Break the Stigma: Living (and Loving) with Relationship-OCD

What if being in an amazing relationship, loving someone who shares those same feelings for you, only causes you pain?

I hear it often: “If I could just find someone to love, someone to love me back, I’d feel better. I’d be happy. Life would be great.”

But what if being in an amazing relationship, loving someone who shares those same feelings for you, only causes you pain?

This is life with Relationship-OCD (ROCD), a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that attacks relationships (typically romantic, but not always). People with this disorder often doubt their love for their partner, and/or their partner’s love for them. This can take form in various ways, from worrying your partner is not “the one” to feeling like you’re cheating simply by finding another person attractive. Many question their sexuality, their loyalty, their values, their feelings, and even their character on a loop until they’re depressed or numb, unable to enjoy their relationship.

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What It’s Like to Be Brutally Self-Aware

Why did I share that? Do I just want validation? If so, from who? And why?

I sense eyes on me every moment. Watching me. Judging me. I live life like it’s a movie, walk around like I’m in some dramatic music video. They ask, “Who are you when no one is watching?”

I’ll never know. Because, technically, someone always is.

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Empathy Is Not Wrong, Society Is

People told me I wanted attention. That I craved sympathy. That I needed to be everyone’s best friend. That I was nosy and dramatic. Soon, these became things I told myself, too.

I’ve always lived my life in shades of gray, leaning neither toward black nor white. Life is too complicated to subject yourself to a one-track way of thinking.

But this isn’t always easy. From a very young age, I’ve felt a tremendous amount of pain for simply being human. And I always thought that I was wrong. I always thought that, somehow, I was actually a bad person for feeling things so deeply.

People told me I wanted attention. That I craved sympathy. That I needed to be everyone’s best friend. That I was nosy and dramatic. Soon, these became things I told myself, too.

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My OCD and Me: Treading Water in a Drought

I bet they don’t tell you in the movies, or on social media, or even in psychology class, that OCD can affect the way you love, too.

Many people assume they know what obsessive-compulsive disorder is: Making your bed a certain way every morning. Always being early to class or work. Organizing your toiletries so they’re color-coded in the bathroom closet.

But society doesn’t understand the things they cannot see – the things that people with OCD feel, the obsessive thoughts we cycle over, the guilt and shame we sleep with.

It started when I was in preschool, after a particularly traumatic experience with a boy who was three years older than me. He locked my bedroom door, tugged me into my own closet, and pulled my pants down.

He threatened me not to tell my parents what he made me do, and what he did to me. From that point forward, I felt I needed to tell them everything – every thought I had, even the crazy fleeting ones, the judgmental ones, the panicked ones.

“I just had a thought of putting a knife in your back,” I cried to my mom one evening. I was six.

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