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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.