How to Recognize Relationship OCD and What to do About it

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Do you have a fear of being alone? Do you constantly worry that your partner is going to leave you? Do you feel like you need to check in with your partner constantly?

If so, then you may be experiencing relationship OCD (R-OCD). R-OCD is a type of OCD that affects relationships. It can cause people to have intrusive thoughts about their relationship, doubt their relationship, and/or engage in compulsive behaviors in order to try and ease their anxiety. These behaviors can lead to problems in the relationship. And they can also cause a lot of distress for the person with R-OCD.

In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms of R-OCD, the different treatment options available, and how to cope with it.

Symptoms of Relationship OCD

The main symptom of relationship OCD is relationship-related anxiety. This can manifest in a number of ways, including:

  • Fear of being alone: This can cause people to feel like they need to be in a relationship in order to feel okay. They may stay in relationships even if they are unhappy because the thought of being alone is too anxiety-provoking.
  • Fear of abandonment: This can lead to people constantly checking in with their partner or asking for reassurance. They may also try to control their partner’s behavior in order to prevent them from leaving.
  • Feeling like you need to check in with your partner constantly: This can cause people to text, call, or email their partner multiple times a day. They may feel like they need to know where their partner is at all times.
  • Feeling like you need to control your partner: This can lead to people trying to control their partner’s behavior. They may want their partner to dress a certain way, act a certain way, or spend time with certain people.
  • Feeling jealous: This can cause people to feel like they need to know what their partner is doing at all times. They may want to check their partner’s phone, email, or social media accounts.
  • Compulsively apologizing: This can lead to people apologizing for things they didn’t do or didn’t mean to do. They may also feel like they need to apologize for their thoughts or feelings.
  • Compulsively giving gifts: This can cause people to give their partner excessive gifts or do things for their partner that they don’t really want to do. They may feel like they need to do this in order to keep their partner happy.
  • Having relationship-related intrusive thoughts: This can cause people to have unwanted and distressing thoughts about their relationship. They may worry that they will hurt their partner or their partner will hurt them.

There is no one specific test that can diagnose relationship OCD. However, a mental health professional will likely ask you about your symptoms and how they impact your life. They may also ask you about your family history and any past trauma or abuse. If they believe that you have R-OCD, they may refer you to a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.

Causes of Relationship OCD

There is no one specific cause of relationship OCD. However, there are some risk factors that may make someone more likely to develop R-OCD. These include:

  • A family history of OCD or anxiety disorders
  • A history of trauma or abuse
  • Perfectionism
  • Anxiety about relationships
  • Difficulty managing emotions
  • Difficult relationship experiences in the past

There is no one specific type of person who experiences relationship OCD. It can affect people of all ages, genders, and relationship statuses. It is common for most people to experience some level of R-OCD from time to time. However, for some people, it can become so severe that it interferes with their ability to function in their relationship.

Treatment Options for Relationship OCD

If you are struggling with relationship OCD, there are treatment options available. Some people may benefit from medication, such as antidepressants. Others may benefit from therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). And some people may benefit from a combination of medication and therapy.

  • Medication: Medication can be an effective treatment for relationship OCD. Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed medication for R-OCD. These medications can help to reduce the symptoms of OCD, such as intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
  • Therapy: Therapy can be an effective treatment for relationship OCD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that has been shown to be particularly helpful for treating OCD. CBT can help you to understand your thoughts and feelings about your relationship. It can also help you to learn how to manage your symptoms.

Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you think you might benefit from medication or therapy.

To learn more, read our article about different Types of OCD.

How to Help a Loved One with Relationship OCD

If you have a loved one who is struggling with relationship OCD, there are things you can do to help.

  • Educate yourself about OCD: This will help you understand what your loved one is going through and how you can best support them.
  • Provide emotional support: This can involve listening to your loved one, being patient with them, and providing reassurance.
  • Avoid enabling their OCD behavior: This means not doing things that help them ease their anxiety or that make their symptoms worse. For example, if they constantly ask you for reassurance, you can provide it once and then say that you need to go.
  • Encourage them to seek treatment: This may involve going with them to their appointments or helping them find a therapist or doctor.
  • Take care of yourself: This is important because caring for someone with OCD can be emotionally and mentally draining. Make sure to take breaks, have your own hobbies and interests, and reach out to your own support system.

Coping with Relationship OCD

If you are personally struggling with relationship OCD, there are things you can do to cope.

  • Understand that your thoughts are not reality. Just because you have a thought does not mean it’s true.
  • Challenge your intrusive thoughts. This means looking at the evidence and deciding whether or not your thought is actually true.
  • Practice exposure and response prevention (ERP). This involves gradually exposing yourself to your fears and learning to resist the urge to engage in OCD behaviors.
  • Relax and distract yourself. This may involve deep breathing exercises, listening to music, or reading.
  • Reach out for support. This can involve talking to a therapist, joining a support group, or talking to your loved ones.

Because relationship OCD is often caused by relationship problems, one of the best things you can do is work on your relationship. This may involve attending couples therapy or working on communication and conflict resolution skills. If you are single, you can still work on your relationship OCD by learning to love yourself.

If you would like more information or support, please reach out to us at Makin Wellness. Makin Wellness Counselors can help answer any questions about relationship OCD. Start the process of moving forward with Pennsylvania online therapy. At Makin Wellness, we serve the Greater Pittsburgh, PA area, the Philidelphia, PA region, and the entire state of Pennsylvania. To learn more about how we can help you, start your healing journey now.

Watch this video from our YouTube Channel, “How to Express My Emotions in a Relationship in a Healthy Way”

Picture of Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness research team. The content on this page is not a replacement for professional diagnosis, treatment, or informed advice. It is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before making any decisions or taking action. Please refer to our terms of use for further details.

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