OCD and Relationships

Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) impacts roughly 2.5 million adults in the United States and 2.3% of the world’s population. Those diagnosed with OCD find it difficult to control their thoughts, actions, and emotions. It might go without saying that these seemingly uncontrollable behaviors can impact romantic, platonic, and professional relationships.

This article will explore in further detail how OCD impacts relationships, and how to cope with these 

What is OCD?

OCD is a chronic mental health disorder that has a major effect on a person’s  life. People who have OCD have intrusive thoughts that they can’t ignore, leading to behaviors they feel will quiet those thoughts. The type of OCD most people think of is contamination OCD, where a person has an extreme fear of germs, usually leading to excessive hand washing.

While OCD can be seen as just a personality quirk in a variety of films and TV shows, it can be a debilitating mental illness. When OCD is brought up, we often think of someone constantly disinfecting their belongings or symmetrically placing their items on a shelf. There is a lot more to OCD than what pop culture portrays, and it’s important to be aware of that. 

The Two Major Components of OCD

OCD has two major components that make it a unique disorder:

  • Obsessions: Intrusive thoughts that physical harm may befall them or those around them 
  • Compulsions: The behaviors a person uses to prevent the harm from happening

OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder, as the obsessions can cause an incredible amount of distress. 

Related article: Is OCD Considered Neurodivergent?

What Does OCD Look Like?

Like many other mental health disorders, the severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe. There are many types of OCD, each usually distinguished by the type of obsessions a person has. 

Most of the time, compulsions are related to the obsessions. For example, a person with contamination OCD obsesses about germs or disease. Their compulsions are often excessive cleaning or avoiding things and places they consider dirty.

Another example is checking OCD—someone will continue to check their front door is locked because they fear someone will break into their home.

However, compulsions may seem irrational to others. One example is hoarding OCD. With this form, someone will be reluctant to get rid of an object because they fear their wellbeing, or the wellbeing of others, is attached to that object.

sometimes, the compulsions fo someone with OCD don't match their obsessions

It’s important to remember that every person is different, meaning OCD will look different depending on the person. 

To learn more about OCD causes, symptoms and treatments, read our full guide here.

How Does OCD Affect Relationships?

While it may not seem so obvious at first glance, OCD can be the root cause of many relationship problems that friends, family, coworkers, and couples face. 

While all relationships will have easy times and hard times, OCD can throw an extra wrench into the equation. This isn’t just for romantic relationships—every interpersonal relationship can be affected by OCD. 

Family and Friends

Having OCD can be challenging for family members and close friends. Someone with OCD oftentimes requires more attention and has more needs than others. 

When someone with OCD is working through their compulsions and obsessions, things can come to a standstill. Loving and helping someone with OCD takes patience and understanding.

Related Article: How to Help Someone with OCD

It’s also important to be a good listener to get the best understanding of how the person with OCD feels. Though friends and family don’t often spend every waking moment with that person, they can still take steps and learn behaviors to help their loved one.

Romantic Partners

For a lot of people, their partner is the most important in their life and the person they spend the most time with. Not only that, but they invested a lot of emotions and vulnerability into their relationship. It’s easy to guess how much OCD can affect romantic relationships.

The partner of someone with OCD needs extra patience to accommodate their partner’s OCD. We usually feel more emotionally open with our romantic partners—even negative emotions like anger and frustration. The tedium and irrationality of obsessions and compulsions can weigh on a romantic partner. It’s important for all parties to acknowledge how OCD is making them feel, and talk about what they can do together to mitigate some of the stress.

What is Relationship OCD?

Relationship OCD is a subcategory of OCD that heavily affects the relationship between two people. It’s where a person’s OCD symptoms are centered around their loved one, usually regarding security in their partner’s feelings about them.

Relationship OCD comes in two forms:

  • Relationship focused: Doubts about their relationship and interactions
  • Partner focused: Doubts about their partner’s traits and attributes

Relationship OCD typically involves more obsessions than compulsions. Someone with this form of OCD typically has major bouts of anxiety and intrusive thoughts, which causes them to turn to their partner for reassurance over and over again.

relationship ocd is a type of ocd centered around a person's romantic relationship or partner.

Treating OCD in Relationships

While there is no true cure for OCD, there are many things that help treat it. Therapy gives those with OCD and their loved ones tools to cope with and manage symptoms.

The most effective forms of therapy for OCD are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Both of these therapies help people connect thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in order to gain some control over them. 

However, therapy isn’t just for the person with OCD, but for their loved ones, too. A counselor can help someone understand OCD better, understand how their actions affect their partner with OCD, and better ways to help their partner manage their OCD.

therapy gives those with ocd and their loved ones tools to cope with and manage symptoms

Inner Balance as an OCD Solution

Living with OCD, whether you’ve been diagnosed with it or your loved one has, isn’t necessarily easy. It can be debilitating, interfering with a person’s ability to complete tasks, cohabitate, and even leave the house.

At Inner Balance, we understand the challenges OCD can cause. That’s why we offer both in-person and online counseling to help cope. Reach out today to learn how we can help you and your partner.

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Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

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