Virtuous Circle Counselling


Relationship OCD

Relationship OCD (ROCD) is a lesser-known but equally impactful subtype of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that specifically targets intimate relationships. Those struggling with ROCD experience intrusive thoughts, doubts, and compulsions related to their romantic partnerships, causing significant distress and negatively impacting their overall quality of life.

At Virtuous Circle Counselling, we understand the importance of addressing the unique challenges of ROCD, helping clients untangle their thoughts and emotions to foster healthy relationship patterns. This article aims to shed light on Relationship OCD, examining its symptoms, causes, and treatment options for those seeking to better understand and manage this challenging condition.

By understanding the intricacies of ROCD, individuals and their partners can work towards overcoming these obstacles, building stronger and more fulfilling relationships.

Symptoms of Relationship OCD

Individuals struggling with Relationship OCD often experience a range of intrusive thoughts, doubts, and compulsions, which can manifest in various ways. Some common symptoms of ROCD include:

  • Excessive Doubts: Persistent doubts about the viability or quality of one’s relationship, ranging from questioning the strength of one’s feelings to whether the relationship will last.
  • Intrusive Thoughts: Unwanted, recurrent thoughts about the perceived flaws of one’s partner or oneself.
  • Constant Reassurance-Seeking: Repeatedly seeking validation and reassurance from one’s partner, friends, or family about the relationship’s stability or the feelings of both partners.
  • Compulsive Behaviours: Engaging in behaviours to alleviate anxiety caused by intrusive thoughts, such as repeatedly checking one’s feelings, the partner’s behaviours, or other aspects of the relationship.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding situations or discussions that may provoke relationship-related anxieties, including social events, romantic gestures, or conversations about the future.
  • Relationship Comparisons: Continuously comparing one’s relationship to others in an effort to gauge its worth or quality.
  • Ruminating: Spending excessive time analyzing and re-analyzing aspects of one’s relationship and partner.

Causes of Relationship OCD

There is no single cause for Relationship OCD; rather, it arises from a complex interplay of genetic, neurobiological, and environmental factors. Key contributing elements include:

  • Genetic Risk Factors: Research suggests that there is a strong genetic component to OCD, including the development of ROCD. Individuals with a family history of OCD or anxiety disorders may have an increased vulnerability to developing ROCD.
  • Neurobiological Factors: Imbalances in brain chemistry, particularly involving serotonin, may play a role in the development of OCD and its subtypes, including ROCD.
  • Environmental Triggers: Life events and stressors, such as relationship challenges or major transitions, can act as catalysts for the onset of Relationship OCD.
  • Cognitive Factors: Maladaptive thought patterns and cognitive distortions, such as perfectionism, excessive responsibility, or intolerance of uncertainty, can contribute to the development and maintenance of ROCD.
  • Attachment Styles: Insecure attachment patterns, such as anxious or avoidant attachment, may predispose an individual to ROCD symptoms; these attachment styles can promote constant relationship monitoring and insecurity.

Treatment Options for Relationship OCD

Numerous evidence-based treatment approaches have been effective in managing Relationship OCD, with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) being one of the most widely researched and documented. Some common treatment options include:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on identifying and restructuring negative thought patterns, while also promoting behaviour change to reduce symptoms. For ROCD, CBT often includes exposure and response prevention (ERP) techniques, which involve confronting the anxiety-provoking thoughts while refraining from engaging in compulsive behaviours.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT is a mindfulness-based approach that encourages individuals to accept their ROCD thoughts and feelings without engaging in compulsions seeking to control or eliminate them. By fostering psychological flexibility, ACT helps individuals with ROCD pursue meaningful action in line with their values and commitments.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT): MBCT combines traditional CBT with mindfulness practices, teaching individuals to observe and disengage from intrusive thoughts rather than succumbing to compulsive behaviours.
  • Pharmacotherapy: In some cases, medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed to help alleviate the symptoms of ROCD in conjunction with therapy.

Supporting a Partner with Relationship OCD

When your partner is struggling with Relationship OCD, it’s essential to approach the situation with empathy, understanding, and open communication. Some tips to support your partner include:

  • Educate Yourself: Gain a deeper understanding of ROCD, its symptoms, and treatment options to provide informed support to your partner.
  • Encourage Professional Help: Encourage your partner to seek therapy or counselling for their ROCD—therapy can benefit both the individual and the relationship.
  • Set Boundaries: While it’s essential to be compassionate, it’s equally important to set healthy boundaries by not enabling compulsions, such as reassuring them about their doubts, which may inadvertently reinforce ROCD symptoms.
  • Open Communication: Maintain open and honest communication with your partner, discussing how ROCD impacts both your lives and creating a plan to address and manage challenges together.
  • Self-Care: Remember to prioritize your wellbeing to better support your partner and maintain a healthy relationship.

Relationship OCD can feel overwhelming for both the individual and their partner. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options is a valuable first step towards managing ROCD effectively, fostering resilience and growth in the relationship. Support from qualified mental health professionals can help individuals navigate the complexities of ROCD and establish healthier patterns in their romantic lives.

Embracing a Brighter Future with ROCD Support

Relationship OCD (ROCD) is a complex and challenging condition that can significantly impact individuals and their romantic relationships. However, by understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options, those affected can take back control and forge stronger, more resilient connections with their partners. Professional guidance from therapists trained in navigating ROCD can prove invaluable in breaking free from the grip of intrusive thoughts and compulsions that accompany this difficult disorder.

Looking for professional help to overcome Relationship OCD in Calgary? Look no further than Virtuous Circle Counselling. Our experienced therapists are here to guide you through this difficult journey towards emotional well-being. We understand the challenges that ROCD can bring to your relationships, and we are here to help you turn those challenges into opportunities for growth and stronger, more fulfilling connections. Contact us today to schedule a consultation appointment and start your path towards lasting change and strengthened relationships. Let us help you transform your life and build a brighter future. Choose Virtuous Circle Counselling for your Calgary relationship counselling needs.

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We at Virtuous Circle Counselling acknowledge Moh’kinstsis, the lands where the Bow and Elbow rivers meet, in what we currently call Calgary. We acknowledge that we are visitors on Moh’kinsstis and acknowledge the Blackfoot are those who named this area as Moh’kinsstis. In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, we recognize the ancestral territories, cultures, and oral practices of the Blackfoot people, the Îyarhe Nakoda Nations, the Dene people of the Tsuut’ina Nation, and the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.