• Relationship OCD is a non-official condition that causes in an individual to obsess over how to perfect their relationship and/or their significant other.
  • Relationship OCD often results in self-sabotaging behaviors, making it hard for both partners to fully enjoy their romantic relationship.
  • This form of obsessive-compulsive behavior can be triggered by trauma, poor experiences in past relationships, or emotional or verbal abuse from their present partner.
  • Relationship OCD can be treated, and with professional counseling, can often be resolved to the point that symptoms are greatly mitigated, if not completely resolved.
  • Couples counseling as well as mindfulness techniques can often be successful forms of treatment for those with relationship OCD.

Even though relationship OCD is not recognized in the DSM-5 as a formal subtype, this form of OCD causes obsessive thoughts around controlling and/or perfecting one’s partner and/or the relationship.

Relationship OCD can occur both when someone is actively in a relationship or even when they are single. Learn more about how this corrosive condition can ruin a relationship, wear both partners’ and weaken their ability to resolve issues and see eye-to-eye. 

What Is Relationship OCD?

Relationship OCD is a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder that centers around obsessions and intrusive thoughts about a romantic relationship or a romantic partner. Oftentimes, this will result in some self-sabotaging behaviors or significant avoidance that causes disruptions in that relationship. 

What Is an Example of Relationship OCD?

Relationship OCD can look differently from one person and relationship to the next;. however, here are some common examples of how it manifests:

  • Constantly asking for reassurance from a partner that they are invested within the relationship
  • Fears of abandonment that require the person to spend an overwhelming amount of time with their partner
  • Diffusion of personal identity into the identity of their partner (e.g. codependency)
  • Preoccupation with the notion that they might not be in the “right relationship” and having unfounded, severe doubts about their partner and relationship
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What Can Trigger Relationship OCD?

Here are some common relationship OCD triggers. 

  • Someone with relationship trauma or past chronic abandonment within romantic relationships
  • Someone with either an avoidant or anxious attachment style
  • Someone who has past trauma within their childhood and within parent relationships
  • Someone who experiences lying, deceit, and indirect communication styles from a romantic partner

Each person’s triggers are dependent upon risk and protective factors as well as their individual characteristics. OCD in relationships can be difficult to spot – and unless you’re a trained professional, it’s better not to categorize yourself or others. It is helpful to spot concerns and issues, but if you find them to be significant blockers to a healthy relationship, work together with a therapist to address them instead of self-diagnosing. 

Do People with OCD Obsess Over Partners?

Those with relationship OCD obsess over either their partners, their romantic relationships, or both. The type of obsession that an individual will have is specifically based on their past experiences and current interpersonal relationships. 

Those who have experienced some form of betrayal or interpersonal hurt can be more predisposed to obsess over their partner. This obsession can also cause them to exhibit codependent behaviors or extreme avoidance behaviors. 

Does Relationship OCD Go Away?

Yes, relationship OCD absolutely can go away with professional help and regular counseling. Over time, gaining exposure to one’s fears can help with an individual’s distress tolerance. Improving mindfulness skills can significantly increase someone’s symptom management. 

Also, having healthy interpersonal relationships and the absence of trauma or chronic stress within those relationships can help symptoms decrease. What helps relationship OCD go away is actually working on effective intrapersonal skills rather than interpersonal skills. It’s helpful to have healthy interpersonal relationships but ultimately it’s the responsibility of the sufferer to learn to improve their internal locus of control.

How Bad Can Relationship OCD Get?

In terms of how bad relationship OCD can get, in its most severe forms has been known to cause the dissolution of normal, functional relationships. Due to the nature of the obsessions and compulsions, if someone experiences severe relationship OCD, it can cause them to distort reality and begin to believe and act in ways that support their delusions. 

Further, it can cause the sufferer to engage in either extreme dependent or avoidant behavioral patterns within their relationship with their partner. This can cause significant strain on the relationship and cause a partner to retreat or pursue and involuntarily validate the sufferer’s fears.

What Is the Hardest Type of OCD to Treat?

There is not a specific subtype of OCD that is harder to treat than any other at baseline. However, OCD that meets the DSM 5 criteria subtype “with poor insight” can be significantly difficult to treat and prognosis is often poor due to the sufferer’s inability to recognize that obsessions and intrusive thoughts are delusions and not based in fact or reality. 

Often, these sufferers tend to take longer to recover and are less likely to have significant, substantial progress until some level of insight into the disorder is gained.

How Do You Fix Relationship OCD?

One of the best ways to fix relationship OCD is to seek help from a mental health professional, with in both individual and couples therapy.Some techniques and interventions that you might expect a therapist to use would be cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and mindfulness training.

How Can I Overcome a Relationship OCD?

As stated before, one of the best ways to overcome relationship OCD is to engage in professional counseling services.

How Is Relationship OCD Treated? 

Relationship OCD will likely require a therapist that is both directive and able to keep clients on task and on track during sessions.  

Mindfulness training can enable you to engage in exposure therapy, which focuses on imaginal exposure to your feared stimuli. In congruence with exposure and mindfulness training you can expect some CBT therapy to help you identify, challenge, and replace maladaptive thought patterns. 

Whatever treatment approach you take with your provider, it’s important that you have patience with yourself, and your partner, who may struggle to understand how you feel at times. Relationship OCD and the obsessive thoughts it can generate could take time to work through—and for the sake of the romantic relationship, small steps might be the most helpful.