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What Triggers OCD?

Woman struggling with OCD

What Triggers OCD?

Just because you have a particular way of folding laundry doesn’t mean you suffer from a mental illness. Nor does your insistence that doors and windows are locked when you leave your house. But if these habits begin ruling your life, you may be experiencing early symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What Is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). The repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking on things or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.”

Symptoms of OCD and other mental illnesses are treatable in many ways. Some options to ask your healthcare provider about include psychotherapy, medicine, and ketamine treatment.

OCD Symptoms

Obsessive-compulsive disorder includes obsessions and compulsions. In some cases, it may have only symptoms of one or the other. And you might or might not recognize that obsessions and compulsions are extreme or irrational, but they require a vast amount of time and inhibit your daily life including social, school, or work activities.

Obsession and compulsion have their own symptoms, some of which include:


  • Fear of being polluted by touching objects touched by others 
  • Doubts that you’ve closed the windows or shut off the clothes iron
  • Extreme stress when items aren’t orderly or arranged a certain way
  • Fear of being in a car accident


  • Handwashing until your hands become raw
  • Verifying repeatedly that your doors are locked
  • Examining the stove constantly to ensure sure it’s off
  • Counting in particular patterns

People who’ve been diagnosed often exhibit symptoms of other mental illnesses or physical pain conditions.

What Triggers OCD?

Using neuroimaging technologies in which pictures of the brain and its functioning are taken, researchers have been able to demonstrate that certain areas of the brain function differently in people with OCD compared with those who don’t. Research findings suggest that OCD symptoms may involve communication errors among different parts of the brain,” which is where ketamine treatment comes into play, as it’s believed to repair and strengthen damaged or weakened neurotransmitters in the brain critical for communication throughout the brain. OCD may be the result of neurobiological, genetic, behavioral, cognitive, and environmental factors.

Certain triggers make it more probable that you could develop OCD at some point. These include:

  • Long-term stress. There is a known association between stressful life events and OCD. However, it is also clear that stressful life events by themselves do not cause OCD. It is believed that stressful life events can trigger OCD, but only in people who are genetically vulnerable.
  • Big life changes, which boost levels of stress and anxiety and, as a result, act as a trigger for OCD.
  • Trauma can serve as a trigger for someone who already experiences OCD, or as a cause for someone who’s never exhibited symptoms before. Examples include the death of a loved one, loss of income, homelessness, food insecurity, and many other stressors.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth, with OCD symptoms triggered for up to a year after the birth of a child.

Because multiple factors can trigger OCD, many doctors and clinicians advocate an integrative treatment plan.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Steps to determine obsessive-compulsive disorder can include:

  • A psychological evaluation and talking about your thoughts, behavior patterns, feelings, and symptoms to understand if you have OCD behaviors that inhibit your quality of life. With your approval, your doctor may also talk with your friends or family.
  • Compare your symptoms to diagnostic criteria for OCD as published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) by the American Psychiatric Association.
  • A physical exam. This may be recommended to help eliminate other problems which could be triggering your symptoms and to verify any related problems.

Finally, you and your healthcare provider can talk about treatment options like psychotherapy, medicine, self-help, or a combination of therapy types. Another innovative new option is ketamine treatment. Regardless of your choice, be sure to ask about risks and benefits, side effects, complications from other illnesses, and whether your diagnosis puts you at risk of suicide.

Final Thoughts

OCD is a serious mental health problem that many people take for granted. Its symptoms – like counting a particular way, arranging food in the cupboard or pantry alphabetically – are sometimes laughed off, but they shouldn’t be ignored. Like other mental illnesses, this is a disorder that can have grave consequences without understanding the symptoms and making efforts to manage them. If you think you have OCD, give us a call today to learn more about our innovative treatments!

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