Relationship OCD, ROCD, is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that causes people to experience intrusive thoughts and behaviours that interfere with their romantic relationships. Symptoms of ROCD include constantly questioning the relationship, comparing it to past relationships or idealized versions of relationships, seeking reassurance from their partner or others, and engaging in compulsive behaviours like constantly checking their partner’s social media or behaviour. This can lead to a cycle of anxiety and distress that can negatively impact the relationship.
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What are the signs that someone has ROCD?
Need for constant reassurance.
Individuals with ROCD may repeatedly seek verbal confirmation of love or relationship status from their partner, friends, or family. They may also make lists to prove or disprove their doubts, mentally test out scenarios about the relationship’s future, or scrutinize their partner’s behaviour for evidence that the relationship is healthy. This behaviour can be exhausting for a partner and impact the relationship negatively. Seeking reassurance can lead to a lack of trust between partners, and constantly analyzing the relationship can cause unnecessary stress and tension.
Worries about being loved.
People with relationship OCD may experience intrusive thoughts and worries about whether their relationship is “the one.” They may fear that they or their partner aren’t good enough for each other or worry about their partner’s past relationships.
Difficulty expressing emotion.
Difficulty expressing emotion can be a sign of someone having relationship OCD. This is because individuals with relationship OCD often struggle with doubt and uncertainty in their romantic relationships, leading them to analyze and question their feelings constantly. As a result, they may have difficulty expressing their emotions to their partner or feel that their feelings are not strong enough, leading to anxiety and distress. For example, someone with relationship OCD may feel uncertain about whether they truly love their partner or whether their attraction is strong enough. They may struggle to express their feelings of love and affection.
Repeating action (compulsions)
Relationship OCD involves intrusive thoughts and doubts about one’s romantic relationship. These thoughts and doubts often lead to repeated, compulsive behaviours to reduce anxiety. Compulsions in ROCD fall into four categories: overt, avoidance, reassurance-seeking, and mental. Overt compulsions include:
- Repeatedly confessing doubts to a partner.
- Testing feelings by spending time with others.
- Compulsive online research about love or relationship issues.
Avoidance compulsions involve avoiding trigger situations, such as being around attractive people or deepening relationships. Reassurance-seeking compulsions involve seeking reassurance from others about the relationship’s viability. Finally, mental compulsions involve comparing the relationship to past relationships or media depictions of love. These compulsions provide temporary relief but ultimately fuel the obsessive-compulsive cycle.
What are the challenges of being in a relationship with someone with ROCD?
Lack of understanding
When one partner has Relationship OCD, their lack of understanding about their thoughts and fears can be a significant challenge for both partners. The individual with Relationship OCD may struggle to assess the level of threat in their relationship accurately and may engage in cognitive distortions such as catastrophizing, emotional reasoning, and mind reading.
This can lead to a constant need for reassurance from their partner, which can be exhausting and overwhelming. Meanwhile, the partner may feel frustrated and helpless in providing reassurance their loved one needs.
Difficulty engaging in healthy relationships
Individuals with Relationship OCD face many difficulties when engaging in healthy relationships. They may struggle with feelings of anxiety and doubt, which can impair their ability to trust, communicate, and form emotional bonds with their partners. For example, they may seek constant reassurance from their partners, which can lead to frustration and confusion when their partner doesn’t understand the source of the anxiety.
Additionally, they may analyze and scrutinize their partner’s behaviour for evidence that the relationship is healthy, which can lead to insecurity and mistrust. These challenges can make it difficult for individuals with Relationship OCD to form and maintain healthy relationships.
Feelings of anxiety and uncertainty
Partners of individuals with Relationship OCD often experience anxiety and uncertainty in their relationship. This can manifest in various ways, such as questioning whether the relationship is the “right” one, constantly seeking reassurance from their partner or needing to perform compulsive behaviours to alleviate their anxiety. These feelings can be distressing and overwhelming and may lead to difficulties maintaining intimacy and connection.
Need for constant reassurance.
People with Relationship OCD (ROCD) often experience constant doubts and fears about the quality of their relationship. This leads to a need for constant reassurance from their partner or others, which can be emotionally exhausting for both parties involved. The person with ROCD may constantly ask their partner if they truly love them or if the relationship is working and may also seek reassurance from others.
Emotional and psychological stress
Being in a relationship with someone with Relationship OCD can be emotionally and psychologically stressful. The constant need for reassurance and validation can take a toll on the partner, leading to frustration and exhaustion. The irrational fears and compulsions associated with the condition can also be challenging, causing strain in the relationship. For example, the person with Relationship OCD may constantly ask their partner if they still love them or if they are cheating on them, leading to a feeling of being interrogated.
The partner may feel like they are walking on eggshells and may even start to avoid specific topics or situations to avoid triggering their partner’s OCD. This type of relationship can be emotionally draining and lead to resentment and hopelessness.
How to be in a relationship with someone with ROCD?
Navigating a relationship with someone who has relationship OCD can be challenging. Still, it is possible to maintain a healthy and fulfilling relationship with some practical tips and strategies.
Open communication is the foundation of any relationship, which is especially important when dealing with OCD. It’s important, to be honest and transparent with your partner about what you think and feel. This will help them understand where you’re emotionally “at” and respond appropriately.
Setting boundaries is also essential in a relationship with someone who has OCD. Identify which anxieties are valid and which are bound up in obsession.
What is it like to date someone with ROCD?
Dating someone with relationship OCD can be challenging. Relationship OCD causes repetitive thoughts and doubts about the relationship, leading to excessive reassurance-seeking and difficulty making decisions. This can create stress for both partners in the relationship. Encourage your partner to seek professional help and be patient with their progress. Avoid enabling their compulsions by constantly reassuring them, as this can reinforce the OCD behaviours. Instead, focus on building trust and open communication in the relationship. Take care of your needs and boundaries; don’t be afraid to seek support. Remember that with proper treatment and support, individuals with relationship OCD can learn to manage their symptoms and have fulfilling relationships.