Relationship obsessive–compulsive disorder

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

In psychology, relationship obsessive–compulsive disorder (ROCD) is a form of obsessive–compulsive disorder focusing on close or intimate relationships.[1][2] Such obsessions can become extremely distressing and debilitating, having negative impacts on relationships functioning.[3][4]

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.[1][5] 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.[6] 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).[3] Repetitive thought about a person's feelings towards a relationship partner may occur in different relational contexts such as intimate or parent-child relationships. ROCD specifically is relationship based and the intrusive thought is intrusive it isn’t your belief and therefore not real [2] however, in ROCD such preoccupations are unwanted, intrusive, chronic and disabling.[4]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

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.[3]

Partner-focused symptoms[edit]

Another form of ROCD includes preoccupation, checking, and reassurance-seeking behaviors relating to the partner's perceived flaws.[3][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 affected individual great anxiety, and often leads to a strained relationship.[3] Recent investigations suggest partner-focused ROCD symptoms may also occur in the parent-child context.[2] In such cases, parents may be overwhelmed by preoccupations that their child is not socially competent, good looking, moral or emotionally balanced enough. Such obsession are associated with increased parental stress and low mood.


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]

CBT Models of ROCD[edit]

ROCD is a form of OCD.[11] Cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) are considered the Gold Standard psychological treatments for OCD.[12] According to CBT models, we all have unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images and urges.[13] Individuals with OCD interpret these intrusive experiences as meaning something bad about their character (crazy or bad) or about the future (a catastrophe is going to occur).[14] For instance, they may give the mere occurrence of an unwanted thought of a loved one having an accident the meaning that they wanted something bad to happen to them. Such interpretations increase attention to unwanted intrusive experiences, making them more distressing and increasing their frequency.[15] Individuals with OCD try to control, neutralize or prevent intrusive experiences (or their content) from occurring using washing, checking, avoidance, suppression of thoughts or other mental and behavioral rituals (compulsions). These control attempts, however, paradoxically increase (rather than decrease) the occurrence of these unwanted intrusions and the distress associated with them. According to CBT models, individuals with OCD give such extremely negative interpretations to intrusive experiences because they hold maladaptive beliefs.[16] For instance, the belief that if anything bad happens it is their own responsibility (inflated responsibility), can lead individuals with OCD to wash their hands repeatedly after having the thought "this may be contaminated."[17] They will do this, in order to avoid feeling responsible for hurting someone else or themselves.

In ROCD, intrusions relating to the "rightness" of relationship or the suitability of the relationship partner (e.g., not smart, moral or good looking enough) are often the most distressing.[3] In order to reduce the distress associated with such intrusions, individuals with ROCD often use various mental or behavioral strategies.[3] For instance, they often try and get reassurance from others that the partner or the relationship is good enough, they may test the partner or check (from up close) their perceived flaw, they may look for information on the internet on "how do I know I'm in the right relationship" or assess their physical reaction and feelings towards their partner. These and similar behaviors, increase the attention given to the intrusion, give it more importance and make it more frequent.[18] Individuals with ROCD also give catastrophic meaning to intrusions based on extreme maladaptive beliefs such as being in a relationship they are not absolutely sure about always leads to extreme disaster.[4][19] Such beliefs lead individuals with ROCD to interpret common relationship doubts in a catastrophic way provoking compulsive mental acts and behaviors such as repeated checking of perceived flaws or repeated assessment of the strength and quality of one's feelings towards the partner.

Treatment of ROCD symptoms often involve psycho-education about the disorder and the CBT model, exposure and response prevention to feared thoughts or images and challenging of maladaptive relationship beliefs (e.g., believing that being in love means being happy all the time) and more common OCD beliefs such as perfectionism and intolerance of uncertainty.[20] Recently, mobile applications have been developed to assist therapists challenge maladaptive beliefs associated with OCD and ROCD symptoms.[21][22]


  1. ^ a b Doron, Guy; Derby, Danny (2017-06-12). "Assessment and Treatment of Relationship-related OCD: A modular approach". In Abramowitz, Jonathan S.; McKay, Dean; Storch, Eric A. (eds.). The Wiley Handbook of Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 547–564. doi:10.1002/9781118890233.ch30. ISBN 978-1-118-89025-7.
  2. ^ a b c Doron, Guy; Derby, Danny; Szepsenwol, Ohad (2017). "'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.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Doron, Guy; Derby, Danny S.; Szepsenwol, Ohad (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.
  4. ^ a b c Doron, Guy; Derby, Danny; Szepsenwol, Ohad; Nahaloni, Elad; Moulding, Richard (2016). "Relationship Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder: Interference, Symptoms, and Maladaptive Beliefs". Frontiers in Psychiatry. 7: 58. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00058. PMC 4834420. PMID 27148087.
  5. ^ Rachman, S. (1997). "A cognitive theory of obsessions". Behaviour Research and Therapy. 35 (9): 793–802. doi:10.1016/S0005-7967(97)00040-5. PMID 9299799.
  6. ^ Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders : DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association., American Psychiatric Association. DSM-5 Task Force. (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association. 2013. pp. 235–242. ISBN 978-0-89042-554-1. OCLC 830807378.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  7. ^ a b Doron, Guy; Derby, Danny S.; Szepsenwol, Ohad; Talmor, Dahlia (2012). "Tainted love: Exploring relationship-centered obsessive compulsive symptoms in two non-clinical cohorts". Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. 1: 16–24. doi:10.1016/j.jocrd.2011.11.002.
  8. ^ a b Doron, Guy; Derby, Danny S.; Szepsenwol, Ohad; Talmor, Dahlia (2012). "Flaws and all: Exploring partner-focused obsessive-compulsive symptoms". Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. 1 (4): 234–243. doi:10.1016/j.jocrd.2012.05.004.
  9. ^ Doron, Guy; Szepsenwol, Ohad; Karp, Einat; Gal, Netali (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, Ohad (2015). "Partner-focused obsessions and self-esteem: An experimental investigation". Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. 49 (Pt B): 173–179. doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2015.05.007. PMID 26092536.
  11. ^ Abramowitz, Jonathan S.; McKay, Dean; Storch, Eric A. (2017-06-13). The Wiley handbook of obsessive compulsive disorders. Abramowitz, Jonathan S.,, McKay, Dean, 1966-, Storch, Eric A. Chichester, UK. ISBN 9781118890264. OCLC 969200530.[page needed]
  12. ^ Britain), British Psychological Society. National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (Great Britain) National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Great (2006). Obsessive-compulsive disorder : core interventions in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder. British Psychological Society. ISBN 978-1854334305. OCLC 233635903.[page needed]
  13. ^ Radomsky, Adam S.; Alcolado, Gillian M.; Abramowitz, Jonathan S.; Alonso, Pino; Belloch, Amparo; Bouvard, Martine; Clark, David A.; Coles, Meredith E.; Doron, Guy; Fernández-Álvarez, Hector; Garcia-Soriano, Gemma; Ghisi, Marta; Gomez, Beatriz; Inozu, Mujgan; Moulding, Richard; Shams, Giti; Sica, Claudio; Simos, Gregoris; Wong, Wing (2014). "Part 1—You can run but you can't hide: Intrusive thoughts on six continents". Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. 3 (3): 269–279. doi:10.1016/j.jocrd.2013.09.002.
  14. ^ Moulding, Richard; Coles, Meredith E.; Abramowitz, Jonathan S.; Alcolado, Gillian M.; Alonso, Pino; Belloch, Amparo; Bouvard, Martine; Clark, David A.; Doron, Guy; Fernández-Álvarez, Héctor; García-Soriano, Gemma; Ghisi, Marta; Gómez, Beatriz; Inozu, Mujgan; Radomsky, Adam S.; Shams, Giti; Sica, Claudio; Simos, Gregoris; Wong, Wing (2014). "Part 2. They scare because we care: The relationship between obsessive intrusive thoughts and appraisals and control strategies across 15 cities". Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. 3 (3): 280–291. doi:10.1016/j.jocrd.2014.02.006.
  15. ^ Rachman, S. (1998). "A cognitive theory of obsessions: Elaborations". Behaviour Research and Therapy. 36 (4): 385–401. doi:10.1016/s0005-7967(97)10041-9. PMID 9670600.
  16. ^ "Cognitive assessment of obsessive-compulsive disorder". Behaviour Research and Therapy. 35 (7): 667–681. 1997. doi:10.1016/s0005-7967(97)00017-x. PMID 9193129.
  17. ^ Salkovskis, Paul M. (1989). "Cognitive-behavioural factors and the persistence of intrusive thoughts in obsessional problems". Behaviour Research and Therapy. 27 (6): 677–682. doi:10.1016/0005-7967(89)90152-6. PMID 2610662.
  18. ^ Doron, Guy; Derby, Danny (2017). "Assessment and Treatment of Relationship-Related OCD Symptoms (ROCD)". The Wiley Handbook of Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. pp. 547–564. doi:10.1002/9781118890233.ch30. ISBN 9781118890233.
  19. ^ Melli, Gabriele; Bulli, Francesco; Doron, Guy; Carraresi, Claudia (2018). "Maladaptive beliefs in relationship obsessive compulsive disorder (ROCD): Replication and extension in a clinical sample". Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. 18: 47–53. doi:10.1016/j.jocrd.2018.06.005.
  20. ^ Abramowitz, Jonathan S.; McKay, Dean; Storch, Eric A. (2017-06-13). The Wiley handbook of obsessive compulsive disorders. Abramowitz, Jonathan S.,, McKay, Dean, 1966-, Storch, Eric A. Chichester, UK. ISBN 9781118890264. OCLC 969200530.
  21. ^ Roncero, María; Belloch, Amparo; Doron, Guy (2019). "Can Brief, Daily Training Using a Mobile App Help Change Maladaptive Beliefs? Crossover Randomized Controlled Trial". JMIR mHealth and uHealth. 7 (2): e11443. doi:10.2196/11443. PMC 6391643. PMID 30758294.
  22. ^ Pascual-Vera, Belén; Roncero, María; Doron, Guy; Belloch, Amparo (2018). "Assisting relapse prevention in OCD using a novel mobile app–based intervention: A case report". Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. 82 (4): 390–406. doi:10.1521/bumc.2018.82.4.390. PMID 30589573. S2CID 58560581.

External links[edit]