How can ocd affect relationships

How can ocd affect relationships DEFAULT

If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) then you know how difficult it can be to maintain a happy relationship.

OCD is a mental health disorder that manifests as obsessive tendencies, recurring thoughts and the inclination to perform various rituals for no clear reason. Inability to perform those rituals can make you feel anxious and upset. There can be an overwhelming urge to make things neat and orderly.

Research suggests that OCD starts during childhood or in the teenage years.

During your adult years, OCD will start to invade every aspect of your life. It affects everything from where you live, what you do for work, and who you marry.

Some people with OCD wonder if it is possible to curb OCD habits forever so that you can remain happy and healthy in your relationships.

Types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

There are many different types of OCD out there. Here are a few:

-Washing and cleaning compulsions

Those who have an intense fear of germs may obsessively wash their hands and clean their house.

-Hoarding compulsion

People with hoarding disorder keep items that are of no sentimental value for fear that something bad will happen if they throw anything away. Hoarding has been the subject of books and plays, but it is no laughing matter.

-Checking things obsessively

This compulsion is characterized by activities such as seeing whether the door is locked or the stove is turned off over and over again.

-Arranging or counting disorders

These disorders include obsession with symmetry and numbers, carrying superstitions about colors, certain arrangements and other behaviors related to keeping things in order.

Other signs of OCD include but are not limited to:

  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Needing constant reassurance
  • Polarizing thoughts
  • Obeying rituals, such as going through a doorway in a particular way, touching objects a certain amount of times
  • Saving useless items
  • Intense fear of germs
  • Unfounded health fears, such as fearing death or sudden violent behavior
  • Urges relating to symmetry
  • Rearranging items to be in a particular order
  • Excessive doubts

How OCD ruins relationships 

Being in a relationship when you or your partner suffers from OCD can lead to frustration, resentment, and hurt feelings for both partners. Here are just some ways OCD affects your relationship and your mental health.

-Physical Contact Becomes Difficult

Those who suffer from a germ-related OCD may have trouble being physically intimate with a partner for fear of contracting an illness.

Studies show that physical contact, even simple things like holding hands, has been strongly linked to an increase in trust, monogamy, and marriage satisfaction.

OCD can make having sex or showing affection, both aspects of a relationship that contribute to happiness and emotional bonding, nearly impossible.

-It’s Hard to Watch

Those with OCD often suffer from a constant state of uncertainty or anxious thoughts. This may require repeated reassurance from your spouse that can be overwhelming.

Being in a relationship with someone with mental health issues can also make the unaffected spouse feel helpless and can lower their self-esteem.

-Lowers Happiness

Having a compulsive disorder means that your mind may fixate on anything to obsess over, including your spouse. This can cause you to pay more than the usual attention to your partner’s flaws.

You may make pro/con lists about your spouse or have recurring thoughts about whether you love them or vice versa.

All of these behaviors can have a negative effect on both you and your spouse’s happiness.

OCD can also contribute to clinical depression which can make you feel restless, fatigued, indifferent, pessimistic, hopeless, and worthless. These take a toll on your mental health and your relationship.

Related Article:  How Virtual Reality is Improving Care for Mental Health Disorders

What to Do About OCD?

Nobody who has OCD enjoys the compulsions they feel. Not only do they interfere with daily life, but they can also present many challenges in maintaining romantic relationships.

The good news is, there are many ways to cope.

The World Journal of Psychiatry says

“Over the past three decades, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has moved from an almost untreatable, life-long psychiatric disorder to a highly manageable one.” This is great news for those being affected by OCD!

Such coping mechanisms include:

-Communicate with your spouse

Communication is the key to successful relationships, especially when issues of mental health are involved. In order to keep relationship frustrations at a minimum for both of you, it’s important to speak openly and honestly about your condition. Talk about changes in your symptoms, how you feel emotionally, and allow them to express their feelings as well.

 –Seek Therapy

Going to psychotherapy can be a useful tool in controlling your compulsions. Your therapist can help you work on issues of self-control, past trauma, and self-confidence that may be affecting your OCD.

-Keep a Journal

Many find it beneficial to keep a journal of worries and obsessive thoughts. Studies show that journaling your thoughts and feelings can reduce stress and boost immune functions.

Having a physical record of your OCD will help you take control of your thoughts and understand triggers that are affecting your mental health.

Related Journaling Information:  Can Journaling Improve Your Mental Health?

-Record Yourself

A method of dealing with OCD has to do with taking back control of your mental health.

One way you can do this is by recording yourself when you are having an episode, perhaps repeating certain words or phrases that are causing you anxiety. Then, listen to the recording every day for twenty minutes or more until the word or phrase no longer has an effect on you.


It can also be extremely helpful for sufferers to “reschedule” their compulsions. Instead of telling yourself “I have to do this right now”, take control and say, “I will do this in ten minutes/one hour/tomorrow”.

By the time the ten minutes (or whatever time period you have imposed on yourself) has elapsed, it is likely that your episode will have subsided.

The bottom line

OCD can have serious effects on your romantic relationships and your mental health. Don’t let OCD control your life.

Talk about your disorder with your spouse and keep the lines of communication open. Join a support group and seek therapy so that you can start to live a more fulfilling life.

Rachael Pace


Rachael Pace is a noted writer currently associated with She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of her motivational articles and essays.

Rachael enjoys studying about today's evolving forms of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on all types of romantic connections. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.

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How OCD Affects Intimate & Romantic Relationships | Orlando OCD Specialist Shares 

At The Center for Anxiety and OCD at GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, we provide specialized treatment for those struggling with OCD utilizing ERP and CBT. Our OCD specialists are specifically trained to treat OCD, providing evidence-based, effective treatment to sufferers, and support for their families. 

It is well known that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder than can have a negative effect on social, occupational and interpersonal functioning. However, it is rarely discussed that OCD can also have a very negative effect on intimate relationships.

Researchers who have studied the marital status, the quality of marriages and relationship satisfaction for individuals with OCD have found that many individuals with OCD are not married or in a relationship and those who are married, often experience a great deal of marital distress.

Research has suggested that whether someone with OCD marries is influenced by a number of factors that include the person’s gender, the age of OCD onset and the severity of OCD symptoms. Studies show that a greater number of men with OCD do not marry and that men with OCD tend to avoid close relationships. The age of OCD onset may contribute to this, as men tend to have earlier onset of OCD (typically between the ages of 6 and 15) compared with women, whose typical age of onset is between the ages of 20 and 29. Studies have found that only 30% of individuals who developed OCD during childhood were dating by the age of 16. It was found that these individuals also experienced considerable problems with their social life. It is thought that the early onset of OCD may hinder the development of social skills that are necessary for finding and keeping a partner. Poor social skills may also cause problems in later in intimate relationships because the skills necessary for having positive intimate relationships are never really developed. In addition, those with OCD may also avoid social situations, which may prevent individuals with OCD from meeting a potential partner.

The severity of OCD symptoms has also been found to contribute to relationship satisfaction. Research shows that 90% of men with severe OCD symptoms are single and 40% of both men and women with severe OCD live in isolation, avoiding interactions with family and friends and avoiding social activities. The severity of OCD symptoms have also been found to interfere with sexuality, primarily due to obsessive thoughts about becoming contaminated through sex.

It is also hypothesized that because individuals with OCD who have more severe intrusive thoughts are so preoccupied with their obsessive thoughts, they have less time and mental energy to connect in an intimate way with a loved one.

Many individuals with OCD refrain from disclosing their obsessive thoughts to others, as they tend to fear that others will use their obsessions against them, that people will think they are “craz”y and that disclosing their thoughts will lead to shame and embarrassment. It is often difficult for a partner to truly understand the behaviors of their partner with OCD, thus partners often become frustrated, believe the person with OCD is “crazy” and lose respect for their partner. The partner without OCD’s hostile criticism, negative communication patterns and participation in rituals also impacts both their partner’s OCD and the overall relationship functioning. Thus, it is not surprising that individuals with OCD are more likely to be divorced than individuals without OCD.

At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, we believe it is extremely important to keep in mind the intimate relationship of clients who are in therapy for OCD. Whether clients with OCD have difficulties establishing a relationship, maintaining relationships or experience difficulties in their current relationships, intimate relationships are an important aspect of treatment. At GroundWork Counseling, we keep this in mind even when we treat children with OCD as we are aware that those who develop OCD at a younger age may need social skills training in combination with Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) so the child with OCD can learn the necessary social skills that will help the child to establish and maintain intimate relationships in the future.

Speak With An Orlando OCD Therapist




Important Questions To Ask Any OCD Treatment Provider

Information About Insurance and OCD Treatment 

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In popular culture and frequently within the media OCD is mistakenly portrayed  as a positive trait and personality quirk, but the reality is, for those that suffer with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), it has a devastating impact on their life.

OCD is a treatable condition, but we would be negligent if we didn’t highlight some of the ways that OCD can and does impact on many people.

As mentioned previously, a  disproportionately high number of those affected with OCD, about 50% of all cases, fall into the severe category, with less than a quarter being classed as mild cases.

In fact, OCD can be so debilitating and disabling that the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranked OCD in the top ten of the most disabling illnesses of any kind, in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of life.   The same report also said  OCD was the fifth leading causes of disease burden for women aged 15-44 in the developed world.

So when people misuse OCD and make reference to being ‘a little OCD’, in addition to failing to understand that OCD is a disorder, they also fail to realise the impact it has  on those that suffer.  OCD can be so severe that it can seriously impact on some or all areas of a person’s life, sometimes disrupting  or completely ruining:

  • Education
  • Employment
  • Career development
  • Relationships with partners, parents, siblings and friends
  • Starting a family
  • Access to own children
  • Quality of life (because of social interaction)

Also, some of the behaviour that people do to cope with OCD (including compulsions) can also have devastating affects, including:

  • Physical damage from compulsions (red and raw bleeding skin. Eye damage)
  • Substance abuse (self-medicating with alcohol or other substances)
  • Terminations (some women have felt they had no choice but to have abortions because of OCD)

OCD can affect people in different ways. Some people may spend much of their day carrying out various compulsions and be unable to get out of the house or manage normal activities. Others may appear to be coping with day-to-day life while still suffering a huge amount of distress from obsessive thoughts. Some people with OCD may carry out their rituals and compulsions in secret or make excuses to avoid social interaction so they can complete compulsions.

The severity of OCD differs markedly from one person to another.  Some individuals may be able to hide their OCD from their own family. However, the disorder may have a major negative impact on social relationships leading to frequent family and marital discord or dissatisfaction, separation or divorce.  It also interferes with leisure activities and with a person’s ability to study or work, leading to diminished educational and/or occupational attainment and unemployment.

It can be particularly difficult for families when the person with OCD has poor insight into the disorder. In these cases the person will have difficulty recognising that their concerns are excessive, that they may have OCD, or indeed that they may need help.

There is also frequent reports of a financial burden on the family.

Finally, in some rare cases, the symptoms of a parent with OCD may directly impact on the well-being of family members, for example, when concerns about contamination lead to extreme hygiene measures.

The impact on family members should also not be underestimated. Loved ones, often unwittingly become entwined in OCD compulsions:

  • Offering reassurance
  • Avoiding objects or places for fear of triggering their loved one’s OCD
  • Carrying out actions (compulsions) for their loved one with OCD, i.e. looking after their baby, taking rubbish out, stripping naked at the door to not spread ‘contamination’.

How the family should deal with such requests will be discussed in another chapter.

Whilst we must not dismiss what  a devastating impact OCD has, it’s worth noting that with successful treatment, people  don’t just improve their quality of life, many move on to recovery.

What to read next:

How common is OCD?

Social and Economic Impact of OCD

Page information

Last Checked:30th January 2020

Next Review Due: July 2022

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or any other medical condition. OCD-UK have taken all reasonable care in compiling this information, but always recommend consulting a doctor or other suitably qualified health professional for diagnosis and treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or any other medical condition.

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) ... What is it?

How can OCD affect relationships? Learn if it affects yours

Can someone who suffers from OCD have healthy relationships? Yes, of course. However if left untreated, can an unstable mental health condition affect our happiness? In fact, research shows that OCD can affect relationships. But, how? Truth is, any type of mental health disorder can affect our relationships with others. Depending on our issues and the level of our anxiety, things can become unstable. If you have OCD, you must know that your symptoms can often get in the way of living and managing relationships. Indeed, many individuals with OCD are single. Those who are in a relationship or married often report relationship stress. However, being in a relationship with an OCD partner can also make the partner feel helpless and can lower their self-esteem.

Are you feeling sad, lost and feeling empty? This can happen to anyone. Sadness can be immense for those who suffer from mental instability. It is important to know that for people who suffer from OCD, often the feeling of sadness and tension is very real.

OCD surfaces through obsessive learning, performing rituals of activities with no clear reason. Hence, these unaddressed mental health issues often create problems in relationships. Therefore, it is important for everyone to understand how can OCD affect relationships.

Furthermore, It often takes a lot of understanding and patience to live with an OCD partner. But still, there is hope. It is important to know that Mental health disorders including OCD can be treated. Still, with the help of mental health care professionals, one can win the fight against obsession, compulsiveness and repetitiveness of the slightest action or deed.

Building healthy relationships that work.

OCD in Australia

Truly, if left untreated, OCD has the capacity to conquer every aspect of a person’s life. It affects everything, from how you live, how you work, and how it affects the people you live with. Hence, here are some facts we have gathered from Sane Australia’s website.

  • Firstly, there is no ‘typical’ OCD behaviour. The symptoms and features of OCD can differ greatly.
  • Secondly, around 2% of people in Australia have OCD.
  • Thirdly, obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviours often appear in childhood or adolescence.
  • In briefly, people who suffer from OCD have a higher risk of developing other types of mental disorders.

Compulsive behaviour can take up some time. It can impact normal day-to-day activities. A person with OCD may find the need to keep washing their hands every time they touch something. To sum up, people suffering from OCD are usually aware of their behaviours and know they are excessive. This can cause shame, forcing people to keep their condition secret. The sooner people with OCD seek effective treatment, the closer they are to regaining control of their mental health.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and relationships: How it Affects?

People who are in relationships with an OCD partner often find themselves having to often change because of their partner. Concerns about locks or germs can become a point in everyday communication between the couple. Although OCD does cause challenges to maintain a relationship if you have knowledge on how OCD affects relationships, there are ways to cope.

OCD is associated with a variety of thought processes which then results in certain behaviour or actions. Some of the thought processes people with OCD can identify with are:

  • Certain behaviour and thoughts become uncontrollable.
  • Subsequently, the mind can only be appeased by performing rituals.
  • Next is the feeling of being safer by performing rituals becomes apparent.
  • Reassurance from others may not have lasting effects.
  • Ultimately, a person with OCD can exaggerate situations, thinking of the worst.
  • Inevitably, ongoing anxiety or uncertainty is not acceptable or bearable.

Therefore, obsessive-compulsive disorder including the associated compulsions can have devastating effects on a person. Here are some damaging effects OCD can afflict on people’s lives:

  • Physical damage from washing and cleaning compulsions (red and raw bleeding skin. Eye damage)
  • Substance abuse
  • Neglect of other aspects of life
  • Impacts on work and relationships

Protect your mental health.

Relationships with OCD partner: How to Deal?

Someone who experiences OCD should have their condition managed by a health professional, preferably diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist. Treatment should ideally be broad-ranging and a variety of interventions trialled. It’s important the partners are educated about the condition, try to understand how OCD can affect relationships, affects the OCD partner and the other. Also, seek their own supports. Open dialogue can be beneficial. Often psychologists can use behavioural strategies to help partners support their loved ones.

Support groups provide an environment where people with OCD can learn more about the condition. As a direct result, there’s a chance to meet with others. Therefore, there’s a chance to share experiences and to provide support. Information is provided, along with self-help and coping strategies. Understanding and acceptance by family and friends are often important for OCD sufferers. In sum, How can OCD affect relationships?


Finding Stability with OCD

Ultimately, if we are feeling weighed down by deep thought, perhaps it is time to find professional mental health care help? Similarly, if a face-to-face consultation with a psychologist or a psychiatrist is unavailable in your area, telehealth mental service is a good option for you.

It is important to learn and understand how can . Therefore, at present, there are professionals who offer online psychiatry or online psychology telehealth service in Australia. It is important to note that there are telehealth mental health care providers who bulk-bill clients who live in remote areas. Secondly, only trained mental health professionals can diagnose OCD. Thirdly, professional help is often beneficial in long term recovery. Moreover, it is highly encouraged we seek help for mental health in general. We encourage you to reach out to your local doctor if you have concerns about potential OCD. They will then be able to direct you.


Affect relationships can ocd how

Relationships and anxiety and OCD

Problems with anxiety or obsessive thinking can put a lot of pressure on a relationship.

If you have anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), it can be very isolating. You may have trouble explaining to your partner how it affects you – or you might avoid talking about it at all.

It can be upsetting for your partner too. They may feel stressed or upset by seeing you suffer, or feel frustrated by their inability to help.

What does anxiety and OCD mean?

The symptoms of both anxiety and OCD are varied, and can range from mild to severe. But generally speaking:

  • Anxiety is feeling fearful or worrying about the future. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may worry excessively about everyday events or social situations. You may find it difficult to relax or obsess over things that could go wrong. If you have generalised anxiety disorder you may experience general feelings of anxiety that aren’t necessarily prompted by any event. This can be exhausting and stressful, and over time can cause issues with your physical health.
  • OCD is a pattern of obsessive or repetitive thinking or behaviours. This can include washing your hands repeatedly or needing to carry out specific ‘rituals’ as you go about your day. These patterns can make it difficult to live a normal life, as you may find it hard – or even impossible – to relax until they’ve been carried out, and you may feel compelled to keep carrying them out until you feel they’ve been done correctly.

How does anxiety affect relationships?

Again, this has much to do with how severe the OCD or anxiety is and the specific symptoms. But there are a number of common ways these conditions can affect relationships.

If you experience anxiety, you may find it difficult to relax around your partner, or you may overanalyse their behaviour or become paranoid about certain aspects of your relationship. You may worry that your partner is going to break up with you or obsess over certain comments. If you have generalised anxiety disorder, you may find it hard to feel or express satisfaction in your relationship. You might shut off – stonewalling your partner. Or, you may have a constant need for reassurance: an inability to be calm without repeated expressions of support.

If you’re in a relationship with someone who has anxiety, you may begin to feel shut out. You might wonder if you are causing your partner to feel stressed, or if you’ve done something wrong for them to be acting this way. 

How does OCD affect relationships?

If you have OCD, you can begin to feel like a burden: aware that your need to repeat behaviours isn’t rational, but still feel unable to stop. You may become isolated in your obsessions – unable to control them, even as you’re aware of the negative effect they’re having on your life and relationship. As with anxiety, if you  suffer from OCD you may find you repeatedly think about negative things happening in your daily life or relationship – such as your partner cheating on you or breaking up with you.

The burden of carrying out these rituals can begin to affect the partner of the sufferer too. If your partner has OCD, you may become exasperated or exhausted by the effort of navigating around your partners’ compulsions. You may struggle to understand it, or find you become the subject of these obsessions.

Seeking help

If you’re affected by anxiety or OCD, you’re not alone. Anxiety and OCD are commonly diagnosed: 4.7 in 100 people have some form of anxiety and 1.3 in 100 some form of OCD[1].

If you feel this is becoming a real issue, there’s no shame in seeking help. Although taking that first step can be hard, it can also be a chance to take some of the pressure off yourself, your partner and your relationship. 

There are many organisations offering support and information about anxiety and OCD. Mindhave an info line where you can find out where to get help, medication and alternative treatments. SANE have a helpline staffed with volunteers who offer information and emotional support.

Beyond this, your GP will be able to talk to you about ways to manage your condition. You can also call the NHS for urgent medical advice on 111 or get information online at NHS Choices.

If you feel you aren’t ready for these options, you may find discussing things with family or trusted friends can be a real help. This can give you a better sense of perspective on what you’re going through and just generally help you to feel less alone. Although it can be embarrassing or nerve wracking talking about this kind of issue, you may be surprised by how willing and keen people are to help.

Understanding one another

If you feel that anxiety or OCD is affecting your relationship, then dealing with the issue together is always going to be easier than dealing with it separately.

Sometimes, this means having an open and honest conversation so you can both understand what each other is experiencing.

If you’re the one experiencing the condition, the purpose of this will be to communicate to your partner how the condition affects you. It may be that they don’t know – or don’t fully understand – what you’re going through when you feel anxious and do certain things. Although we often like to think our partner should understand what we’re feeling without us even saying, this isn’t always realistic. The best way to make ensure they ‘get it’ is simply by telling them.

Try to start this conversation from the perspective that your partner wants to help you, but they don’t know what it’s like to deal with anxiety or OCD. Appreciate that this may be difficult for them too – and that, once you’re on the same team, you’ll be able to tackle any problems together. 

And if you’re the partner of someone affected by these conditions, the main thing to express is that you care about them and you want to help. Don’t blame or label them for their actions, but instead focus on what you’re feeling: ‘I’ve noticed that you seem to be struggling with a few things, and I wanted to know how I could help’. When you phrase things this way, you’re much less likely to make the other person feel ambushed or get defensive. Our article on communication tips to try with your partner has some useful information on having tricky conversations: we’d recommend you give it a read as a first step.

If you're supporting a partner with anxiety or OCD it’s also important to look after yourself. Talk to friends and family if you’re beginning to feel isolated or overwhelmed. Mind’s website has specific advice on living with someone affected by mental illness. You may also find it useful to read up on OCD and anxiety so you can better understand what they’re going through.

How we can help

If you come in for an initial consultation, we can talk through what you’re experiencing and discuss whether counselling might be a useful route for you to take.

Alternatively, you can talk to a Relate counsellor online.

How to treat ROCD (Relationship OCD)

Here’s How OCD Affects Your Relationships Before, During, and After Treatment

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects every aspect of life, including — and sometimes especially — relationships.

Driven by concern and a deep need to help their loved one be OK, partners of people with OCD take on a lot of emotional responsibility. They feel like they have to safeguard their partner and protect them from unnecessary upset. At the same time, the partner with OCD notices their loved one doing extra emotional work and can easily start to feel guilty. 

Is my partner getting frustrated with me? 

Are they going to leave?

It’s a stressful situation to be in, and the fear of losing your trusted partner can make OCD symptoms that much more difficult. 

The good news is that treatment can help, especially when it’s a proven, effective treatment program like exposure and response prevention (ERP). ERP teaches you how to manage your OCD more effectively, so you and your partner feel less stressed.

What kind of stress does OCD put on relationships?

There are many different subtypes of OCD, and each one affects a person’s relationships differently. Someone with contamination OCD might avoid sexual activities for fear of genital infections. Someone with “Just Right” OCD might feel the need to close the garage door multiple times before it feels right, so every attempt to leave the house takes longer.

But no matter what a person’s triggers and symptoms are, the impact is similar across OCD relationships. When life is exceedingly difficult to manage for one person, it’s difficult for both.

What OCD symptoms affect relationships the most?

Excessive reassurance seeking. Everyone needs reassurance from time to time, but with OCD, the need is persistent and compulsive. You might feel the need to ask again and again if your partner still loves you, if the bathroom is clean, if you turned the oven off, and so on. 

This can leave you feeling guilty and ashamed, and even then you might not believe your partner when they give you the reassurance you’re asking for! On top of that, your partner might express frustration, or it might cause conflict in your relationship if they no longer want to provide you with the reassurance you request. 

Avoidance of everyday situations. When you have OCD, it’s common to feel like you can’t handle situations that trigger your intrusive thoughts and compulsions. Some people feel like it’s too hard to walk into a grocery store because of germ fears. Others are uncomfortable around knives because of harm OCD and want someone else to chop all the vegetables.

It’s hard enough to feel like you’re not up to seemingly basic tasks. But when you see your partner taking on those avoided tasks, you can start to feel embarrassed or inadequate. You might wonder if you should apologize, or if that would just be more work for your partner. It feels like a no-win situation for you and possibly for your partner as well.

What about relationship OCD?

Relationship OCD gets its own section here because, with this subtype, the relationship itself is the trigger.

Every intimate relationship has some level of uncertainty — relationships involve complex human beings and their feelings about one another. If you have relationship OCD, you probably have trouble tolerating this uncertainty. You likely think obsessively about whether the relationship is “right” or if your partner is “the one.” Even if your partner reassures you that they care, you might have trouble believing them.

At the same time, your partner has to live with that daily questioning of the relationship. Maybe they have to watch you “check out” strangers, take relationship tests online, or express your doubt verbally to friends. 

Even if you both know that OCD is the cause of this insecurity, it can be demoralizing and scary for both of you.

What happens next?

Anticipatory avoidance AKA Accommodation. When a person with OCD has extreme fear reactions to a particular situation, the people who love them naturally try to offer protection. Your partner might try their best to keep your environment clear of triggers. If they can’t, both of you could end up feeling guilty.

Knee-jerk reactions. Some partners of people with OCD don’t know how to support someone with a mental health diagnosis. Others know to be compassionate and understanding, but they experience frustration and don’t know how to express it, so they take it out on their partners.

In moments of frustration, your partner might result to unhelpful reactions such as criticizing, snapping at, or belittling you. At times, they might even blame you for not being able to control your OCD symptoms, even if they know deep down you’re trying your hardest. Regardless of whether you’re struggling with your OCD or well on the road to recovery, these reactions are important to address. In the end, no one deserves to be mistreated by their partner. You may even benefit from involving your partner in your treatment to help them learn just how challenging living with OCD can be. 

DIY therapy. Many partners are happy to provide emotional support and guidance when OCD rears its ugly head. They ask you about your feelings and responses, encourage you to notice when your “OCD brain” is in charge, and express understanding about the intensity of your feelings.

Also remember that as reassuring as partner support can be, it’s no substitute for professional treatment. It’s important to seek the help of a trained therapist so your partner doesn’t have to do that work.

How can ERP therapy transform your relationships? 

When one person in a relationship has OCD, both partners must rearrange their daily lives to make room for symptom management. When you go through ERP treatment, you learn how to manage your triggers and reduce your anxiety so you and your partner aren’t so strained. It’s one of the most important things you can do to make your relationship healthier. 

In ERP therapy, you work with a therapist to safely expose yourself to situations that ordinarily make you feel anxious. Your therapist works with you to create custom-designed exposure exercises, each related to a particular OCD trigger. Your job is to do those exercises without resorting to avoidance or ritual behaviors to make yourself feel better.

Ordinarily with OCD, an internal or external trigger causes intense anxiety that prompts compulsive behaviors. Your body and mind learn to believe you can’t handle those situations without avoiding them or doing rituals.

If OCD is interfering in your relationship, your therapist might encourage you to bring your partner in for a session or two to learn about your symptoms and how they can best be supportive. This might involve teaching your partner how to respond to requests for reassurance and decrease accommodations.

ERP breaks the cycle and empowers you to make healthier choices. Your anxiety becomes less overwhelming. You gain control over your OCD, and you and your partner are able to focus less on your OCD and more on your time together. 

What’s the long-term prognosis after treatment?

Studies have shown that ERP can be the catalyst that changes a person’s OCD outlook from “poor” to “very good.” That’s largely because ERP doesn’t just teach you coping skills. Through experience, it convinces your body and mind that you can handle triggering situations without avoiding, doing ritual behaviors, or asking for reassurance.

The longer you live with this kind of confidence and independence, the more your partner can relax and trust you to manage your OCD symptoms. Daily life gets easier, and most importantly, the relationship takes on the equality and balance that every healthy relationship should have. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, you can schedule a free call with the NOCD clinical team to learn more about how a licensed therapist can help. ERP is most effective when the therapist conducting the treatment has experience with OCD and training in ERP. At NOCD, all therapists specialize in OCD and receive ERP-specific training.

NOCD Staff



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How to Overcome the Impact of OCD on Your Romantic Relationship

If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD​), you know that your symptoms can often get in the way of establishing and maintaining romantic relationships. Indeed, many individuals with OCD are single, and those who are in a relationship or married often report a significant amount of relationship stress.

Of course, not every person with OCD is the same. But if symptoms of your OCD are posing a serious challenge to your love life, there are ways of coping.

How Bad Relationships Affect Your Health

OCD and Romantic Relationships

There are many ways in which OCD can get in the way of romantic relationships. For example, you may have challenges maintaining your self-esteem and may struggle with feelings of shame around your symptoms, which can lead you to avoid contact with others.

In addition, you may feel that you have to conceal the nature of your obsessions and compulsions to avoid rejection by a potential or current romantic partner. Your obsessions or compulsions may even revolve around your romantic partner, which can make it especially difficult to reveal the nature of your symptoms.

Secrecy is going to stand in the way of an open, honest, and intimate relationship. Plus, symptoms of depression, which are common in OCD, can also make it difficult to establish and maintain intimate relationships.

Of course, for many individuals, sexual intimacy is a crucial aspect of any romantic relationship. However, as you may have experienced, OCD symptoms can interfere with sexual relations.

For example, you may experience obsessions related to contamination (like the cleanliness of your partner’s genital area) or disturbing sexual themes (such as sexual assault) that make it very difficult to engage in sexual relations with your partner. Not surprisingly, people with OCD are often sexually avoidant and sexually dissatisfied in their relationships.

OCD and Sexual Intimacy

How to Cope

Although OCD does pose many challenges to forming, maintaining, and enjoying a romantic relationship, there are ways to cope.

  • Manage your symptoms. The severity of OCD symptoms is positively associated with the inability to establish and maintain a romantic relationship. As such, an important and necessary first step toward working a little romance into your life is to effectively treat your symptoms. Be sure to review your treatment plan with your doctor, psychologist, or other mental health professional to ensure you are undertaking the best possible course of treatment.
  • Consider psychotherapy. In addition to managing symptoms of OCD, psychotherapy can provide a useful framework for working on challenging areas, such as low self-esteem, difficulty being assertive, poor social skills, and a lack of self-confidence that could be impeding your ability to start or maintain a stable, long-term relationship.
  • Get your partner involved. If you're already in a romantic relationship, it may be helpful for your partner to take a more active role in your treatment. The doctor or therapist’s office can be a safe and neutral venue to discuss the symptoms you're experiencing, particularly those that might be embarrassing or standing in the way of establishing or building intimacy. The more your partner understands your symptoms, the more you will be able to trust one another.
  • Maintain open and honest communication. Whether you have OCD or not, open and honest communication is the foundation of any romantic relationship. This is especially important when your symptoms are intensifying or have changed. Your partner needs to know what you are experiencing. Not being aware of the challenges you're facing could lead to misunderstandings (like "he/she doesn’t find me attractive anymore") that get in the way of building intimacy and trust.
  • Join a support group. Community support groups for OCD can be excellent sources of social support and provide an opportunity to hear how others are dealing with feelings of isolation or embarrassment. Although it may be tempting to date someone you have met through a support group, proceed with caution. Many support groups have rules in place to protect the confidentiality of attendees and may actively discourage relationships (even casual friendships) outside of the group setting. If you find the support group to be of value and the relationship ends, it may be difficult for one or both of you to return to the group.

Living Well With OCD

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