NOTICE THE RED FLAGS AND OVERCOME I
Everyone has had concerns about their relationship at some point. They’re usually fleeting notions that aren’t significant enough to pay attention to. Relationship OCD (ROCD) is different. When you have ROCD, you can’t stop thinking about your relationship and how it could be improved.
This guide takes a look at what ROCD is, how to identify it, how it can be tackled. Let’s dive in!
What is Relationship OCD (ROCD)?
“Obsessive thoughts about the relationship not being perfect, correct or ideal.”
ROCD is a subtype of OCD. The obsessions associated with ROCD revolve primarily around your romantic relationships and how they could be improved or fixed to make them ‘perfect.’ This can include both doubts about the strength of your current relationship as well as concerns about the potential of future relationships. Everything from your partner’s looks, to how they behave or spend their time can cause problems for those with ROCD.
ROCD is often referred to as Relationship OCD because it usually takes hold in romantic connections. However, people with ROCD can obsess over friendships, family relationships, and virtually any other significant connection.
Who is Affected by Relationship OCD (ROCD)?
ROCD can develop at almost any age, though it is most common in young adults and adolescents. As with many subtypes of OCD, it tends to go undiagnosed for a long time, even decades. This delay occurs because OCD in relationships doesn’t take hold in most people. The thoughts are usually fleeting, meaning the person can dismiss them fairly easily.
However, for those who are affected by ROCD, these obsessive thoughts can become more difficult to manage over time. This makes it harder to resist carrying out compulsions. For this reason, it’s important to get help if you believe that you are suffering from ROCD.
There are 4 types of Relationship OCD (ROCD):
Relationship-Centred – those primarily affected by ROCD obsess about their partner and the relationship. They tend to doubt the strength and quality of their current connection as well as future relationships.
Avoidant – those with Avoidant ROCD obsess over potential future romantic partners. They want to avoid romantic relationships and try to suppress or resist urges that could lead to a relationship. This can take the form of purposefully avoiding potential partners, suppressing thoughts about them, and even engaging in compulsive behaviors.
Uncertain – those with Uncertain ROCD obsess over the details of a potential romantic connection to try and determine if it would be a worthwhile relationship or not. They will often put off making “the right decision” by trying to gather as much information about their partner or potential partner as possible.
Perfectionist – those with Perfectionist ROCD obsess about whether or not their relationship is perfect. They constantly compare the relationship to other possible, imaginary, or past relationships in an attempt to determine if theirs measures up. They often become fixated on the imperfections of their partner as well as their actions.
There are many signs of ROCD. They are all fairly common, though some people with OCD in relationships suffer from some symptoms more than others.
Common signs and symptoms of Relationship OCD (ROCD):
- Fear of making the wrong decision about your relationship.
- Doubt about whether or not your partner is ‘the one.
- Preoccupation with a potential future relationship or a past one.
- Preoccupation with a specific trait, action, or body part your partner has.
- Feel as though your life would be better without them.
- Anxiety around being abandoned by them.
- Severe anxiety if you think they might have feelings for someone else.
- Trying to ‘figure out what actions or thoughts mean.
- Trying to convince yourself you don’t have feelings for your partner or potential partners.
- Anxiety if you think they might not have feelings for you.
- Compulsions that revolve around your relationship.
- Repeatedly thinking about your partner’s past relationships or yours.
Relationship OCD Compulsions: Some Examples
Many compulsions can stem from ROCD. In this section, I will list some examples of common compulsions in addition to their meaning and how they might be a sign or symptom of Relationship OCD (ROCD).
Compulsions and Obsessions:
1. Checking your partner’s social media accounts, email accounts, or phone constantly without any real reason to do so. This could be a sign of ROCD.
2. Asking your partner if they think about you when you’re not with them or if they think about another person when you’re together.
3. Checking in with your partner constantly to see how they feel about you or if they like spending time with you or love you. This could be a sign of ROCD, especially if it is done ‘without reason.
4. Repeatedly check in with your partner multiple times a day to see what their feelings are towards you without any real reason to do so.
5. Persistently thinking about a past relationship or wondering what might have been with a previous partner even though it causes you distress and anxiety.
6. Asking your partner if they like certain activities you enjoy together (e.g. “Do you like going for walks?”).
7. Repeatedly thinking about the ‘future’ of your relationship (e.g., ‘What if I marry this person? What will the kids look like?’)
8. Repeatedly thinking about how much time you spend with your partner, either wondering if you spend enough time with them or how much time you might be spending together.
9. Telling your partner that you think they should spend less time at work, be more sociable or see their family less often.
10. Asking your partner if there was a point when they first started to develop feelings for you to get into the relationship.
11. Watching other people on social media and wondering if they are more attractive than your partner or wondering if you would be happier with them.
12. Repeatedly thinking about other people who might make a better partner than your current one and comparing them to your partner.
13. Asking friends, family members, or others whether they like your partner or think that they are a good match for you.
RELATIONSHIP OCD THERAPY-
ERP stands for Exposure Response Prevention. It is a type of therapy that is used to treat anxiety disorders, phobias, and OCD. This type of therapy involves gradually exposing yourself to the sources of your anxiety and then not carrying out the corresponding response that you usually would do when faced with those triggers.
An essential part of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Relationship OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). ERP helps by preparing you to face your obsessions in a gradual, systematic way while learning how not to respond with compulsive behaviors such as checking, reassurance-seeking, etc. Here are some examples of ERP exercises for ROCD:
1. Identify obsessions and compulsions.
2. Gradually expose yourself to the situations that trigger your obsessions without performing any compulsions.
3. Practice mindfulness by focusing on your breathing during exposure exercises so as not to perform any rituals.
4. Create a plan in case urges to perform rituals become too strong during exposure exercises.
5. Continue this process for as long as necessary until your ROCD symptoms gradually improve.
Relationship OCD Therapy is the same as ROCD treatment; it involves using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and ERP to learn how to identify and challenge your unhelpful thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs.
It is also important to remember that recovery from ROCD takes time. There are no quick fixes for this condition as it usually involves having a combination of strong beliefs about yourself and others, as well as behavioral issues which have been repeated over a long period of time. In some cases, the disorder may go back as far as early childhood. As such, it will take time and patience to overcome. Furthermore, even if you have had ROCD for a long period of time, that does not mean that you cannot get over it.
This therapy also involves other components such as cognitive restructuring, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques.
Cognitive Restructuring is a method of challenging unhelpful thoughts and beliefs that you may hold about yourself and/or others (e.g., ‘If I don’t constantly check up on my girlfriend, she might cheat on me’ or ‘I’m not worthy of love).
This is done by first identifying such thoughts and then considering the evidence for and against them, as well as trying to test the validity of such thoughts. This process involves looking at other possibilities and perspectives regarding your obsessions and helps you learn how to be less judgmental and more accepting of yourself and your partner.
In therapy, you may also be encouraged to practice various mindfulness and relaxation techniques as a way of coping with your anxiety. In doing so, you can help yourself to feel more in control by learning how to view difficult situations objectively rather than being overwhelmed by them.
How to Get Help for OCD
If you suspect that you may have Relationship OCD, it is important to speak to your doctor about getting an assessment. A doctor can also offer advice on how to begin treatment and offer referrals for counseling or psychotherapy if needed. One of the most effective treatments for ROCD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that involves meeting regularly with a therapist who specializes in this area and has experience in treating obsessive-compulsive disorders. The therapist will then guide you through the different stages of CBT.
If your ROCD is caused by fears that you may neglect your partner, it would be wise to meet with a psychologist specializing in attachment issues. This is because Relationship OCD often arises from an anxious attachment style which makes people constantly seek reassurance about their romantic partner’s feelings for them.
If you suspect that your partner may be suffering from ROCD, encourage them to seek help without pushing too hard or nagging. Trying to force someone into changing their thoughts and behaviors will probably not work and could even make things worse. It is best to leave the person be for the time being until they are ready to get help.
Relationship OCD is a deeply distressing obsessive-compulsive disorder that causes constant doubt and uncertainty about your romantic relationships. It can be very difficult to recover from as it often involves overcoming our fear of rejection and abandonment as well as learning how to trust ourselves and others, but with the help of therapy, there is every chance that you will overcome your symptoms and lead a more fulfilling relationship.