Retroactive OCD: What It Is and How To Treat?

Retroactive OCD

Do you feel like you can’t escape thoughts of things you’ve done in the past, even if they don’t have anything to do with the present? If so, you might be experiencing retroactive OCD. This type of OCD is characterized by unwanted thoughts or images that relate to past experiences. In this blog post, we will discuss the what, why, and how to treat retroactive jealousy OCD.

What Is Retroactive OCD?

Retroactive OCD is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In this individual experiences intrusive and unwanted thoughts related to past events. These thoughts can be quite distressing, as they are often accompanied by feelings of guilt or shame. People with this type of OCD may obsessively ruminate on what they should have done differently in the past, even if there was nothing wrong with their actions at the time.

Common Signs And Symptoms Of OCD Of Retroactive?

Common Signs And Symptoms Of OCD Of Retroactive?

There are several common signs and symptoms of retroactive OCD, including the following:

  • Conflict with partners for their past relationships: Individuals with retroactive obsessive-compulsive disorder may experience extreme jealousy and possessiveness when their partner talks about or interacts with someone from their past.
  • Dwelling on past mistakes: People with retroactive obsessive-compulsive disorder may ruminate on past mistakes, even if the mistake has already been forgiven and requires no further action.
  • Difficulty In Letting Go: Individuals with retroactive OCD may have a hard time accepting that they cannot change or undo things that have already happened.
  • Anxious And Depressed About Relationship: Retroactive obsessive-compulsive disorder often leads to feelings of anxiety and depression about one’s current relationship, as individuals may feel like they are constantly “competing” with people from their partner’s past.
  • Overly Checking Partner’s Phone: People with retroactive OCD may excessively check their partner’s phone, social media accounts, or emails for evidence of contact with past partners.
  • Seeking Validation From Partner: Individuals with this type of OCD may constantly seek reassurance and validation from their partner that they are the only one who matters.

What Causes Retroactive Jealousy OCD?

The exact cause of retroactive OCD is not known. However, it is believed to be related to an individual’s underlying need for control. People with OCD often have difficulty accepting uncertainty and feel the need to control their environment in order to feel safe.

  • Genetics: Genetics may also play a role in retroactive obsessive-compulsive disorder. Studies have found that individuals with OCD are more likely to have relatives who also suffer from the disorder.
  • Neurological: Abnormalities in the brain that relate to fear, anxiety, and obsessions may also be a factor. The neurotransmitter serotonin is thought to be involved in OCD and other anxiety disorders.
  • Environmental Factors: It is also believed that certain life experiences also trigger this condition. It includes such as having a partner who has cheated in the past or having a close relationship with someone who is unfaithful can trigger retroactive jealousy and OCD. Additionally, social media and the internet can play a role in triggering this type of OCD as it can increase feelings of insecurity and envy.

Diagnosis Of  Retroactive Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The DSM-4 is the standard diagnostic manual for mental health conditions, including OCD. In order to be diagnosed with retroactive OCD, an individual must meet specific criteria outlined in the DSM-4. The doctor may also ask about past and present symptoms to determine if an individual is struggling with this disorder.

  • Recurrent intrusive thoughts related to past events.
  • Significant distress or disruption in daily life due to these thoughts.
  • Excessive efforts to suppress or ignore these thoughts.
  • An inability to accept uncertainty and the need for control over past events.

Relation Of Retroactive Jealousy With OCD

Retroactive OCD is closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Both are characterized by intrusive and unwanted thoughts, as well as a need for control. In the case of retroactive obsessive-compulsive disorder, individuals often experience excessive jealousy and possessiveness when their partner talks about or interacts with someone from their past.

Retroactive OCD is different from other conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Individuals with PTSD may experience flashbacks or nightmares related to a traumatic event. On the other hand, GAD is characterized by excessive worry that is not linked to any specific event or fear. Retroactive obsessive-compulsive disorder, on the other hand, involves intrusive thoughts related to past events that cause significant distress and disruption in daily life.


Treatment For Retroactive OCD

There are a variety of treatment options available for individuals with retroactive jealousy OCD.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for retroactive OCD. CBT focuses on identifying unhelpful thinking patterns and replacing them with more helpful and realistic thoughts. It also teaches individuals how to challenge intrusive thoughts and tolerate uncertainty.

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is another form of psychotherapy used to treat OCD. This treatment involves gradually confronting feared situations, thoughts, or objects in order to reduce anxiety levels and learn helpful coping strategies.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on helping individuals live with difficult thoughts and emotions without allowing them to control their behavior. ACT teaches individuals how to be mindful, accept uncertainty, and take action toward values-based goals.


Certain medications, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms of retroactive OCD. These medications work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain, which can help reduce anxiety and obsessive thinking.

Lifestyle Changes

Making healthy lifestyle changes can also help reduce symptoms of retroactive OCD. Exercise, for example, has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood. Additionally, maintaining a regular sleep schedule and avoiding substances such as caffeine and alcohol can help an individual feel more in control of their emotions. Eating a healthy diet and engaging in relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation can also help reduce symptoms.

Does Retroactive Jealousy OCD Go Away?

Retroactive OCD is a treatable condition and can be effectively managed with the right treatment plan. With proper therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes, individuals can learn to challenge their intrusive thoughts and manage their symptoms. There is not any cure but, it may take time for symptoms to improve.  With the right help and support, those affected by retroactive jealousy OCD can go on to lead happy and fulfilling lives.


Retroactive OCD is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts related to past events. It can cause significant distress and disruption in daily life, but there are treatment options available. Psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes can all help reduce symptoms and manage the condition. If you think you may be struggling with retroactive obsessive-compulsive disorder, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional. With the right treatment, you can gain control over your intrusive thoughts and start living a more fulfilling life.


For more information and guidance, please contact MantraCare. OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessions and compulsions. If you have any queries regarding Online OCD Counseling experienced therapists at MantraCare can help: Book a trial OCD therapy session

Try MantraCare Wellness Program free

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.