Is OCD Hereditary?

Woman with OCD counting objects

Is OCD Hereditary?

Habitually rearranging your pantry a certain way may get giggles from friends and family, but if such behavior starts ruling daily life, more serious issues may be at play. If you’re obsessed with daily routines, you may be suffering from something called obsessive-compulsive disorder.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health ailment recognized by features called obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions include intrusive thoughts, mental pictures, or desires to complete specific actions. Obsessive symptoms vary widely and often include fear of sickness or contamination, an urge for symmetry or getting something “just right,” or intrusive thoughts targeting religion, physical intimacy, or violence. 

Compulsion is repeatedly doing actions (like checking, counting, verifying, washing, positioning, or acting out certain routines) or seeking assurance.


Important warning signs of OCD:

  • unreasonably seeking assurance
  • opposing change
  • spending excessive time finishing things, getting showered, or enjoying a meal (longer than considered normal for most occasions)
  • recreating tasks
  • declining to touch something with bare hands
  • compulsive and repetitive hand washing, or showering
  • exhibiting red, dried up, or cracked skin (occurring from constant washing or skin picking)
  • overly interested in number patterns
  • suffering outbursts when you can’t finish something in a particular way


Ketamine was created in the 1960s and has been in use for decades as a pre-surgical anesthetic. There’s a mystery about how the drug functions in the brain, and there are concerns related to regular, long-term use. Today, however, ketamine is dispensed in low doses at licensed clinics, with a patient’s progress monitored by medical staff and the person’s doctor. It’s thought ketamine works to help neurotransmitters called glutamate to re-establish communication with one another.


Some studies have unearthed evidence that OCD relates to problems in signal transmission between the front of the brain and its deeper structures. These brain structures utilize a neurotransmitter (essentially, a chemical-based messenger) called serotonin. Images of a functioning brain reveal that, in certain people, the brain circuits targeted in OCD become more ordinary with either medication that boosts serotonin levels (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) such as ketamine via infusion therapy or through other treatment strategies.


Whatever causes the obsessive-compulsive disorder isn’t fully comprehended. Main assumptions include:

  • OCD could result from bodily changes related to organic chemistry or brain functions, meaning a biological component is at work.
  • OCD could also have a genetic component, but the specific genes aren’t yet known.
  • You also could’ve learned obsessive fears and compulsive behaviors by watching family members or learning them over time.

One notion is that OCD is inherited, with research showing that it runs in families. Furthermore, genes probably have a role in how it grows. Genes seem to be only somewhat responsible for triggering the disorder, though. Other factors could be involved, like an ailment or typical life stressors, which may launch the activity of genes related to the symptoms.

Some experts believe that OCD starting in childhood could be different from the version beginning in adults. For example, some twin studies have shown that genes have a larger role (between 45 and 65 percent) when OCD starts in childhood compared to it kicking off during adulthood (27 to 47 percent).

There is compelling evidence for a biological basis of OCD:

  1. Obsessions and compulsions are common in several medical conditions, including Huntington’s chorea, encephalitis lethargica (von Economo’s encephalitis), Parkinson’s disease, and Tourette disorder. As well as schizophrenia, Sydenham’s chorea, certain epilepsies, and damage to specific brain regions due to trauma, ischemia, and tumors.
  2. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (clomipramine) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (e.g., fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, and sertraline) have demonstrated efficacy in controlling obsessions and compulsions.
  3. Functional imaging studies have revealed increased metabolic activity in specific brain regions of patients with OCD, at rest and when challenged with stimuli that provoke obsessions and compulsions.”


If you think you suffer from OCD, a doctor or mental healthcare provider is best qualified to diagnose and recommend treatment. Exams will seek to uncover a medical reason for your symptoms or probe whether a personal or family history of mental illness is the source of your OCD. Medical Professionals will match your symptoms with specific criteria, and then you can start talking about treatment. Primary choices include psychotherapy or even ketamine infusion therapy.


Although OCD is often mocked or made fun of in popular culture, it is a serious and often debilitating disease that you should take seriously. If you notice any of the symptoms in your daily life, get help. By recognizing the symptoms, you’ve taken the first steps in maintaining control of your life. Ketamine may help. Contact us today to learn more.


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