OCD and Abuse

Despite not being set in stone, OCD and abuse can sometimes go hand in hand. Excessive trauma in the early phases of life may cause mental problems like obsessive-compulsive disorder and or post-traumatic stress disorder.

In some cases, people affected with such disorders undergo severe social isolation which they may try to escape from using substance abuse. Unfortunately, that may lead to a fully blown substance use disorder, a whole other problem to deal with.

This guide explains the relationship between OCD and abuse using evidence-based studies. But first, we need to understand OCD a bit more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: An Overview

OCD is a mental disorder characterized by unpleasant intrusive thoughts that may trigger obsessions or illogical responses to seemingly normal stimuli.

This anxiety disorder affects 1% to 3% of the global population. That may seem like a small percentage, but if you take into account that 3% of more than 8 billion people (the current world population) have OCD, we’re looking at 240 million people.

Symptoms of OCD can include:

  • Obsessive thoughts, intrusive thoughts, or images
  • Compulsive behaviors or rituals
  • Excessive double-checking
  • Excessive cleaning or hand washing
  • Ordering or arranging things in a specific way
  • Counting, tapping, or repeating words/phrases
  • Hoarding or difficulty discarding items
  • Excessive concern with symmetry or exactness
  • Disturbing thoughts about harming others or themselves
  • Fear of contamination or germs
  • Needing constant reassurance

Note: Not all OCD symptoms can be found in the same person, as we have multiple types of OCD, like contamination, hoarding, symmetry and ordering, checking, etc.

What’s the Connection Between OCD and Abuse?

Despite establishing clear parameters explaining OCD and its symptoms, we’re yet to understand the actual cause of it.

OCD and addiction

However, abuse is one of the contributing factors to OCD, especially during childhood. A 2020 study hypothesized that maltreatment during childhood can be a risk factor for developing OCD in adolescents and young adults.

The people sampled in the study experienced various types of childhood trauma, including sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. Additionally, the more severe the trauma was, the more accentuated the side effects were.

So, does that mean that childhood traumatic experiences cause OCD?

While OCD can definitely set the stage for that mental health issue later in life, there’s still no direct connection between OCD and abuse.

While the study mentioned above theorizes that there’s some sort of connection, another 2024 study shows that there’s yet to be a direct link and that more research is required.

Also, and while this may not be scientifically proven, it’s safe to assume that not every person who had a rough childhood develops an OCD.

If we assume that every trauma automatically results in mental health conditions like OCD, we’ll have a much larger prevalence percentage than just 1-3%.

What Are the Contributing Factors to OCD?

It’s important to note that OCD is likely caused by a combination of the following factors, rather than a single cause.

Additionally, not all individuals with the risk factors will develop OCD, and the disorder can also occur in individuals without any apparent risk factors.

That being said, here are factors that may contribute to developing OCD:

1. Genetics

According to a 2010 study, OCD has a strong hereditary component. People with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) with OCD are at a higher risk of developing the disorder themselves.

2. Brain Structure and Function

Neuroimaging studies have found differences in the structure and function of certain brain regions in individuals with OCD, particularly in areas involved in processing fear, anxiety, and reward.

3. Neurochemical Imbalances

Imbalances in the levels of neurotransmitters (e.g., serotonin, dopamine, glutamate) in the brain have been linked to the development of OCD.

4. Environmental Factors

Stressful life events, traumatic experiences (such as physical abuse or neglect), and significant life changes may contribute to the onset or exacerbation of OCD symptoms.

5. Personality Traits

Certain personality traits, such as perfectionism, indecisiveness, and an inflated sense of responsibility, have been associated with a higher risk of developing OCD.

6. Learned Behaviors

In some cases, OCD behaviors may be learned or reinforced through family or cultural influences, modeling, or reinforcement of compulsive behaviors.

7. Biological Factors

Certain biological factors, such as infections, autoimmune disorders, or hormonal imbalances, have been linked to the development of OCD in some cases.


How to Treat OCD

OCD patients may feel that their personality disorder can hinder their lives, especially if it’s a severe OCD.

However, multiple treatment options have been deemed successful in treating or at least reducing the severity of the condition to manageable levels. Here are some of them:

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

ERP is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that involves gradually exposing the individual to feared situations or obsessions while preventing them from engaging in compulsive behaviors.

This kind of therapy helps identify and modify distorted thoughts and beliefs that contribute to OCD symptoms.


Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed medications for OCD, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil).

In some cases, other medications like antipsychotics or tricyclic antidepressants may be added to augment the effects of SSRIs

Many experts recommend a combination of CBT and medication for the most effective treatment of OCD, especially for severe cases.

Note: Not under any circumstances should you take any of these medications without the psychiatry guidance of a licensed therapist. They are just provided in this guide for informational purposes.

Family Therapy

Family therapy often goes hand in hand with CBT and/or medications.

Involving family members in the treatment process can help them understand OCD better and learn how to support the individual without reinforcing compulsive behaviors.

Support Groups

Support groups can provide a safe and understanding environment for individuals with OCD to share their experiences and learn coping strategies from others.

A couple of support groups you could try are “International OCD Foundation” and “OCD Action.

Additional Modes of Therapy

The three previously mentioned therapy approaches usually help reduce the severity of OCD symptoms. However, in case of excessive previous traumatic events or consistently repetitive behaviors or symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, providers may resort to:

  • Mindfulness and Acceptance-based Therapies: Therapies like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can help individuals develop acceptance and mindfulness skills to manage OCD symptoms.
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): TMS is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique that may be considered for treatment-resistant cases of OCD.
  • Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS): DBS is a neurosurgical procedure that involves implanting electrodes in specific brain regions and may be considered for severe, treatment-resistant cases of OCD.

Final Words

If you or a loved one suffer from OCD that led to any form of substance abuse, we welcome you to visit us at the Allure Detox Center. Our comprehensive treatment psychotherapy program and our handful earned us the Gold Seal of Approval.

Contact us today, or visit us at 900 54th St N – West Palm Beach, FL 33407. Our team is ready 24/7 to take your call.


Published on: 2024-06-06
Updated on: 2024-06-19