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Thursday, 10 Jun 2021

How to Recognise If You Have Relationship OCD

By Dr Becky Spelman

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a relatively common mental health issue in the UK, with around 1.2% of the population experiencing some form of it. People often tend to characterise the condition in finite terms, with the classic example of ritualistic behaviours used as the quintessential case. It is, however, a condition that can take many forms and can be more complex than the tendency towards a single compulsion. There are, in fact, five main subtypes of OCD, which include checking, contamination, symmetry and order, ruminations and hoarding.

A little less well-known amongst these is the occurrence of relationship OCD, also referred to Relationship Substantiation or ROCD, which falls within the checking archetype. It has been reported to affect a broad spectrum of people and is the onset of extreme doubt regarding the health of a relationship. It causes the experiencer to question the love for their partner, their attractiveness, and compatibility as well as their partner’s love for them. If you’re unsure if either you or your partner has ROCD, some of the most common compulsions can be found below:

Obsessive Questioning

Having an open, two-way communication is part of any healthy relationship, but there needs to be balance. If you’re constantly questioning your partner over every trivial detail of your relationship, it can quickly become very exhausting for them. If you’re concerned that you might be exhibiting this trait, the next time you’re about to ask a question, pause and use your discernment. Ask yourself whether what you want to know is necessary for the health of your relationship? Does it have the potential to offend? And how would you react to being asked the same thing?


Relationship gurus have become something of their own micro-industry, and while many of them undoubtedly do fine work, it can be all too easy to get drawn into the volumes of information that is in print and online. The problem with taking in so much outside material about relationships is that every expert will have their own perspective on what does and does not constitute the right way to do things. This information overload can lead you into a tailspin where your better judgment is replaced with that of someone who has never even met you, so can’t possibly know what your version of healthy looks like.


This very much runs parallel to the habit of researching with the comparison of your circumstances with other couples having much the same effect. But remember, your situation, personal circumstances and relationship dynamic is unique to you. Both you and your partner have your individual characteristics, that, when combined produce a chemistry that is all you own based on the needs you provide for one another. To look at someone else to contrast, compare and judge the success of your relationship does nothing, but cause unnecessary doubt and resentment.

Endless Reflection

Even if you’re not the sort to verbally question your partner about their habits or the validity of your relationship, engaging in a constant mental dialogue can have a similarly detrimental effect. It’s important to remember when you find yourself getting caught up in these patterns of thinking that no one is perfect, and you yourself have your own flaws that are accepted by others as part of your character. Cultivating a practice of mindfulness can help you get around this, by becoming more aware of what thoughts are serving your best interest versus those that are bringing down the quality of your thinking.

Creating Rules For Your Partner

Relationships at their heart, are cooperative. Hence the term partnership literally describes what the goal of a successful relationship should be. They’re founded on mutual respect both in terms of ideals and boundaries. And if one side is constantly taking the lead in setting an agenda which the other must adhere, it creates a severe imbalance in how you relate to one another. Over time, this can lead to resentment from the oppressed individual through having to conform to an unrealistic set of expectations. However, the same is equally true of the aggressor who will also feel aggrieved – however unjustly – that their standards aren’t being met.

*** If you think you might be in need of a professional opinion on the state of your mental health, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION for you to gain a better understanding of where you might need assistance. You can book yours here.


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