We all know about disorders and that washing our hands 80 times per day is not normal. The typical diagnosis for such behavior is OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. However, how many of you know that clinical psychologists have identified a disorder that ruins romantic relationships. It is called Relationship Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (ROCD).
Relationship Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder was named in studies as long ago as eight years. However, it is still relatively unknown, but that might change soon. A well-educated American man in his forties, who moves in high circles, donated $50,000 to further studies of ROCD. I’ll call this multimillionaire tech entrepreneur Leonardo, to protect his privacy. After a four-year relationship with a woman he thought to be the love of his life, they got engaged.
This was the start of his disorder
In the aftermath of the engagement celebrations, Leonardo started obsessing about his choice as a life partner. His anxiety almost drove him crazy as he thought of all the reasons why the engagement was the wrong thing. He stressed about whether she was too short or too tall. Is her hair too short or too long? If their beliefs differ — would that ruin their kids? Would some of her traits become unbearable, and would that cause the end of their engagement?
But to avoid hurting her at a later stage, wouldn’t it be better to end the relationship right now? Needless to say, he is no longer engaged. Leonardo says these thoughts plagued him dozens of times per day at first, but then it became 100s of times.
The disorder made him feel like a zombie
Leonardo began waking up at night with panicked thoughts about what could go wrong. He felt like a zombie each morning. He even became afraid about exposing his fears to others and avoided leaving his house.
The boundaries of the disorder
Clinical psychologists say OCD diagnosis is possible after a few years, but ROCD is significantly more complicated. This because it occupies all one’s thoughts in the evaluation of interpersonal relations. The two boundaries are quantity and essence.
The question involves determining how much is too much. The psychologists use a measure that involves the number of hours of the person’s day is spent on the obsessive-compulsive thoughts. Anything more than about two or three hours per day indicates that there is a problem to address. Although some authorities on OCD think one hour is enough to raise concern, the experts who study ROCD believe different.
Assessing the essence is more complicated. It is not uncommon for the thoughts to develop into a secondary obsession. This involves the person’s thoughts questioning why he is obsessive. Is the relationship doomed or his head screwed up? Although he cannot stop having these thoughts, additional anxiety builds up. The person knows that the obsessive preoccupation with the relationship will most likely ruin it.
At this stage, a problem that was mostly in the mind up to now becomes a real-life problem. From then on, the obsessive thoughts will likely involve the ending of a romantic relationship. How to tackle it and how it will affect the other party.
Is nonstop love even possible?
Another patient’s obsession involved nonstop love. Although she loved her partner, she did not have those feelings all the time. The therapist helped her by asking whether she loved her mother nonstop. Why then would she expect to have nonstop love for her partner? It will be interesting to learn more about ROCD when it becomes a more widely accepted form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
What happened with Leonardo?
He has a new love. Although the ROCD may start again, it will be easier now that he has a better understanding of the condition.