Although cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical (CSTC) circuit dysregulation is correlated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), causation cannot be tested in humans. We used optogenetics in mice to simulate CSTC hyperactivation observed in OCD patients. Whereas acute orbitofrontal cortex (OFC)-ventromedial striatum (VMS) stimulation did not produce repetitive behaviors, repeated hyperactivation over multiple days generated a progressive increase in grooming, a mouse behavior related to OCD. Increased grooming persisted for 2 weeks after stimulation cessation. The grooming increase was temporally coupled with a progressive increase in light-evoked firing of postsynaptic VMS cells. Both increased grooming and evoked firing were reversed by chronic fluoxetine, a first-line OCD treatment. Brief but repeated episodes of abnormal circuit activity may thus set the stage for the development of persistent psychopathology.