Published On: July 16, 2018
Reviewed On: April 20, 2022
Updated On: July 17, 2023
Updated on 4/20/2022
Relationship OCD (also known as ROCD) is a lesser-known subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder — the mental health condition that causes people to have repeated behaviors or routines they can’t control (known as compulsions) related to the unwelcomed repeated thoughts (known as obsessions) they experience.
Relationship OCD differs from the basic form of OCD in that it involves the same types of obsessions and compulsions
, but in direct response to a romantic relationship. People living with ROCD experience behaviors and thoughts that can interfere with their relationships with spouses, parents, mentors, friends, children, or even a spiritual higher power.
There are 2 types of relationship OCD people might experience — we’re discussing them both. We’ll also look at ROCD symptoms, causes, how you can cope with the condition, and most importantly, what types of treatment are available.
The 2 classifications of relationship obsessive compulsive disorder are relationship-centered OCD (ROCD Type I) and partner-focused OCD (ROCD Type II). While they differ in symptoms and may vary in treatment, both have a fundamental similarity — people living with ROCD are consumed with obsessive doubts or intrusive thoughts about their romantic relationship. The kind of obsessive thought pattern you might experience is what splits ROCD into two distinct classifications.
Type I ROCD is when one partner is obsessive about whether the relationship is right for them, or when they’re obsessive about if their partner feels the same way about them. It causes someone to continually survey and analyze their relationship, asking themselves and those around them if the relationship is right.
What’s relationship OCD Type I like?
You might wonder, do I really love my partner? Or does my partner really love me?
Someone with Type II ROCD typically picks apart their partner, continually analyzing every quality or trait (or lack thereof). They might become obsessed over their partner’s looks, social life, stability (financially, emotionally, etc.), intelligence, and morals.
What’s relationship OCD Type II like?
You might feel like you love your partner but find yourself constantly worried about or questioning their intelligence, their personality, or any characteristic.
“If you’ve found yourself in the content provided so far, know that there is hope and that neither you nor your relationships need to continue suffering from obsessive thoughts.”
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what’s relationship OCD and how do I know if my partner or I have it, understanding ROCD symptoms can help.
There are several signs and symptoms you might experience if you’re dealing with relationship OCD, including:
ROCD can also contribute to relationship anxiety, distress, relationship doubts and more.
Just like with basic OCD, we don’t have a full and complete understanding of what, exactly, causes ROCD. Though research has been done, the truth is the condition isn’t entirely understood.
It is believed, however, that several factors might play a role in someone developing relationship OCD. Some known factors that might increase your risk of developing R-OCD include:
“Our individual attachment styles help us to better-understand how we show up in our relationships with others. While these attachment styles started forming even before we were born, we do have the power to make healthy and positive changes for the traits that are causing us distress.”
Relationship OCD can make maintaining relationships more difficult. It can make it not only difficult for you, but also for the romantic partner in a relationship with you. Nonetheless, a person with intrusive thoughts and compulsive behavior relating to ROCD can feel overwhelmed. That said, there are several ways you can learn to manage your relationship so it’s healthy and successful. The following coping techniques have been found useful for couples trying to navigate relationship OCD.
Open communication, that’s honest and based on a foundation of trust, is important in any relationship. It’s downright essential in a relationship that’s dealing with OCD. It’s important for your partner to understand what you’re thinking and feeling. They should be aware of where you’re emotionally “at” so they can respond appropriately, rather than letting misunderstandings and miscommunications come between you.
If the relationship OCD symptoms discussed apply, getting the support you need can be crucial in ensuring your relationship survives. There are community support groups available for people who are living with OCD. These groups can be key in helping you figure out how to make your relationship succeed. Somehow, having the social support you gain from others who understand what you’re going through can be a game changer.
Sometimes encouraging your partner to become active in your treatment can help establish trust and regain some of the intimacy you might have lost in your relationship. Additionally, a therapy session is generally thought of as a safe space, so it can be a neutral place for you both to openly discuss what you need to, without fear of being ridiculed or ostracized.
It can be easy to compare our relationship to our friends, family members, or even those we see in the media, on social media, or on TV. However, doing so can create unrealistic, not to mention unhealthy, expectations about your relationship.
For many of us, being stressed or anxious can make us focus on the negative aspects of our lives, like our relationships. Stopping that negativity in its tracks, perhaps by looking at the big picture of your relationship, can be done with a pros and cons list.
Take an in-depth look into your current relationship and pull out all the positives you can find. It’s easy to list the negative aspects first, so give yourself time and permission to work on this exercise in a calm, relaxed setting.
Sometimes creating a list can allow you to see the big picture. Often, that will present in a more favorable light, which can help you put any distress or anxiety you’ve been focusing on into perspective.
Obsessive thoughts can start when your mind has time to wander, or it doesn’t have something to focus on. Practice recalibrating your mind and thoughts throughout the day so you can start to catch yourself in the “act” before the snowball of obsessive thought patterns starts.
To use mindfulness meditation, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and think of a place or time that brings you peace and tranquility. Your goal here is to calm the mind before it begins to race. If you have trouble focusing, try downloading a guided meditation app.
You can learn to defeat the obsessive thoughts about your relationship. How?
Learn your triggers by journaling: One effective strategy is by learning your triggers. Journaling can be a good way to identify what might be a trigger that sends you into a spiral of negative, obsessive thoughts.
Talk to your thoughts: Obsessive thoughts can be the result of your mind trying to protect you from emotional pain that stems from past experiences.
If you realize you’re starting to have obsessive thoughts about your relationship, try talking to them. It might sound silly, but it can work. Let your thoughts know they’re present, you’re allowing them to visit, but they cannot stay. Then, continue with your activities. If you start thinking again, remind yourself that you are in control.
Your relationship is what you make of it, and your thoughts have no power over that.
“Therapy can help with any sort of obsessive or compulsive thoughts and behaviors. Many clients with ROCD have found successful ways of overcoming their symptoms with cognitive and cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches.”
If you think you have ROCD symptoms, it might be time for you to talk to your doctor. Learning how to treat your symptoms in an effective way can help you establish and maintain relationships that will be fulfilling and rewarding for both partners.
Relationship OCD treatment techniques can include talk therapy and medication. Often a combination of these two options is most effective.
If you’re in a relationship that’s being affected by ROCD, remember that help is out there. Talk to your doctor or reach out to a therapist to start the process of healing and rebuilding your relationships. You deserve to be happy, and with the right support, information, and guidance, you can be…in every relationship in your life.
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