desensitization, and support group sessions. 

Get Help for OCD and PTSD in South Florida

At Compassion Behavioral Health, we provide treatment for a wide spectrum of mental health conditions from our facility located in beautiful South Florida.  Our team of medical professionals and licensed therapists collaborate to create a personalized treatment plan that can aid you in achieving a higher quality of life. 

To learn more, call us at (844) 503-0126 today or reach out online at any time.