OCD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

How Are PTSD and OCD Connected: A Comprehensive Guide

Table of Content

Mental health conditions rarely occur alone; other conditions often overlap with each other.  People who have experienced trauma may develop both Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). These conditions share some common symptoms, like intrusive thoughts. To manage the anxiety caused by these thoughts, people with both PTSD and OCD may engage in neutralising behaviours. 

Understanding PTSD and OCD  

When an individual is exposed to traumatic events, there are some lasting impacts on the person’s physical, emotional, or psychological well-being. When these distresses are prolonged, they are known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Traumatic events can be natural disasters, car accidents, abusive relationships, the death of a loved one, or any violent encounter. PTSD can last for years, and sometimes it’s a life-long disorder if not treated properly, impacting your behaviours and social relationships.  

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder characterised by severe obsession and compulsion. Their repetitive thoughts and behaviours affect their daily functioning.  


Obsessions are recurring thoughts that are unwanted, distressing, and uncontrollable thoughts that disrupt your life. Often, these intrusive thoughts are negative and hard to ignore. People with OCD are not relieved unless they act on it. In the hope of supressing negative thoughts, they often backfire, making them worse and potentially leading to never ending cycle.   


Repetitive thoughts and behaviours like washing and checking repeatedly, putting things in order, or counting continuously in your head are known as compulsions. People with OCD develop compulsions as a means of attempting to break free from their obsession. They are aware that their compulsions are illogical and unnecessary, which further causes them distress.  

PTSD Symptoms 

Intrusive Recollections and Re-Experiencing: People with PTSD exhibit certain physical and emotional reactions when they remember or re-experience the traumatic event.   

Strategies of Avoidance and Emotional Numbing: Anything related to their past traumatic event brings distress; therefore, they avoid everything related to it and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. 

Symptoms of Hyperarousal and Heightened Vigilance: A PTSD person may always be on the edge, have irritability, sleep problems, and difficulty relaxing, be suspicious of others, or overreact to noises or other stimuli.    

Pervasive Negative Thoughts and Mood Shifts: They will have constant negative thoughts like blaming themselves, feeling isolated, distrust, and difficulty concentrating. Their mood shifts abruptly too.  

Characteristics of Post-Traumatic OCD  

Some people develop OCD after being diagnosed with PTSD. Their symptoms show different patterns with more severity. Some of the Post-Traumatic OCD are 

  • Suicidal thoughts  
  • Self-harm behaviours 
  • Hoarding obsessively 
  • Panic disorder with agoraphobia 
  • Excessive spending 
  • A greater degree of anxiety or depression.  

The Connection Between Trauma and OCD  

Intrusive thought is common in people with PTSD and OCD. They engage themselves in neutralising behaviours like pushing down feelings to avoid triggers or repeating movements. 

The Impact of Trauma on OCD Development  

People who experience a trauma can sometimes develop OCD focused on that event. This type of OCD is often more severe than regular OCD and shows different patterns of symptoms. The symptoms are more severe and cause problems like anxiety, depression, and scary thoughts. It can also start later in life than regular OCD. 

Types of Traumas Induced OCD  

Traumatic events have a lasting effect on a person’s mental health, and it can trigger OCD in some people. This type of OCD often centres around the traumatic experience itself. Some of the trauma-induced OCD are 

Post-Traumatic OCD  

When an individual experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, they develop symptoms of unwanted, intrusive thoughts or memories, along with repetitive behaviours aimed at alleviating distress, and avoidance of triggers that may evoke these intrusive thoughts or memories. However, OCD behaviours aim to prevent bad things that might happen, while PTSD behaviours try to avoid reliving past traumas. The changed behaviours effect their daily functioning.   

Relationship Trauma OCD  

Relationship trauma OCD manifests when individuals encounter intrusive thoughts and engage in compulsive behaviours concerning their romantic partnership. The individual might This disorder causes repetitive thoughts or behaviours, revolving around doubts or fears regarding the relationship. They need constant reassurance from their partner, persistent fear of ruining their relationship, or always obsessively worried about their partner. This uncertainty disrupts their romantic relationship.  

Childhood Trauma OCD  

If a person had an upsetting or scary experience in childhood, and it develops OCD symptoms related to that event is childhood trauma OCD. They might have unwanted thoughts or worries about the trauma and feel the need to do certain things repeatedly to try and feel better. The most common childhood traumas are emotional neglect and abuse, or sexual and physical abuse.  

Medical Trauma-Related OCD  

Medical trauma-related OCD is a type of trauma-induced OCD where the obsessive thoughts and behaviors are related to medical encounters or experiences like past surgery, illness, or accidents. They might engage in checking their body for signs of illness repeatedly, frequent doctor visits, excessive research about medical conditions or avoiding anything they perceive as risky.  

Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms Post-Disaster  

Stress and anxiety are common when people experience disaster, but for some, it won’t go away. These overwhelming feelings led to the development of OCD. A person with obsessive-compulsive symptoms post-disaster might exhibit excessive handwashing, lock doors and windows repeatedly, be relentless about their surroundings, or fear getting sick. They are in constant fear that another disaster might happen.   

Overlapping Symptoms of OCD and PTSD  

OCD and PTSD are two different mental health conditions, but they share some overlapping symptoms which can be challenging for both individual struggling with and mental health professional.  

Intrusive Recollections: Shared Ground  

One of the overlaps between these two disorders is the symptoms of unwanted intrusive thoughts, memories or behaviours.  Intrusive recollections in PDST are the detailed flashbacks of the traumatic event as if reliving it all over again and in OCD, it can be of anything, not necessarily about traumatic event like fear of harm, germs or order. Both can be distressing.  

Rituals of Distress Reduction: A Comparative View  

People with these disorders engage themselves in rituals of distress reduction. They are repetitive behaviours that supposed to reduce their anxiety or distress. In PTSD, these rituals are performed to avoid re-experiencing traumatic events, while in OCD, they are aimed to prevent anxiety from obsessive thoughts.  

Navigating Triggers: Avoidance Tactics  

It’s common for both PTSD and OCD that they can cause people to avoid certain things that might trigger their symptoms or intrusive thoughts. In PTSD, people may avoid places, situations, persons, or things that remind them of their trauma, and in OCD, they may avoid these for fear of triggering their intrusive thoughts.  

Diagnosing PTSD and OCD  

If a person has experienced a traumatic event and has symptoms for over a month, they might be diagnosed with PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health disorder that affects the daily functioning of life. The symptoms include negative thoughts, intense and repetitive memories, avoiding triggers, even the smallest ones, and being easily startled.  

If a person has at least one hour per day of intrusive and uncontrollable obsessions and/or compulsions, and if these obsessions and compulsions are causing significant distress and limit functioning at their work, school, or any social life, you might be diagnosed with OCD.  

Treatment Strategies for Trauma-Related OCD  

Living with mental health conditions can be challenging, especially with PTSD and OCD. Fortunately, there are several resources like therapies and self–help techniques that help trauma-related disorders.  

Self-Help Techniques  

There are few self-help techniques for an individual struggling with trauma -related OCD to manage their symptoms efficiently. Adopting mindfulness, challenging negative thoughts about trauma, resisting compulsions even if it feels uncomfortable at first and practicing deep breathing or yoga have immense benefits.  

Finding Professional Help  

Professional help is often valuable for trauma-related OCD, and seeking their support is crucial. A team of mental health professionals will assess your symptoms and create a treatment plan suited to you. You will be equipped with different coping strategies to manage your intrusive behaviours better.   

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)  

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that navigates your thought process. CBT challenges your intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event and replaces them with positive thoughts and behaviors. An experienced therapist at Cadbams will help you be more aware of your thoughts and understand how they affect your actions. The therapist will equip you with new healthy thinking pattern and habits to respond better to any distressing feelings.   

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)  

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a type of CBT where the therapist exposes you to similar feared situations in a controlled space. The goal of ERP is to be able to see your reality as it is. At Cadabams, mental health professionals will let you experience your scary images or situations and make you understand that these anxious feelings are not your reality without any judgement.    

Medication and Other Therapies  

Other than CBT and ERP, other forms of trauma related therapy include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). A therapist might also use medication to manage your symptoms better. Medications like Sertraline and Paroxetine are the most common ones to use in treating trauma-related OCD.  

Coping Strategies and Support  

Incorporating certain coping strategies and support along with your therapies and medications is helpful. 

Surround yourself with supportive people who celebrate your milestone, join support groups and connect with like-minded people, and practise self-care like engaging in physical activity, healthy diet, and getting enough sleep.  

Overcoming PTSD and OCD Together at Cadabams  

 Recovery from mental health disorders is a long journey. With the correct treatment and support, you can manage your symptoms efficiently. Our experienced mental health professionals and state–of–the–art technology at Cadabams provide PTSD and OCD treatment. Our therapist will create a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs, all in a non-judgemental space. You will be able to improve and manage your symptoms better in your own pace.  

If you are searching for a solution to your problem, Cadabam’s Hospitals can help you with its team of specialized experts. We have been helping thousands of people live healthier and happier lives for 30+ years. We leverage evidence-based approaches and holistic treatment methods to help individuals effectively manage their PTSD and OCD. Get in touch with us today. You can call us at +91 97414 76476. You can even email us at info@cadabamshospitals.com.


1. What is the connection between PTSD and OCD?  

Both disorders have symptoms of intrusive thoughts that are difficult to control, high level of anxiety and avoidance behaviours. While traumas trigger PTSD, OCD is unrelated to compulsive behaviours.  

2. Can OCD be caused by PTSD?  

Not every OCD are induced by trauma but 30% of people with PTSD develop OCD within a year. Trauma can be a trigger and risk factor for OCD particularly those related to traumatic event itself.  

3. What are the treatment options for someone with both PTSD and OCD?  

Different therapies like CBT, ERP, EMDR and medications are available as treatment options for someone struggling with both PTSD and OCD.  

4. What are the challenges of diagnosing PTSD and OCD comorbidity?  

Since both disorders share overlapping symptoms like intrusive thoughts, avoidance, repetitive behaviours, and anxiety it is challenging to diagnose disorders and figure out which disorders is causing which symptoms.  

5. How can I find professional help for PTSD and OCD?  

Consider factors like checking mental health professional’s expertise in PTSD and OCD treatment, what kinds of therapies and medications are available, staff credentials, and patient.  

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