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Relationship OCD

Think You Have Relationship OCD? Check for These Signs

4 min read
Teda Kokoneshi, LMHC, CCTP
By Teda Kokoneshi, LMHC, CCTP
Reviewed by Dr. Keara Valentine
All types of OCD include obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted and intrusive thoughts, feelings, urges and doubts, while compulsions are repetitive physical or mental actions performed in an attempt to relieve distress and anxiety.

Many people can be insecure in their relationships, particularly in an intimate relationship with a significant other. Worrying about your partner’s loyalty, or doubting the quality of your own devotion to them, is fairly common. However, for some people these insecurities and fears can get out of control and take over our lives, turning into obsessions that result in compulsive behavior or mental acts, such as constantly seeking reassurance from your partner or checking our feelings when we’re with them. That’s when you know the relationship subtype of OCD is present. 

ROCD can be a debilitating mental and emotional condition impairing functioning in many areas of a person’s life. For instance, someone can spend the entirety of their work shift texting their partner to check on their whereabouts, not getting any work done and earning a write-up from their boss. Or they can obsess over whether what they feel for their partner is true love, constantly comparing their feelings to the ones portrayed in fiction and feeling like they fall short, which can lead to anxiety and guilt.

In ROCD, like in any other subtype of OCD, the more a person engages with compulsions, the more persistent and intense their obsessions and intrusive thoughts become. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. It gets really tricky, because people with OCD experience the pressure to perform their behavioral or mental compulsions as too overwhelming and urgent to resist. They’re caught in a feedback loop that they don’t know how to escape on their own. Specialized treatment is necessary.

So what are some signs you can become conscious of, to indicate that you have R-OCD?

  1. Any reassurance you get from your partner about their loyalty to you only ends up raising more doubts and questions. There’s a reason OCD is also called “the doubting disorder.” While the urgency to seek reassurance is great, it never fully satisfies your inner doubts and insecurities.
  2. Your worries go beyond real events and cross to the realm of things that haven’t occurred and are unlikely to happen. You get flustered about alternative outcomes of real events. “What if this had happened instead?” You live this alternative scenario in your head and you are as upset about it as if it had truly happened. 
  3. You constantly question whether your partner is your “true” correct match. “Is this the right person for me? What if X is a better fit for me (insert here any random reason)?”
  4. When you’re around your partner, you constantly check internally to see if what you feel for them meets the romanticized standard of what true love really “should” be like.
  5.  You obsess and get anxious over any experience that might resemble attraction toward someone other than your partner. You question the meaning of that experience and may attribute exaggerated significance to it. 

These are only some of the signs to look out for with ROCD. If you recognize them in yourself or someone you know, you could benefit from contacting NOCD. NOCD therapists specialize in using exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy to treat OCD. The mechanism that allows ERP to work so well with OCD is the prevention of compulsions when the individual faces the triggers to their worst fear.

When an individual with OCD is exposed to anxiety-provoking stimuli, the internal pressure to perform compulsions to diminish their distress is almost unbearable. But as explained earlier, it is precisely these compulsions that reinforce the intrusive thoughts in the person’s psyche, perpetuating the cycle of OCD. 

ERP interrupts the cycle by removing rituals and compulsions. This way the OCD sufferer can learn that their distress will naturally diminish without them doing anything about it. This is what in behavioral science we call habituation. Habituation is not always guaranteed, but even when it doesn’t occur, the person who is not engaging in compulsions can learn that they can tolerate their anxiety as it is, without recurring to behavioral or mental acts.

If left untreated, OCD doesn’t characteristically get better spontaneously. If you think you have OCD, treatment is necessary for you to manage your condition and find relief. Please consider reaching out to us and scheduling a free 15 minute phone call. You can also join our relationship OCD community and get 24/7 access to personalized self-management tools built by people who have been through OCD and successfully recovered.

Teda Kokoneshi, LMHC, CCTP

Teda is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) currently specializing in using ERP to treat various presentations of OCD. Teda has been working in the mental health field for over 4 years, getting her early experience in the inpatient psychiatric setting, then moving on to community mental health, and currently doing telehealth with OCD.

Dr. Keara Valentine

Dr. Keara Valentine specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy and other evidence-based treatments for anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety, panic, and depression. She is also a Clinical Assistant Professor within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, providing psychotherapy in the mood, anxiety, and OCD clinics and participating in research on novel OCD and Hoarding Disorder treatments.

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Taylor Newendorp

Taylor Newendorp

Network Clinical Training Director

I started as a therapist over 14 years ago, working in different mental health environments. Many people with OCD that weren't being treated for it crossed my path and weren't getting better. I decided that I wanted to help people with OCD, so I became an OCD therapist, and eventually, a clinical supervisor. I treated people using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and saw people get better day in and day out. I continue to use ERP because nothing is more effective in treating OCD.

Madina Alam

Madina Alam

Director of Therapist Engagement

When I started treating OCD, I quickly realized how much this type of work means to me because I had to learn how to be okay with discomfort and uncertainty myself. I’ve been practicing as a licensed therapist since 2016. My graduate work is in mental health counseling, and I use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy because it’s the gold standard of OCD treatment.

Andrew Moeller

Andrew Moeller

Licensed Therapy, LMHC

I've been a licensed counselor since 2013, having run my private practice with a steady influx of OCD cases for several years. Out of all the approaches to OCD treatment that I've used, I find Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy to be the most effective. ERP goes beyond other methods and tackles the problem head-on. By using ERP in our sessions, you can look forward to better days ahead.

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