A few years ago, I lost six hours in one morning obsessing over someone that didn’t even like me back.
When I say obsessing, I mean literal obsessing — constant thoughts pertaining to this person which were both irrational and unwarranted.
The scariest part was, all I remember was waking up at 6.00 am and suddenly it was 12.00 pm and I had no idea what had happened.
Losing six hours of my life was certainly a wake-up call — one that lead me to get professional help. It was here that I was diagnosed with “obsessive thoughts” — like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but your thoughts do all of the cyclical actions.
Following this, I exhibited some other weird behaviours — especially when it came to my relationships. More often than not, it would be someone I had a crush on who at one stage reciprocated but didn’t feel the same anymore or other times, everything would be going along really well until an instance where it would happen all over again.
When I was actually partnered with someone, it wouldn’t be long until the honeymoon was over. This time, within a week or two, I would question the validity of the relationship. I’d question what my partner really felt about me and if it was going to last — because how could he possibly like me if he figured out what was really going on inside my head.
In some cases, my mind was helped along by my intuition and it was for the best, in others, my mind would sabotage relationships before they could even begin. These actions would give me debilitating anxiety with no room for positivity and felt like I was in a suffocating, vicious cycle that is still present to this day.
Unfortunately, even now in a healthy relationship, my mind plays tricks on me when I’m not around my boyfriend. Because I can’t see him, my mind tells me that he’s not interested anymore even though I hear from him all day long. When I have some sort of issue (which to me feels like it’s every day), I panic that he is going to leave me.
Because of my age, I question everything. Is he the right one? Am I meant to feel this way? What if I’m not feeling what I’m supposed to be feeling? Am I enough? Is he enough? If we get married, will it work out?
After much research and seeing a psychologist, I have been diagnosed with what is commonly referred to as Relationship Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (ROCD).
What is Relationship-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
It’s only recently that ROCD has been discussed, however, it is very real and very debilitating.
According to the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation (IOCDF), “this form of OCD often leads to severe personal and relationship distress and often impairs functioning in other areas of life, such as work, study, or family functioning.”
While it’s common for people to have doubts about their relationships and the suitability of them — in fact, it’s a natural part of developing an intimate relationship — people with ROCD will constantly think about flaws, issues, and the suitability of their partner which in turn becomes an “increasingly impairing, time-consuming, and distressing” ordeal.
For some people, ROCD will cause them to not enter relationships at all, while others enter them then run at the first sign of distress.
The IOCDF says that “symptoms have been linked with significant personal difficulties (e.g., mood, anxiety, other OCD symptoms) and couple difficulties (e.g., relationship and sexual dissatisfaction)”.
Many people with ROCD will have an unwavering fear of rejection and abandonment — often causing the outcome with their distress.
Types of ROCD
There are two different types of ROCD, both of which I have had many, many times. These are: “Relationship-centred” and “partner-focused”.
Those with relationship-centred ROCD will obsess over the “rightness” of the experience and focus on doubts and worries whereas partner-focused, looks at their partner’s flaws. i.e. He is not tall enough or he is not driven enough.
According to the IOCDF, both can happen separately or simultaneously.
What does ROCD look like?
Often, people will have compulsions to talk about and consult with others, desperate to know what the outcome of their relationship will be. They’ll also continuously question if their relationship is “normal” and even compare their relationship to friends or those in TV and movies.
“People often consult friends, family, therapists, or even fortune-tellers and psychics about the relationship,” the IOCDF reads.
Common misconceptions founded by ROCD
Romantic movies will have you believe that there needs to be a spark or passion 100% of the time for a relationship to succeed, however, they fail to mention that a relationship should evolve over time.
Another is the obsession about having “the one” or your “one true love” or meeting a “soul mate”. People often (with ROCD and without it) will put their belief in the importance of those thoughts, pressuring not only themselves but every relationship they have in order to find this.
Treatment for ROCD
According to the IOCDF, “individuals suffering from OCD typically find great relief in reading or hearing about someone going through what they are experiencing.”
When I found out my own diagnosis, not only did it relieve the anxiety but I passed the information on to others as well — as I am doing right now.
Each individual will have their own treatment plan, and so it is important to consult a professional if you need assistance.
Other treatments such as medication, mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are all used to treat ROCD.
For me, even sharing my story has been extremely cathartic and by learning about it, my anxiety levels have significantly decreased.
It’s important to note that everyone gets intrusive thoughts and it doesn’t mean you have ROCD. It’s also important to understand that having this doesn’t make you a bad or “crazy” person, it is simply a misfiring in the brain and not a reflection of your character.
For more information on any type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, visit the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation.