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Unpacking Relationship OCD (ROCD): What Research Tells Us

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Introduction

When it comes to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the focus is often on cleanliness, numbers, or rituals. However, there are subtypes of OCD that are less discussed but equally impactful. One such subtype is Relationship OCD or ROCD. Although it may not be as well-known as other forms, ROCD poses a unique set of challenges for those who experience it. In this blog post, My Counseling Concierge will explore what ROCD is, its symptoms, and what research says about its effective management.

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What is Relationship OCD (ROCD)?

Relationship OCD is a subtype of OCD where obsessions and compulsions are centered around romantic relationships. Individuals with ROCD often find themselves trapped in a cycle of obsessive doubts and fears about their relationships, partners, and their feelings towards them.


Key Symptoms

  1. Obsessions. Constant worry about the "rightness" of the relationship, one's feelings toward the partner, or the partner's feelings.

  2. Compulsions. Repeatedly seeking reassurance from friends, family, or the partner, checking feelings, or even stalking behaviors online to assuage doubts.


Example 1: Sarah is in a loving relationship with Mark. However, she can't stop worrying if Mark is "the one." Even though they share many happy moments, her mind frequently generates thoughts like "What if he's not the right person for me?"

Compulsions

  • Seeking reassurance from friends, family, or the partner

  • Checking feelings or emotional states

  • Online stalking behaviors to confirm or deny doubts


Types of Relationship OCD Treatment Options

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT adapted for ROCD, often combined with Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), can effectively reduce symptoms by targeting relationship-centered obsessions.

Example: During OCD treatment, Sarah is exposed to the idea that there is no way to be 100% certain about any relationship. She learns to tolerate this uncertainty without seeking external reassurance.


Example 2: Jack constantly asks his friends if they think he and his partner, Emily, are a good match. He also frequently checks his emotional state to ensure that he feels "in love" enough and will often stalk Emily’s social media profiles to make sure she's the "right" person for him.


Mindfulness and Acceptance

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a mindfulness-based approach, has been cited in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science as effective for treating ROCD. It teaches individuals to accept their thoughts without compulsive actions.

Example: Jack learns mindfulness techniques from a ROCD Specialist that help him acknowledge his obsessive thoughts without acting on them. Thus reducing the urge to seek constant reassurance or engage in social media stalking.

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What Does Research Say?

Prevalence

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders suggests that ROCD symptoms are prevalent across various age groups and are associated with significant distress and impairment.


Relationship OCD Treatment

According to a 2014 study in Behaviour Research and Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) adapted for ROCD has been found to be particularly effective. This adapted form of CBT focuses on targeting relationship-centered and partner-focused obsessions and compulsions.


Co-Occurring Conditions

Research in Clinical Psychology and psychotherapy indicates that individuals with ROCD often experience additional symptoms like generalized anxiety disorder and depression, which underscores the need for comprehensive treatment.


Management of Through Relationship OCD Treatment

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This form of therapy, specifically adapted for ROCD, helps individuals understand the thought patterns that lead to obsessive worrying and compulsive behaviors in relationships.


Medication

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) can be effective in managing ROCD symptoms and are often prescribed in combination with CBT.


Mindfulness and Acceptance

Research published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science suggests that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a form of mindfulness-based therapy, can be effective in treating ROCD by teaching individuals to accept intrusive thoughts without acting on compulsions.

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Conclusion From An ROCD Specialist

ROCD is a complex and often misunderstood subtype of OCD. Yet, recent research provides valuable insights into its prevalence, associated impairments, and effective Relationship OCD treatments. If you believe you are struggling with ROCD, it's essential to seek help from an ROCD specialist for diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan.


Start Relationship OCD Treatment in Newport Beach, CA! ​


​Other Therapy Services Offered at My Counseling Concierge in Newport Beach and Throughout California. ​


In addition to OCD Treatment, we also offer a range of other services to address your needs. These include Therapy for Anxiety and Eating Disorder Treatment. We look forward to guiding you through the process of healing

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