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relationship obsessive–compulsive disorder (ROCD) is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder centred on relationship-related obsessions focusing on intimate relationships. Such obsessions can become extremely distressing and debilitating, having negative impacts on relationships functioning.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Main article: Obsessive-compulsive disorder

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] 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.[2] Attempts to suppress or "neutralize" obsessions increase rather than decrease the frequency and distress caused by the obsessions. OCD is considered an anxiety disorder.

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.

Intimate relationships

As intimate relationships are extremely important for a person's well-being,[3][4] they can easily become an area for obsessions in people vulnerable to OCD.

ROCD can involve obsessive doubts, preoccupations, checking, and reassurance seeking behaviours focusing on intimate relationships. A person may feel the need to end a perfectly good relationship based on their inability to feel how they want to. Common domains of relationship obsessions include doubts regarding one's own feelings towards an intimate partner, preoccupation with the partner’s feelings towards oneself, doubts about the “rightness” of the relationship and preoccupation with the perceived flaws of the partner.

Relationship-centered obsessive-compulsive symptoms

A person may continuously doubt whether they love their partner, whether their relationship is the "right" relationship or whether their partner "really" loves them.[5] Even 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. Staying in the relationship, however, they are haunted by continuous doubts regarding the relationship.

Partner-focused obsessive-compulsive symptoms

Another form of ROCD includes preoccupation, checking, and reassurance seeking behaviors relating to the partner's perceived flaws.[6] Instead of finding good in their partner, they are constantly focused on their shortcomings. They often over-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.


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 [6][5] suggest that over-reliance on intimate-relationships for a person's feelings of self-worth and fear of abandonment (also see attachment theory) may increase vulnerability and maintain ROCD symptoms..[7]

See also


  1. Rachman, S (1997). A cognitive theory of obsessions. Behaviour Research and Therapy 35 (35): 793–802.
  2. American Psychiatric Association (2000). ). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition – Text Revision, Washington D.C., USA: American Psychiatric Press.
  3. Baumeister, R, Leary (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin 3 (117): 497–529.
  4. Mikulincer, M (2007). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change., New York: Guilford Press.
  5. 5.0 5.1 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.
  6. 6.0 6.1 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.
  7. 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.

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