Page last reviewed and updated by Dr Elaine Ryan on 8 January 2021
The following article is an answer to a question when a person was unsure whether or not their current difficulty was as a result of a recurring obsession or a problem with their relationship.
You can read more on the subject in the following articles
Four months ago I had to move house and it was very sudden and stressful. A week after I moved in I started to get these intrusive thoughts about my partner ‘what if you don’t love him’ ‘what if you have to end things?’
After having these thoughts I got very anxious and distressed and then I could not feel anything but anxiety towards my partner. Ever since I had the first thought four months ago I’ve been obsessing over it ever since and needing certainty, that I do love him.
It’s very sad and causing me a lot of stress because I know I love my partner and this is the best relationship I’ve been in, there are no reasons why I would not love him e.g no red flags. so I’m sure you can understand how distressing and confusing it is.
I constantly have to check my feelings , and search online for temporary relief. It isn’t until recently I came across a form of OCD online known as ROCD. I have showed symptoms of OCD in the past towards my health particularly, ‘what if i have cancer’ and constantly needing reassurance from doctors and online support.
Do you think i may be suffering from ROCD? or maybe something else? Could therapy help me with this? I have suffered with anxiety throughout the majority of my teens as well but never sought professional help. Any advice you may have would be greatly appreciated because I feel like I’m losing control over my life and its causing me a lot of pain.
If you would like my help start by looking at my
Self Help course for ROCD
Hello and thank you very much for your question. I have spoken about Relationship OCD in another post, which you might find help. Have a read of this, as it covers some of what you ask.
From the information you have given me, let’s start by looking at facts, and take it from there.
Fact: You said that you know that you love your partner and that this is the best relationship you have had. That is real.
Intrusive thoughts that are not real: You said it yourself, and called them intrusive thoughts “what if I don’t love my partner” These are not real, these are just thoughts. Not nice thoughts, but thoughts all the same.
So why do they trouble you? I am going to have a look at what keeps them going and keeps them alive in your head.
We all have unwanted thoughts every day, but most we do not pay any attention to. I have a thought often about buying a massive house that sits along the east coast of Ireland (that I could never afford in a million years!) but I see this as day dreaming and does not bother me. I am sure you have these sort of thoughts as well.
However, a thought about whether or not you love someone, you pay more attention to it, and start to question why you are having it, surely it must come from somewhere or mean something? It is just a thought, it is what you might be doing with it, that causes the problem.
It causes distress, so you might be on google, trying to find out what is going on, you might speak with someone, or do something else to get reassurance. This adds fuel to the fire of the thought, as it is carving out a groove, a sort of habit in your mind.
Your thoughts change the structure of your brain
If you would like to get more information on the course that this video comes from, please see here
The more you pay attention to these thoughts, the more you will have them, and the more real they will feel. You have to remember that they are just thoughts.
To answer your question about whether I think you have ROCD, it would be wrong of me to say yes or no, from one email, but perhaps more importantly, from your email I can have an attempt at how to help!
Therapy is an option, but you can try things at home without therapy, such as mindfulness (and this is explained in the post I spoke about earlier.)
If you start by seeing these as ‘not real’ use mindfulness to help you stay relaxed when you have the thoughts. Once you are able to stay relaxed, you are less likely to do things, to seek some sort of reassurance.
By doing all of this, you are effectively breaking down the pattern in your brain, and carving out a new one.
Also you mentioned that you had moved house and that it was stressful. See this is a vulnerability factor – stress. Usually when we are feeling calm and relaxed things do not bother us as much. When feeling stressed we do not have the same resources to cope.
So in terms of why the thoughts happened? I would look to stress, as opposed to thinking that maybe something is wrong in the relationship.
When these thoughts occur, remind yourself of the fact that you know that you love him, see the thoughts for what they are, just thoughts.
I hope this helps