Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Linked To Childhood Trauma

Researchers are beginning to find what I have long suspected… a link between Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and childhood trauma.

OCD is expressed in ways that are curiously similar to how child abuse victims behave and feel:

  • Excessive fear of being exposed to germs: For a victim of abuse, this could be rooted in a need to control any harm that might come to the body.
  • Unwarranted feelings of being unclean: People who have a history of sexual abuse might feel dirty as a result of shame. They can have a compelling urge to clean the shame and guilt from their body. One OCD sufferer said she especially concentrated on scrubbing her genital areas with a violent action.
  • Anger and rage: These emotions don’t need any explanation with regards to child sexual abuse.
  • Fear of a punishing God: Children who were abused by a parent, step-parent, or religious authority will often subconsciously connect God with their abuser. If a child grows up with a punishing parent, then a pattern of association with authority that punishes is established. God is the ultimate authority figure.
  • Sexual Dysfunction: Self-explanatory for sexual abuse survivors.
  • Personality Disorder: Those with a diagnosis of personality disorder were often sexually abused, or previous abuse victims will display identical symptoms to those with personality disorders.
  • Anxiety Disorders: Anxiety is highly common in survivors of child sexual abuse.
  • Relentless and violent thoughts such as choking or stabbing someone close to them: Children who have been abused often grow up with terrible rage. If this is not dealt with in a healthy manner, then unhealthy or dangerous thoughts about the abuser, or anyone who reminds them of their abuser, can occur.
  • One OCD sufferer wrote that she sees tiny dots floating in front of her eyes: I experienced this problem in the weeks preceding the memories of being smacked as a child. I was also choked as a child. The spots disappeared after working through those memories. They may have been caused by the spots seen just before blacking out or becoming disoriented.
  • An obsession with things of a sexual nature and avoidance of situations associated with sex. This coincides with sexual abuse.
  • Repeated checking of the stove, heaters, or electrical appliances; leaving home only to return in order to check doors or windows; repeatedly turning door knobs to make sure the door is shut properly: I used to have an obsessive problem in this area. It has since greatly diminished, but I do retain it to a small degree. I consider this ‘problem’ advantageous because it helps protect my home and family from harm. I also maintain a certain degree of hypervigilance which, in this world, keeps me safer. However, when it affects one’s normal functioning, it can be a huge burden. These actions and fears are related to a need to control. Only a child who is being abused knows how out of control they feel. The rituals are a way of having power over what might happen to themselves or people they care about.
  • Compulsive fear of harm or death coming to loved ones: Perpetrators often threaten to harm pets or family members if the child doesn’t do what they want, or if the child discloses the abuse. This fear can also be connected to the survivor’s constant worry about terrible events happening in the near future. This fear is created when the child realizes they have no control over when and how their body will be violated. Children who are sexually assaulted often live with the constant fear of death or tragedy being on the horizon.
  • OCD symptoms typically become worse under stress: People who were sexually abused, and who have moderate or severe PTSD, will over-react to stress.
  • Hypochondriac tendencies: Children who had their body violated or were threatened with death by an authority figure could fear that any small problem with their body means they are going to die.
  • Jaw clenching: I clenched my teeth just before I remembered, and dealt with, the severity of being raped. With therapy, the origin was pinpointed. I clenched my teeth during the rape and also when trying to avoid my father’s penis being stuck in my mouth. These incidents also produced tension inside me because I was not able to speak or scream.
  • Guilt is a common problem with OCD: Guilt is a common sexual abuse symptom.

On an Internet message board for those suffering with OCD, one woman wrote: “I sometimes imagine that my father used to molest me, but I know he didn’t because I have no memories of this. I don’t have these thoughts constantly, but at least a couple of times a day.”

This woman’s OCD might be the result of having been an incest victim, not that OCD was causing her to imagine her father had molested her. The woman may have repressed an incest experience, and it was subconsciously making itself known through her OCD symptoms and in her daily mental images.

One article, which debated the repressed memory controversy, stated that people who had experienced flashbacks of childhood abuse were later diagnosed with OCD. The patients were then told the flashbacks were not real but a part of the disease. The doctors presumed this merely by the fact that medication caused the images to go away. Medication can cause flashbacks of abuse to go away in those who have always remembered being sexually abused as a child.

If mainstream psychiatrists and psychologists continue to suppress and repress previous victims of sexual abuse, they will create, in those victims, more serious psychiatric disorders than anything which could ever arise from allowing the person to actually remember, deal and heal from child sexual abuse.



Childhood trauma in obsessive-compulsive disorder, trichotillomania, and controls. Lochner C, du Toit PL, Zungu-Dirwayi N, Marais A, van Kradenburg J, Seedat S, Niehaus DJ, Stein DJ Depress Anxiety 2002; 15(2):66-8, Compulsive features in the eating disorders: a role for trauma? Lockwood R, Lawson R, Waller G.,

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2004 Mar; 192(3):247-9. Other source: Dissociative experiences in obsessive-compulsive disorder and trichotillomania: Clinical and genetic findings.

Lochner C, Seedat S, Hemmings SM, Kinnear CJ, Corfield VA, Niehaus DJ, Moolman-Smook JC, Stein DJ. Compr Psychiatry 2004 Sep-Oct; 45(5):384-91.

Debate of Memory Repression of Childhood Sexual Abuse Myra Maple

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11 Responses to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Linked To Childhood Trauma

  1. michelle says:

    I agree.

    I was molested as a child. My molester controlled my mind by manipulation not to let me cry and scream as that would attract attention. I distinctively remember being overwhealmed fear, sadness the moment I realized I was being touched.

    I have ocd behavior during my childhood after the molest. I agree that ocd is a way for the mind to try and gain control as during the trauma they were helpless and lose control of their own body. I too have hypochondriac tendencies. I always think something being wrong with my body as my molester said strange things to me that I didn’t understand as a kid.

    it is hard trying to get over this. But talk to God. Ask God for guidance. Being sexual abuse as children is a very horrifying traumatic experience. It is only those who went through can relate to this.

  2. Anonymous says:

    how do you know this is true? evidence?

    • Alethea says:

      Well, besides the research sources I listed..how about common sense ,logical conclusions, wisdom and life experience.

  3. vickifoy says:

    The paragraph talking about repeatedly checking stove, heaters…turning the door knobs…couldn’t have been more spot on about me. The compulsion to check everything over and over is tiresome especially when you know in reality that everything is okay. I’m glad I came across this post. It always helps when you can understand why you do the things you do. Thanks!

    • Alethea says:

      OMGosh Vicki. Do you know how often I have wasted time by double and triple checking things, and then turning around to drive back home after a few blocks to make sure I did what I just checked three times before I left the house?

      This was my way of dealing with the terrible fear that something horrible was sure to happen if I did not control everything.

  4. little nel says:

    I would have listed self-pity and martyrdom because that is how I felt when I was told that my problems stemmed from past life karma by a past life “therapist” when I was a teenager. I was told that I deserved all my emotional pain and suffering because I was an “old soul” who was trying to work out my past karma in this life. I was told that I picked my parents before birth to “work out my karma.”

    That is when I realized that I was doomed because I had no recollection of any past life guilt or experiences. It was just another way for my parents to escape any responsibility for the abuse I suffered in childhood. There was no way out of my pain in that situation so I began to think about suicide a lot.

    I remember asking myself, “What am I going to do if my efforts to work out my past karma fail”? I guess I’ll just kill myself when the pain becomes unbearable because that’s how I will know that I failed to work out my karma.

    • This is for me the biggest reason that I didn’t do more to handle this from the time I was on my own as an adult. I always had my faith though I felt unworthy of God’s protection. Then I found Scientology and felt that it was all my fault so what’s the point. I blamed myself for how I suffered and lived in a hostile world that would never understand me, never know how to love me.

      Even my therapist is pushing this past life took it on, it was my choice before birth thing. For me, the life I could have had if my mother had kept the marriage with my Dad none of the abuse would have happened, so isn’t that my karma?

      At this point I accept that I was created by God with suffering to empower me to help others by the unique reflection I have on the suffering of so many kinds of abuse.

      • little nel says:

        “the life that I could have had” was also a fantasy for me as a teen. It caused me to loose sight of what I possessed that was given to me by God in spite of my parents craziness and abuse.

        When I found out that pain in life was a reality and that suffering was a choice, I chose to trust God with those things that I could not control.

        I was obsessed with control and power because I believed that those things would prevent anymore pain and suffering from affecting my life. My obsession failed me because there was no room for freedom, growth and happiness either. It controlled me and I was trapped by my own devices.

  5. aswingle says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. As someone who has been abused, I have seen the damage it has done in my life. I also see the correlation between the trauma and OCD. I like to think of my OCD as a desire to be in control of something, because the abuse led to a feeling of powerlessness, and a lack of control.

    Thanks again for posting this. I know it will help a lot of people. It has helped me.

    • I agree with you 100%.

      • little nel says:

        “the abuse led to a feeling of powerlessness and a lack of control”.

        I can relate.

        I felt especially powerless and out of control when I was falsely accused and punished for my “infractions” without recourse or fairness. It also was a blow when I was not believed and/or invalidated when I told about the sexual abuse.

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