Relationship OCD (rOCD)

February is said to be the month of love. With Valentine’s Day being this weekend, many people spend countless hours planning something sweet for that special someone. However, for some people intimate relationships can become a source of anxiety and worry instead of excitement.shutterstock_230227600

Imagine yourself being in a relationship with the person of your dreams. He is funny, intelligent, and caring. The relationship is going well and you two are considering making a commitment to move in together or get engaged. However, you are tormented by thoughts and worries that do not go away no matter what you do. How do I know if he will always love me? Is he the one or is there someone else out there who would be better for me? Am I really in love with him? In order to erase these thoughts from your mind you start asking people about love and whether or not others think your love is real. You also spend countless hours researching love and thinking about things that could go wrong in your relationship. No matter what you do, these doubts keep coming back and your relationship suffers.

Even though most people have doubts and worries related to intimate relationships, these worries become increasingly impairing and distressing to people with relationship Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (rOCD). Eventually these obsessions become so distressing that they get in the way of fully engaging or enjoying relationships.

It is the focus on intimate relationships that distinguishes rOCD from other types of OCD. There are two main types of rOCD, relationship-centered and partner-focused. The example above highlights the strong doubts often found in people with relationship-centered rOCD type. People with this type of rOCD are overwhelmed by doubt and worry related to feelings towards a partner and the partner’s feelings towards them as well as obsessing over whether or not the relationship is “right” or “meant-to-be”.

The partner-focused rOCD type is characterized by obsessions over characteristics of another person, such as physical attributes, personality traits, or social skills. A person with this type of rOCD tends to constantly compare their partner, child, or friend to other people. For example, a person might compare one’s spouse to people on social wp-content/uploads or compare their children to other people’s children. The relationships of people with rOCD often suffer as the obsessions cloud the communication between individuals.shutterstock_170680364

These two types can be present at the same time and can reinforce one another. For example, a perceived character flaw might lead to doubts about the “rightness” of the relationship. Even though rOCD is most often seen in current intimate relationships, rOCD can include obsessing over past relationships as well. For example, a person with rOCD might get overwhelmed with thoughts about what went wrong in a past relationship, ask others for reassurance regarding the relationship, or be constantly checking on the relationship status of the ex-spouse.

Fortunately effective treatment is available for those who have noticed rOCD get in the way of forming and maintaining intimate relationships. The treatment of choice for rOCD is the same as other types of OCD and focuses on exposure and response prevention. Many studies have explored rOCD in the recent years and it has received significant wp-content/uploads attention. A book has also been published by a former rOCD sufferer about the journey through rOCD. For more information on rOCD click here for a throughout explanation by Guy Doron, PhD and Danny Derby, PhD.