Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD
OCD subtypes
Relationship OCD

Is Relationship Anxiety the same as Relationship OCD?

5 min read
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.

Relationships are important. They give our lives meaning and bring joy to our day-to-day activities. However, they’re not without their struggles, and people dealing with relationship anxiety may find them particularly difficult to maneuver at times. 

Someone with relationship anxiety might find themselves focusing on stressful or worrying thoughts, but they likely won’t be drawn to act on them with cyclical behaviors. Someone with relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder (or ROCD), however, has an added layer to the worries around their relationship in the form of compulsions — and it can pile on unnecessary struggle to otherwise healthy romantic relationships. Let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences in these conditions. 

Relationship anxiety vs. relationship OCD

Relationship anxiety refers to worries, insecurities and doubts that may pop up in a relationship, even when everything seems to be going well. It’s an incredibly common condition, and it often happens at the beginning of relationships before each partner understands the other’s level of commitment or interest.

You may have felt this kind of anxiety before in new friendships or romantic relationships, and it may pass or come back intermittently. It can cause emotional distress, fatigue and other common symptoms of anxiety, but it typically does not trigger compulsions like relationship OCD does. 

People dealing with ROCD struggle with obsessions and compulsions related to their relationships and feelings that surface as a result of those relationships. In this OCD subtype, the uncertainty of intimate relationships can lead to obsessive-compulsive cycles. Any hint of imperfection might launch these cycles, and these compulsions can consume a lot of time and energy, making the relationship more difficult.

Unlike relationship anxiety — where the trigger may simply lead to uncomfortable or uncertain thoughts about the relationship — ROCD often leads to intrusive thoughts and compulsive responses. For example, someone with ROCD might make eye contact with someone outside of their romantic relationship that they find attractive, and it could lead to all-consuming and completely intrusive thoughts. They might then feel the need to question themselves and ask their friends, “Should I be with someone more like that?” Situations like this can quickly turn into repetitive cycles that happen any time the individual makes eye contact with someone they find attractive. 

How is relationship OCD treated? 

Since ROCD is one form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, it is likewise highly treatable with exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, the gold standard of OCD treatment. This treatment works by exposing those with OCD to their triggers in a safe and controlled environment while they work to actively resist compulsions brought on by those triggers. It can be uncomfortable at first, but over time it helps to free those with OCD from the constraints of their compulsions and live their lives more comfortably and with more control. 

In someone with ROCD, exposure and response prevention works toward showing the patient that they’re able to tolerate intrusive thoughts about their relationship without having to act on them. This allows those with ROCD to have better insight into their compulsions and understand that their intrusive thoughts about their relationship do not have to determine the trajectory of that relationship. 

ERP for this condition works best when the therapist conducting this therapy specializes in treating OCD symptoms. Look for a therapist that has experience or training in ERP and OCD specifically—even better if they have experience particular to ROCD. A therapist with this training will best be able to help someone with ROCD manage their intrusive thoughts and resulting compulsions to help improve not only their relationship, but their experience with OCD. 

Can you receive online treatment for ROCD? 

Virtual therapy options have made mental health treatment more accessible than ever—and ROCD treatment is no exception to this. All NOCD Therapists specialize in OCD and receive training in ERP, and — because of this — our members are able to treat patients’ OCD and ROCD symptoms effectively utilizing one-on-one video therapy sessions from the comfort of their own homes. 

With a network of ERP trained therapists available in all 50 states, our solution provides you with customizable, accessible treatment options for OCD and its subtypes. If you or your loved one is seeking treatment for OCD or ROCD, you can easily schedule a phone call with a member of the NOCD clinical team to learn more about how a licensed OCD therapist can help you gain more control over your compulsions. 

Whether it’s relationship anxiety or ROCD—you’re not alone

The important thing to remember when it comes to any mental health-related struggle is that you’re never alone! It sounds cheesy, but it’s true — there’s always a network of people and providers ready to help you gain more control over your personal struggles. 

Dealing with ROCD in particular can feel isolating and make your relationships more of a struggle, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. It might seem like a lot to process at first, but once you get started with ERP treatments, you’ll be on the road to a relationship less affected by the intrusive thoughts brought on by ROCD. 

If you are struggling with Relationship OCD, there is hope! The first step is finding the right help by seeking out a provider trained in treating OCD with Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy. Schedule a free call today with the NOCD clinical team to learn more about how a licensed therapist can help. At NOCD, all therapists specialize in OCD and receive ERP-specific training. ERP is most effective when the therapist conducting the treatment has experience with OCD and training in ERP. 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.

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.

ERP Therapy
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
OCD Subtypes

NOCD Therapists specialize in treating Relationship OCD

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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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