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.
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.
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.