Do you find yourself constantly seeking reassurance from your partner that they love you? That they even want to be with you? That they find you attractive?
You’re not alone — many people may experience doubt in a relationship and may occasionally need reassurance. Your need for reassurance could stem from general self-esteem issues or a history of toxic relationships. Maybe you found out that your ex-boyfriend was cheating on you the entire time you were dating — this would understandably make it hard to trust your current partner, and you may constantly need to be reassured that they’re not cheating on you.
Feeling insecure in your relationship from time to time is completely normal. However, if you find yourself and your partner exhausted by your constant need for reassurance and your daily life impacted by it, you may have a condition known as relationship OCD (ROCD).
Before we dive into ROCD, let’s explore the diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
OCD is a commonly known mental health diagnosis that falls under the umbrella of anxiety disorders. It is characterized by a pattern of recurrent, intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors or mental acts. The thoughts are referred to as “obsessions.” For each individual with OCD, the obsessions can vary and often center on a certain theme. These themes are known as OCD subtypes.
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For example, someone with checking OCD may experience obsessions over whether their door is actually locked or whether the stove is off.
No matter the subtype, people with OCD engage in ritualistic behavior in an attempt to relieve the distress and anxiety that their obsessions cause. These behaviors are the “compulsion” half of the OCD cycle. In the case of someone with checking OCD, the compulsion may look like nonstop checking that the door is locked.
While many people might like to double-check their door is actually locked, someone with OCD may fear that something bad will happen if they don’t keep checking repeatedly. Furthermore, the compulsions they engage in do little to alleviate their anxiety, leaving them feeling “stuck” in the cycle of obsessions and compulsions.
Relationship OCD, commonly referred to as ROCD, is a subtype of OCD that follows the same vicious obsessive-compulsive cycle. With ROCD, the obsessions focus on uncertainties in an intimate relationship. Similar to relationship anxiety, ROCD can encompass insecurities and worries that many people experience in a relationship. However, for someone with ROCD, these doubts feel intrusive and trigger compulsions.
If each time you feel uncertain in your relationship, you feel an intense and all-consuming urge to seek reassurance from your partner that they love you or from your friends that you’re in the right relationship, you may have ROCD. This can feel overwhelming and isolating, but knowing that you may have ROCD is the first step to getting treatment and feeling more secure in your relationship.
While it may be scary to learn that you have ROCD, the good news is that it is easily treatable. For any subtype of OCD, the gold standard of treatment is exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. ERP is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that works by exposing you to your triggers in a safe and controlled environment in order to help you better manage your compulsions. In other words, you’ll learn healthier ways of handling your relationship insecurities — and, ultimately, you’ll need less reassurance in your relationship.
ERP is most effective when the therapist conducting the treatment has experience with OCD and training in ERP. At NOCD, all therapists specialize in OCD and receive ERP-specific training. If you are ready to seek treatment for your ROCD, you can schedule a free call with the NOCD clinical team to learn more about how a licensed therapist can help you.
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