Relationship obsessive–compulsive disorder

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In psychology, relationship obsessive–compulsive disorder (ROCD) is a form of obsessive–compulsive disorder focusing on intimate relationships.[1] Such obsessions can become extremely distressing and debilitating, having negative impacts on relationships functioning.[2][3]

Obsessive–compulsive disorder[edit]

Obsessive–compulsive disorder comprises thoughts, images or urges that are unwanted, distressing, interfere with a person's life and that are commonly experienced as contradicting a persons' beliefs and values.[4] Such intrusive thoughts are frequently followed by compulsive behaviors aimed at "neutralizing" the feared consequence of the intrusions and temporarily relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessions.[5] Attempts to suppress or "neutralize" obsessions increase rather than decrease the frequency and distress caused by the obsessions.

Common obsessive themes include fear of contamination, fears about being responsible for harming the self or others, doubts, and orderliness. However, people with OCD can also have religious and sexual obsessions. Some people with OCD may experience obsessions relating to the way they feel in an ongoing relationship or the way they felt in past relationships (ROCD). Repetitive thought about a person's feelings in intimate relationships may occur in the natural course of the relationship development; however, in ROCD such preoccupations are unwanted, intrusive, chronic and disabling.[6]


Relationship-centered symptoms[edit]

People may continuously doubt whether they love their partner, whether their relationship is the right relationship or whether their partner really loves them.[7] When they know they love someone or that someone loves them, they constantly check and reassure themselves that it is the right feeling. When they attempt to end the relationship, they are overwhelmed with anxiety. By staying in the relationship, however, they are haunted by continuous doubts regarding the relationship.[2]

Partner-focused symptoms[edit]

Another form of ROCD includes preoccupation, checking, and reassurance-seeking behaviors relating to the partner's perceived flaws.[2][8] Instead of finding good in their partner, they are constantly focused on their shortcomings. They often exaggerate these flaws and use them to prove the relationship is fundamentally bad. The fact that they are unable to concentrate on anything but their partner's flaws causes the sufferer great anxiety, and often leads to a strained relationship.[2]


Like other forms of OCD, psychological and biological factors are believed to play a role in the development and maintenance of ROCD. In addition to the maladaptive ways of thinking and behaving identified as important in OCD, models of ROCD[7][8] suggest that over-reliance on intimate relationships or the perceived value of the partner for a person's feelings of self-worth and fear of abandonment (also see attachment theory) may increase vulnerability and maintain ROCD symptoms.[9][10]


  1. ^ Doron, Guy; Derby, Danny; Szepsenwol, Ohad. ""I can't stop thinking about my child's flaws": An investigation of parental preoccupation with their children's perceived flaws". Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders (14): 106–111. doi:10.1016/j.jocrd.2017.06.007.
  2. ^ a b c d Doron, G; Derby, D.; Szepsenwol, O. (2014). "Relationship obsessive compulsive disorder (ROCD): A conceptual framework". Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. 3 (2): 169–180. doi:10.1016/j.jocrd.2013.12.005.
  3. ^ Doron, Guy; Derby, Danny; Szepsenwol, Ohad; Nahaloni, Elad; Moulding, Richard. "Relationship obsessive compulsive disorder (ROCD): Interference, symptoms and maladaptive beliefs". Frontiers in Psychiatry. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00058.
  4. ^ Rachman, S (1997). "A cognitive theory of obsessions". Behaviour Research and Therapy. 35 (35): 793–802. doi:10.1016/S0005-7967(97)00040-5.
  5. ^ American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition – Text Revision. Washington D.C., USA: American Psychiatric Press.
  6. ^ Doron, Guy; Derby, D.; Szepsenwol. O.; Nahaloni, E.; Moulding, M. (2016). "Relationship Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (ROCD): Interference, symptoms and maladaptive beliefs". Frontiers in Psychiatry. 7 (7): 58. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00058.
  7. ^ a b Doron, Guy; Derby, D.; Szepsenwol, O.; Talmor, D. (2012). "Tainted Love: exploring relationship-centered obsessive compulsive symptoms in two non-clinical cohorts". Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. 1 (1): 16–24. doi:10.1016/j.jocrd.2011.11.002.
  8. ^ a b Doron, Guy; Derby, D.; Szepsenwol, O.; Talmor, D. (2012). "Flaws and All: Exploring Partner-Focused Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms". Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. 1 (1): 234–243. doi:10.1016/j.jocrd.2012.05.004.
  9. ^ Doron, Guy; Szepsenwol, O.; Karp, E.; Gal, N. (2013). "Obsessing About Intimate-Relationships: Testing the Double Relationship-Vulnerability Hypothesis". Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. 44 (4): 433–440. doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2013.05.003. PMID 23792752.
  10. ^ Doron, Guy; Szepsenwol, O. (2016). "Partner-focused obsessions and self-esteem: An experimental investigation". Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. 49 (49): 173–179. doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2015.05.007.

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