Relationship OCD: A form of OCD that often damages the relationships where we most seek to be certain

Relationship OCD: A form of OCD that often damages the relationships where we most seek to be certain

Relationship OCD, or ROCD, refers to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms centered around relationships with partners, family members, friends and co-workers. As can be seen from the symptoms below, ROCD sufferers obsess over fears that they’re not in the right relationship or that taking some step in the relationship will be the wrong step. In an attempt to protect themselves from relationship failure and ensure their happiness, individuals with ROCD may sabotage their relationships or inadvertently damage them over time.

 

Common Triggers
Relationship OCD symptoms are typically triggered by an event or situation in a relationship, such as asking a partner to move in together or getting married. It can also be triggered by something a partner does or doesn’t do. For example, if your partner has been spending more time with friends and family than with you, you might start questioning your place in their life. Or if they don’t respond to a text message right away, you might begin worrying about whether they still love you. If you have ROCD, any change in your relationship could potentially cause anxiety. This is because when it comes to relationships, certainty is everything. The idea of not knowing what will happen next is terrifying for someone with ROCD. Often ROCD suffers will chose to end relationships they truly value, in order to be certain not to harm the other person or to be sure they aren’t making a wrong choice that cannot be undone at a later time.
First Steps
If you suspect you have Relationship OCD, seek help from a professional with speciality in OCD. Clinicians without experience treating OCD may often inadvertently worsen the condition by providing reassurance or engaging in debates with clients that cannot come to real ‘certainty.’ This may also lead to a tendency for clients to seek out clinicians to make the important decisions in their lives for them, in order to feel more certainty or less responsibility for the outcome of their decisions. This condition should not be managed on your own. Your therapist will help you use Exposure and Response Prevention therapy to work on facing relationship fears without resorting to reassurance seeking or other safety behaviors. Don’t let Relationship OCD become a barrier to finding a healthy relationship. Recovering means learning how to face uncertainty without fear—you can do it! And remember, treatment works!

Dealing with your Anxiety
Step 1 – Reaching out for help. The first step in dealing with relationship OCD is to reach out for help. You may want to reach out to an OCD specialist prior to discussing ROCD in detail with the individuals whom it involves in your life. For example, loving partners often have great difficulty understanding why doubt exists and can sometimes take offense or behavior in ways that worsen the doubt with the best intentions. If ROCD exists, an expert clinician is likely to be willing to support you in explaining your symptoms to the individuals whom your doubt targets in ways that better help you potentially preserve the relationship and gain real support from your relationships that help you reduce your ROCD symptoms. One thing that is not typically recommended, is ending relationships simply to feel more certainty in the moment – ROCD typically attaches itself to different relationships. Therefore, ending relationships to reduce momentary discomfort can set up a cycle where symptoms arise again with a new relationship which in turn causes the individual to again end the relationship.

Moving On Through Treatment
Relationship OCD is an insidious condition in which sufferers are plagued by thoughts about their relationship. These thoughts almost always focus on whether or not their current partner is the right one, and thus cause ROCD sufferers to have a difficult time moving forward with intimacy in their lives. It is possible, however, for those suffering from Relationship OCD to move on with their lives if they address their symptoms early enough. The first step toward doing so is recognizing that you may have Relationship OCD. Treatment for ROCD with an expert therapist should involve exposures to help you face your uncertainty and may involve meetings with family or important relationships, should you want these, to help your supporters understand what you are going through.
Differences in Early and Late Onset OCD

Differences in Early and Late Onset OCD

Pinto et al. (2006) defined OCD as “a neuropsychiatric condition characterized by recurrent intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors that the individual feels driven to perform (compulsions)” (pg.1 ).  The researchers sought to investigate predictors of remission/relapse among those treated for OCD.

Over five years, 293 adults were monitored and researchers measured their OCD symptoms. Researchers found those with early and late onset symptoms experience an increase in symptoms over time without effective treatment. Additional findings show a considerable amount of time between symptom onset and first initiation of treatment. Individuals in the study reported an average of 17 years from initial symptom experience to treatment initiation and 11 of delay from meeting diagnostic criteria for OCD until treatment initiation. Many clients reported spending a number of years misdiagnosed before initiating appropriate treatment for OCD.  

Researchers found the average onset for early onset OCD was 11-12 years old, while late onset OCD was 25-26 years-of-age. The first clinical symptom(s), obsessions and compulsions, 53% of participants indicated an obsession and 47% experiencing a compulsion. Interviews also found aggressive content obsessions, hoarding obsessions and compulsions as primary themes in distress. Contamination was shown as the most frequently reported subcategory for obsessions. Those with earlier onset symptoms also experienced higher rates of panic symptoms and disordered (Pinto et al., 2006).

Written by Perry Leynor, MA, LPC Associate supervised by Paula Maloney, LPC Supervisor.

Pinto, A., Mancebo, M. C., Eisen, J. L., Pagano, M. E., & Rasmussen, S. A. (2006). The Brown Longitudinal obsessive COMPULSIVE Study. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 67(05), 703-711. https://doi:10.4088/jcp.v67n0503

Offering Your Anxious Clients the Standard of Care

Offering Your Anxious Clients the Standard of Care

                              Offering Your Anxious Clients the ‘Gold Standard’ of Care

         Exposure therapy has long been supported as the ‘gold standard’ treatment for anxiety disorders. Despite strong empirical support for the effectiveness of exposure therapy, many therapists underutilize exposure therapy in the treatment of anxiety and related disorders.

Studies examining why clinicians tend to underutilize exposure therapy indicate several important factors.

These factors include:

  • Lack of appropriate training or supervision to learn these methods.
  • Holding negative or inaccurate perceptions about exposure therapy and when it is contraindicated.
  • Clinician belief that clients will reject the treatment, drop out of treatment, or that exposure therapy may cause harm to clients by asking them to engage with aversive experiences.

In summary, clinicians tend to underutilize the ‘gold standard’ of treatments for anxiety and related disorders because they tend to have little training or experience with it. A key factor in alleviating these issues is offering more training and consultation on utilization of exposure-based treatments.

If you would like to learn more about using exposure therapy in your practice:

  • Sign up for our blog, below.
  • Contact us at 972-332-8733 to join our consultation group or to set up individual case consultation.

     by Perry Leynor, LPC Associate under the supervision of Paula Maloney, LPC-S.    

Meyer, J. M., Farrell, N. R., Kemp, J. J., Blakey, S. M., & Deacon, B. J. (2014). Why do clinicians exclude anxious clients from exposure therapy? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 54, 49-53. https://doi:10.1016/j.brat.2014.01.004

Scrupulosity: When religion and morality become impairing

Scrupulosity: When religion and morality become impairing

Although most people are familiar with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)—or at least have a general idea and may even feel that they personally have some OCD tendencies—a lesser known form of OCD exists called scrupulosity. Scrupulosity involves obsessions related to religious or moral ideals which cause an individual to be overly concerned that their actions are sinful or are violating religious or moral doctrine (International OCD Foundation, 2010). This concern is so great that it often leads to excessive praying or trips to confession, repeating rituals involving cleansing and purifying, and avoiding situations where some religious or moral error may occur (IOCDF, 2010). One effective and recommended treatment for scrupulosity is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP); however, another form of treatment, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) was shown to be another effective form of treatment in a recent study by Dehlin, Morrison, and Twohig (2013). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy traditionally involves accepting undesirable thoughts and feelings, reducing the meaning of and attachment to these thoughts and feelings, and working toward acting in a way that fulfills one’s values in life and has been used in the treatment of OCD.

Dehlin and colleagues (2013) evaluated the effects of ACT on scrupulosity with five adults (three females and two males) across eight treatment sessions. In order to measure the effects of treatment, researchers tracked the participants’ compulsive behaviors as well as engagement with valued activities. In addition, researchers had participants complete assessment questionnaires. Treatment sessions were 1-1.5 hours each week and consisted of activities that helped the participants incorporate the core processes of ACT. Participants also completed weekly homework assignments. Throughout treatment, participants learned to accept unwanted thoughts, separate themselves from obsessive thoughts, view the self as a context in which thoughts occur, contact the present moment, and commit to actions in alignment with values. Results of the study showed a 74% reduction in compulsions and a 79% reduction in avoided valued behaviors, and these reductions were maintained during a 3-month follow up. In addition, participants reported high levels of treatment acceptability which, combined with the positive results of treatment, makes this a promising treatment for individuals with scrupulosity.

Dehlin, J. P., Morrison, K. L., & Twohig, M. P. (2013). Acceptance and commitment therapy as a treatment for scrupulosity in obsessive compulsive disorder. Behavior Modification. DOI: 10.1177/0145445512475134

International Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Foundation (2010). Retrieved from https://iocdf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/IOCDF-Scrupulosity-Fact-Sheet.pdf