I’ve Been Officially Diagnosed With Relationship OCD—Yeah, That’s A Thing

Relationship OCD is a very specific kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder that not a lot of people have heard of. A lot of people have told me that it sounds like a ‘fake’ condition that I’ve made up. They think it’s an excuse to be the stereotypical ‘crazy’ girlfriend or something I use to try and get sympathy. However, ROCD is very real, and it’s very challenging to go through. Learning how to live with it hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it.

  1. ROCD is a form of anxiety disorder. In short, it’s a type of OCD that leads to a person becoming obsessed with the state of their relationship. It causes you to constantly doubt your feelings and those of your partner. The worries are so persistent and overwhelming that they affect your day-to-day life. They’re often irrational, but they’re difficult to shake off nonetheless.
  2. Its symptoms manifest differently in every patient.  Usually, these fall into two categories. Relationship-centered symptoms include persistent worry about the suitability of your partner or a fear that either your or their feelings for each other are dwindling. The patient might have doubts that they really love their partner, or that they’re loved in return. Partner-focused symptoms, on the other hand, are specific worries about your partner’s personality, looks, or social skills. You might worry that their nose is too big for you to remain attracted to them, or fret that they’re not all that emotionally stable.
  3. I didn’t realize I had ROCD until about six months ago. I’d always noticed that even when casually dating, I tended to get seriously worked up about fledgling relationships. I’d panic that they would fall for me and I’d not return the feelings. I’d worry that just as I did start to develop feelings for the person, they’d dump me. This only got worse when I entered into my first serious relationship—one that I’m still in. Luckily, I was already seeing a therapist for other issues, so I told them about my uncontrollable, irrational thoughts and feelings. Their conclusion was clear: I had ROCD.
  4. At first, the diagnosis was difficult to handle. ROCD isn’t a very well-known condition. In fact, I’d never heard of it until I got it! This made the diagnosis tricky to handle at first, as I worried that it was somehow my fault. Surely I should be able to control my worries and fears better? Would this new diagnosis drive my partner away? What if my panic surrounding the relationship ended up being the thing that ruined it?
  5. However, I soon began to work on minimizing ROCD’s effects. Of course, you can’t expect a mental illness like this to just disappear overnight. They take time and effort to treat and can reappear if you’re not careful. I started my journey to wellness by accepting that ROCD was having a severe impact on my life. I wrote down all of the symptoms I was having: I figured you can’t begin to solve a problem until you fully know what you’re dealing with.
  6. It turned out I’d been enacting compulsions without even realizing. I noticed that whenever I started to get obsessive relationship worries, I would compulsively ask my partner to reassure me that things were fine between us. I’d ask if he still loved me, check he wasn’t about to leave me and ask other very needy questions. The first step I took was to break this compulsive cycle. Acting on compulsions only makes them reappear in future. I needed to teach myself to dismiss the worries myself and not rely on my partner to do it for me.
  7. It helped that my partner was totally supportive. Since my relationship is at the center of all of my obsessive worry and compulsions, having a supportive partner has made a real difference. He was saddened by the diagnosis, simply because he wants the best for me and hates to think that I’m unwell. However, he quickly acknowledged that the problem couldn’t be ignored and has done everything he can to help me. For one, he now refuses to indulge in my compulsions by answering my panicked questions. Instead, he finds other ways to soothe and look after me.
  8. There have been ups and downs in my recovery process. The path to wellness is never a straightforward one. While it’s incredibly frustrating, the reality is that there will be ups and downs along the way. There have been times when I thought the condition was totally under control, only for a severe spell to begin the very next day. Whenever my partner and I have even the smallest of arguments, the ROCD voices pipe up in my head telling me that our relationship is doomed. Only time will prove them wrong, but I can try to silence them as much as I can.
  9. However, I’m now at a point where I can say my ROCD is under control. Luckily, things have only got better as the months have progressed. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a ROCD episode, which is surely a good sign! Of course, that doesn’t mean I can be complacent. There’s always a risk of relapse. However, I now feel that I have the tools to successfully fight the ROCD thoughts if they crop up again.
  10. Nobody should have to suffer from ROCD in silence. If you think you might be suffering from ROCD, it’s advisable to discuss it with a doctor or mental health professional. The International OCD foundation also has some useful resources on the topic. Nobody deserves to feel the worry and panic that the condition causes: don’t suffer in silence. There are people out there to help and support you.