ou may have heard of OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, but have you heard of ROCD? 

ROCD, which stands for relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder, is a type of OCD that is characterized by a hyper-fixation on one’s relationship. This type of compulsive disorder may not seem immediately troubling, or even like an immediate issue that needs to be addressed. We all have been obsessed over a relationship at some point in our lives, whether for positive or negative reasons. And there is a heavy over-emphasis on relationships in our culture that often normalizes constant thinking about a relationship. 

But relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder is a step beyond overthinking one’s relationship. It is a serious condition that is worth addressing if you suspect you might have it, as it can have lasting impacts on your life and your relationships. Relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder can lead to significant and unnecessary stress and anxiety if not resolved. And that alone should be worth taking the time to investigate the issue so that you can start to get better if you suspect that you might have this condition. 

What exactly is relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder? 

ROCD is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it is not the exact same thing. People with ROCD usually seek confirmation that they are with the right romantic match and fall into endless cycles of doubt and anxiety about the state of their relationship. 

A person with relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder might dissect their partner’s physical or emotional attributes, fantasize about being with someone else, and stress about whether or not their partner is the right person for them to settle down with. 

This condition can present itself in different ways, but the underlying symptoms are usually the same.

ROCD is a condition that is frequently misunderstood and underdiagnosed. While it is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the two are not identical. 

This often takes the form of cyclical thoughts and questions, or obsessions, that have to do with the relationship. Questions along the lines of “is my partner good enough?” may arise in people with ROCD. 

It’s important to note that these types of questions may also occur in people who do not have RCOD. After all, everyone experiences doubt in their relationship at some point or another. 

The key difference, and what makes relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder different from just thinking about a relationship, is that people with this condition cannot let go of their distressing thoughts. 

They will be stuck in a cycle of questioning, worrying, wondering, and generally feeling obsessed over their relationship for days, months, or even years. 

What are the symptoms of RCOD? 

Individuals who are suffering from relationship compulsive disorder will likely exhibit symptoms that may easily be confused with general relationship distress. However, there are some consistent behaviors that may be used to identify RCOD. These behaviors may include: 

  • Obsessive or intrusive thoughts about the state of your relationship (i.e., are we meant to be together?)
  • Obsessive or intrusive thoughts about your partner (i.e., is my partner actually attractive?)
  • Compulsive urges (i.e., the sudden but intense desire to leave your relationship) 
  • Compulsive feelings (i.e., nervousness around your partner)
Symptoms of relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder can vary wildly. But they usually can be categorized as behaviors that fixate on the “rightness” of the relationship and if your partner is “the one” for you. 

Of course, these symptoms are not a complete list of symptoms that sufferers of ROCD may face, but they are a few that are worth looking out for. If you can identify multiple behaviors that fall within one or more categories of relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder, it’s probably a good idea to seek professional help. 

It’s important to note that while experiencing hesitation in a relationship is normal, you should be on the lookout for more serious red flags that could signal an abusive relationship. If you feel unsafe in your relationship in any way, that’s likely a sign of abuse and should not be treated as RCOD. A feeling of danger or fear for your safety should implore you to seek help from an individual or an organization to help remove you from that situation. 

How can you deal with ROCD?

Handling relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder should be treated similarly to broader obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is because ROCD is a subtype of OCD and many of the behaviors exhibited by ROCD sufferers might be eased by the same or similar treatment given to those living with OCD. 

The best way to treat this ROCD is to seek professional help. Finding an expert in OCD — and hopefully ROCD — will give you a better idea of what options are available to you for treatment. Many OCD patients engage in cognitive-behavioral therapy with their therapist, and for some, this is helpful. 

Other options to treat this condition might include starting medication. However, this should only be done in consultation with a medical professional. 

But what happens if you don’t have access to professional help? 

Therapy is the preferred option for most people suffering from troubling mental conditions, however, the reality is that it isn’t accessible for many due to issues like cost and time constraints. 

If you are someone who can’t get professional help for your ROCD, the good news is that there are many other options that you can pursue in order to feel better about yourself and your relationship. 

The first way is to clue in your partner to your obsessive thoughts. It may be difficult, but communication is key when dealing with any obsessive-compulsive disorder. Being able to advocate for yourself in your relationship and express your concerns with your partner is an essential step in feeling better. 

Another great way to address your ROCD is to try and confront your thoughts. There are many ways to do this, but it boils down to this: if you shy away from fearful thoughts, they will continue to have power over you. Facing them and acknowledging that the thoughts are just that, thoughts, can be freeing in taking away the power they have over you. 

But also understand that feeling better takes time. You won’t “fix” your obsessive-compulsive thoughts overnight nor learn to confront them in a day. It’s a learning process that will take time and effort that may be hard, but it will be worth it, too. 

Rebuilding a relationship after one or both partners’ struggles with relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder can be difficult. But it’s possible. Some strategies to reconnect with a partner can include increasing your physical and emotional affection for each other. 

What about the relationship? 

There’s a lot you can do to manage your own thoughts, but that won’t necessarily fix the problem of your relationship. ROCD might be exacerbated by certain triggers in a relationship, triggers which are worth exploring. Is there something your partner does that sends you into a spiral of obsessive thoughts? It might not be easy to tell at first, but keeping an eye on what triggers your ROCD will likely help you in moving forward in your relationship and ROCD progress. 

If you find that there is a trigger that might make some of your ROCD worse, you should discuss this with your partner. Communication is vital in all healthy relationships, but it is especially important in relationships that deal with mental health issues. 

Making your partner aware of your struggles with relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder is important in your treatment and your relationship. 

But it goes a step beyond this. Handling your ROCD will also likely require work within the relationship that might have been damaged during the worst of the obsessive behavior habits. 

And this work will be rebuilding the trust and love that brought you and your partner together in the first place. Expressing physical and emotional affection for your partner might be helpful, as well as receiving the same from them. Similarly, going on dates and spending quality time together may also help you and your partner reconnect in the wake of relationship compulsive disorder. 

Yet while you can do the work to rebuild a relationship, there may be good reasons for your concerns about the relationship. As mentioned before, if you suspect that your worries regarding your relationship may be because the relationship is abusive, then working to rebuild the partnership won’t be the best course of action — leaving will be. 

Dealing with relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder can be immensely stressful. But there are ways that you and your partner work towards being healthier and happier even while living with the condition. 

The bottom line about ROCD

Struggling with ROCD is no walk in the park. It may not be easily diagnosable, but you should still seek help if you are worried that you might struggle with the condition. The condition is complicated and not as understood as it should be, but it is similar to other types of obsessive-compulsive disorders, which can provide a helpful guide for how to proceed with the conditions. 

If you’re feeling discouraged, know that there is hope for ROCD sufferers. Many different treatment options can help ease the burden that the condition causes, while also helping you rebuild a relationship that may have been impacted by the effects of relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Apr 28, 2023