The Connection Between OCD and Trauma in Washington State

The way we see mental health disorders has changed dramatically over recent years. Misconceptions we used to have are, thankfully, behind us. For example, we now know that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a complex condition, especially if it is the result of past trauma. We at We Level Up Washington have observed the relationship between […]


The way we see mental health disorders has changed dramatically over recent years. Misconceptions we used to have are, thankfully, behind us. For example, we now know that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a complex condition, especially if it is the result of past trauma. We at We Level Up Washington have observed the relationship between OCD and trauma in Washington State over the years. Our goal is to guide those who have developed OCD after trauma toward effective management and recovery.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is essentially an anxiety disorder. It consists of two distinct aspects:

  1. Obsessions – Persistent, intrusive thoughts
  2. Compulsions – Behaviors that you feel the urge to repeat over and over

These symptoms can greatly affect your daily life and your quality of life.

A woman suffering from trauma and OCD
OCD affects about 1 in 40 adults in the U.S.

People with OCD commonly use compulsions to try to control the discomfort that their obsessions bring. But these actions provide only temporary relief. They can also take up a huge part of your day.

Common obsessions include:

  • fear of contamination
  • need for orderliness
  • unwanted thoughts related to harm or taboo subjects

Compulsions might be:

  • excessive cleaning
  • checking
  • putting things in order
  • following strict routines​​​​​

We still don’t fully understand the exact cause of OCD. However, a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors is the most likely cause. Changes in your body’s natural chemistry or brain functions, as well as genetics and learned behaviors from your family members or gradually over time, may lead to OCD.

Risk factors for developing OCD include a family history of the disorder and the presence of other mental health disorders. Also, let us not forget the stressful life events and the possibility of developing OCD after trauma.

The symptoms of OCD can vary in severity. They can become less burdensome over time, but it is likely that stress will worsen them.

Mental health and OCD in Washington State

OCD is a major issue all over the United States. It affects approximately 2.3% of the population. That is about 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children experiencing this condition.

People in Lincoln Memorial Park
Many people in Washington State suffer from anxiety, which includes OCD.

Women are slightly more likely to develop OCD (1.8%) than men (0.5%). This statistic is the same when comparing OCD vs OCD Personality Disorder. Interestingly, nearly two-thirds of people with OCD show major symptoms before the age of 25. Also, OCD often co-occurs with other mental disorders, such as anxiety, mood, and impulse-control issues. 

About 25.51% of the population in Washington State experiences some form of mental illness. Anxiety disorders make up a significant portion of this percentage. As for the prevalence of OCD in this state, there are no specific numbers.

Trauma can also trigger or worsen OCD symptoms. Studies show that traumatic experiences can sometimes lead to trauma-induced OCD. It means that OCD has developed because of the stress and anxiety caused by a traumatic event. But what exactly is trauma, and how is it linked to OCD?

What is trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to a distressing or disturbing event. The impact of trauma on mental health is profound. Trauma can vary widely in its forms and origins. The most common events that cause it are:

  • Physical abuse involving direct bodily harm or injury
  • Emotional or psychological abuse. These are non-physical behaviors that harm an individual’s mental health
  • Any unwanted sexual activity counts as sexual abuse
  • Natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes or floods) that cause widespread destruction and distress
  • Unexpected events that result in injury or trauma
  • Experiences related to war or combat situations

The number of people who have experienced trauma in Washington State reflects national trends. The good news is that there is increased awareness of this problem. More and more people are not ashamed to ask for help. There are many trauma-focused therapy options and related mental health services across the state. Also, specialized mental health hospitals in Washington State are there to help treat OCD from trauma.

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Can trauma cause OCD?

Can you develop OCD from trauma? Unfortunately, yes. Trauma can often lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and, as recent studies suggest, OCD. Trauma, particularly events experienced during childhood, is a common cause for the development of OCD (and many other mental health disorders). Traumatic experiences become triggers for compulsive and obsessive behaviors.

Individuals with a history of trauma are typically more susceptible to developing various types of OCD. The clinical literature supports this relationship. It shows that traumatic experiences can trigger or worsen obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Compulsions may become a coping mechanism for managing anxiety and fear caused by negative experiences. The problem is that this becomes a vicious cycle.

At We Level Up WA Mental Health Center, we use therapeutic strategies that address both trauma and OCD. Only when we acknowledge this connection can we offer effective, empathetic treatment and support.

Can you develop OCD from trauma inherited through generations?

Developing OCD after trauma is possible even if you haven’t experienced the traumatic event yourself. Trauma that is passed down through generations is called generational trauma. It refers to the stress and trauma experienced by generations before you, such as financial hardship, war, or maltreatment. These can impact the emotional environment in which you have grown. This, in turn, can increase your vulnerability to OCD.

OCD causes trauma sometimes

Living with OCD can be debilitating. As such, it can lead to trauma. This disorder targets the very essence of your values and can cause profound doubt and fear. It can make the lines between your identity and your disorder blurry. It can devastate your self-esteem and self-worth. And it is especially true if you have been battling OCD since childhood.

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Holding Hands
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Coping with OCD from trauma

A variety of trauma management strategies and OCD coping techniques are available. At We Level Up WA, one of the dual diagnosis treatment centers in Washington State, we believe that a holistic approach to treatment is the best way to ensure that every individual receives the support necessary to manage OCD after trauma. Let’s explore the key components of our treatment strategy.

Little girl holding her head and looking upset while her parents are arguing
Childhood trauma can be the cause of OCD.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

When it comes to psychotherapies, CBT for obsessive compulsive disorder directly tackles OCD and trauma by focusing on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. Through this therapy, you can create coping mechanisms to deal with the underlying causes of your obsessive-compulsive behaviors. It provides a way of healing that takes into account the effects of your past traumas.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

During EMDR sessions, the therapist guides you as you recall traumatic memories and simultaneously focus on an external stimulus, typically guided eye movements. This helps in reprocessing the memory in a way that reduces its psychological impact.

Medication Management for OCD after trauma

When it comes to pharmacological intervention, SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are usually prescribed to manage OCD symptoms. They offer relief from constant compulsions and anxieties.

OCD trauma and Wellbutrin

Wellbutrin (Bupropion) is primarily used for depression and to help you quit smoking. But does Wellbutrin help OCD? There is no straight answer. This medication is generally considered when SSRIs are not suitable or effective. Also, you must understand that medication management is most beneficial when combined with therapy and lifestyle modifications tailored to your needs.

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Alternative and supportive therapies for OCD and trauma

If you are seeking alternative and supportive therapies for managing OCD after trauma, you can learn how to stop OCD thoughts naturally. Some of the good practices are yoga and meditation. These activities help reduce stress and promote mental calmness. Regular physical exercise is another beneficial approach. It improves mood and reduces anxiety thanks to the release of endorphins. Also, art therapy offers creative expression and emotional processing. These holistic strategies can significantly support the recovery process, especially in addition to therapy and medication.

At We Level Up Washington, our focus is on providing comprehensive support for OCD in Washington State. We aim to offer a well-rounded and effective treatment experience for those battling trauma and OCD.

Seeking help for trauma and OCD in Washington State

Accessing the right support is crucial for those dealing with OCD and trauma. Thankfully, there are plenty of services and inpatient mental health facilities in Washington state dedicated to providing specialized care. Our We Level Up Mental Health Center in Washington is one of them!

We’re proud to offer a range of specialized care and OCD treatment options, from residential care to family support programs. Most importantly, we tailor our approach to meet the unique needs of all our clients. Our treatment plans typically include a blend of OCD therapy techniques and trauma-focused therapies alongside robust support services. This ensures a holistic and effective path to recovery.

Man talking to a therapist about the connection between trauma and OCD
Reach out to mental health professionals for help with OCD and trauma.

We want to make mental health care accessible to everyone. That’s why we accept insurance for a wide range of mental health disorders, including OCD and trauma. It’s best to verify your insurance coverage with us to fully understand the benefits, out-of-pocket costs, and the specific therapies and treatments that your policy covers. Our friendly staff will guide you through the entire process and help you find the right treatment options and financial assistance.

Developing OCD after trauma is possible but treatable

There is an undeniable connection between OCD and trauma in Washington State. The growing awareness of this complex relationship has led to more integrated and thorough treatment approaches. There are advanced therapies, medication, and self-help strategies to help those suffering from trauma and OCD. With us at We Level Up Washington, hope and effective treatment become available to anyone who needs support.

Sources:
  1. Beyond OCD. “Facts about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder | beyond OCD.” Beyond OCD, 2018, beyondocd.org/ocd-facts.
  2. Mayo Clinic. “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic, 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20354432.
  3. “Mental Health Statistics by State 2020.” Worldpopulationreview.com, 2022, worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/mental-health-statistics-by-state.
  4. National Institute of Mental Health. “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” Www.nimh.nih.gov, National Institute of Mental Health, Oct. 2019, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd.

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