Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that presents with patterns of obsessive thoughts in addition to repetitive behaviors. It is a common condition that often affects activities of daily living and can lead to depressive symptoms. OCD is organized into various subtypes, one of which is relationship OCD (R-OCD).
People experience various forms of uncertainty during their relationships. Although uncertainty can be an occurrence in romantic relationships, it presents differently with relationship OCD. The doubts those with relationship OCD face are ongoing and often lead to excessive worrying. Doubts are not the only element of relationship OCD symptoms. There are other criteria, and this article highlights 10 signs that can indicate relationship OCD.
What is relationship OCD (R-OCD)?
R-OCD can be subdivided into two categories, a relationship-focused and a partner-focused subtype. Individuals experiencing relationship OCD face constant urges and intrusive thoughts that can alter the way they view their relationships. These thoughts are often unwanted and uncontrollable to those suffering from R-OCD.
These experiences are not limited to toxic relationships, as you can still experience R-OCD in healthy relationship dynamics. It is also important to note that new and older relationships can both experience R-OCD.
Signs of relationship OCD
When dealing with R-OCD, the thoughts surrounding your relationship is not favorable. Consequently, these thoughts can lead to unhealthy behaviors detrimental to your relationship. R-OCD can occur in different relationship dynamics whether familial, professional, spiritual, platonic, or romantic. The examples given in this article revolve around romantic relationship settings. If you are ready to see whether you or your partner exhibit any signs, here are 10 indicators.
1. Constant shift in feelings
Individuals can experience doubts as discussed in the introduction. These doubts can be centered around the relationship itself or focused on the partner. For instance, relationship-centered doubts can lead to a constant assessment and questioning of things that occur in the relationship itself. Partner-focus doubts can involve uncertainty about compatibility, for example. Here are a few questions you may have if you are experiencing this:
“Is my partner the one for me?”
“Do I really love my partner?”
2. Preoccupation with partner’s flaws/imperfections
Red flags in relationships can be worrisome for a lot of individuals and rightfully so. However, red flags differ from imperfections. Red flags vary based on the individual and often represent unhealthy and toxic traits that can be observed. On the other hand, some people can present with physical or character flaws. While character flaws that reflect negatively on the relationship can be resolved, some flaws are part of each individual and are often not of concern. An individual with R-OCD focuses their attention on their partner’s qualities or the lack thereof. Here are a few examples:
“My partner does not speak as eloquently as the people I interact with. Are we compatible?”
“My partner’s nose bothers me. Should we call it quits?”
3. Guilt & Distress about intrusive thoughts
The thoughts experienced with R-OCD are unwanted; therefore, can cause distress to a lot of individuals. In addition, the relationship itself can suffer, as the thoughts can lead to behaviors that can negatively impact the relationship. For example, if someone is having doubts about their love for their partner, they can start feeling guilty about prolonging the relationship. Oftentimes, people are distressed because they truly believe they love their partner but are still plagued with conflicting thoughts.
4. Avoidance of intimacy
Fear of connecting with a partner can arise in individuals with R-OCD. Someone experiencing this may avoid intimate encounters with a romantic partner or can be less present when intimate with their partner. In other instances, some people completely avoid getting into a relationship for fear of triggering these thoughts. Some may avoid intimacy because they are worried, or they may be bothered by their partner’s flaws during these interactions. In other instances, they feel guilty when engaging in intimacy, as they’re still having lingering doubts.
5. Excessive thoughts of breaking up
The constant uncertainties can lead to internal and external struggles in romantic relationships. As a result, individuals can experience overwhelming urges to terminate their relationship, even when no reason exists. The inability to stop oneself from questioning attraction, feelings, and everything concerning the relationship can lead to thoughts of breaking up.
Dating someone with relationship OCD can cause distance in the relationship, which may further intensify their feelings of terminating the relationship. Although the relationship may not have conflicts at the time of these thoughts, it does not stop the rumination. Here are a few examples of relationship OCD thoughts surrounding a breakup:
“Maybe I’m thinking this way because we will be happier as friends.”
“We’re probably not compatible.”
“I’m probably not the one my partner needs to be with.”
6. Incessant need for reassurance
Reassurance in relationships is not necessarily unhealthy. Feeling the need to be reassured occasionally can be normal in a relationship. In instances of R-OCD, individuals seek reassurance to decrease rumination. Thoughts that can arise may include constant worrying about how others perceive the relationship, regardless of how successful the relationship is. In these instances, individuals may look for reassurance outside of their relationships as well. They may continuously ask the same person and/or seek reassurance from multiple sources concerning their relationship.
7. Inability to overlook mistakes
There will be disagreements in relationships that can be easily solved through communication. Someone with R-OCD may obsess over the contexts of the disagreements, as well as their partner’s mannerisms. These conflicts can further seed doubts, which can enhance feelings of anxiety. Additionally, individuals are unable to look past certain aspects of their relationship.
8. Always comparing the relationship
People struggling with R-OCD may feel the need to constantly compare their relationships. The comparison can be to other close relationships, movie relationships, or unknown online relationships. They may develop obsessive thoughts about the dynamic of their relationships in hopes of eliminating any lingering doubts. Comparisons can be physical, or emotional, but in either circumstance, can lead to relationship dissatisfaction.
9. Urge to change partner
Individuals with R-OCD may try to change their partner based on the thoughts they’re experiencing. They may engage in behaviors or try to mold their partner to reduce their doubts about the relationship. For example, someone who has doubts about their attraction to their partner may feel that those doubts will be gone if the partner changes their physical appearance. Although the need for change may not always be physical in every case, they may find that they’re constantly bothered by something in their relationship.
10. Scared of attraction to other people
Many people in healthy relationships can still experience attraction to others. It is a normal occurrence that is not often acted upon in healthy trusting relationships. Individuals dealing with R-OCD develop an irrational fear when they find someone else attractive. They may automatically feel that there is a disconnect in their personal relationships because they feel attraction towards someone other than their partner. Here are a few examples of thoughts someone may have in this instance:
“I might be with the wrong person since I am attracted to others.”
“I’m scared I’ll cheat on my partner because I feel attraction towards others.”
R-OCD is not limited to romantic relationships. It can be experienced in different contexts, which can involve relationships with family, friends, parents/children, and other forms of relationships.
Relationship OCD has various signs of compulsion and obsession. These can often be manifested as rumination and relationship-testing behaviors.
The intimate nature of relationships can be challenged when dealing with R-OCD. Doubts and fears can cause crippling thoughts, which can often lead to relationship dissolution.
Thoughts and feelings can change throughout the course of different relationships. This may not always be a sign of relationship OCD. However, when those thoughts are distressing, R-OCD can be considered.