Why 'Relationship Obsessive Compulsive Disorder' might convince you you're not in love with your partner

woman with relationship anxiety
You may think it's 'gut instinct', but perhaps you shouldn't end the relationship just yet. Photo credit: Getty.

The old adage 'if you know you know' is one that is often applied to relationships - but a new social media trend is showing for many, that might not actually be the case. 

A series of TikTok videos are showing the reality of living with Relationship Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (ROCD), which is when a series of intrusive thoughts convince you you're not in love with your partner, even if in reality you're perfectly happy with them. 

According to OCD Specialists Online, these questions include whether you're attracted enough to your partner, whether you love them, if there's someone else out there who's a better match, and whether it's time to end the relationship.

Anxiety coach Lily Bloomberg posted on her TikTok that for many people, these obsessions over having the "right" feelings for their significant another can spiral into panic attacks.

"[The cycle goes]: Resists thought, but cannot get it out of head, 'does this mean something?', 'maybe its because things are going too well', 'this love is scary', feels panicky, want to end the relationship," she reeled off in a series of captions. 

In another video, she added that in addition to obsessive preoccupation and doubts, people with Relationship OCD engage in compulsive behaviours like looking at other people to see if they're more attracted to them, and comparing their relationship to others, including those seen in movies.

"Are we as 'in love' as them? Are they happier?" she noted some of the obsessions include. 

It's the reality for many ROCD sufferers, including US woman Kirsty Turnbull, who documented her day with ROCD for the Mighty back in 2017. 

"I wake up at 7am and my brain begins its morning routine: 'Do I hate him? What if I hate him? Should I break up with him? What if I do? What if he leaves me? I don't want him to leave. What if we're not compatible enough? What if I don't actually love him?'," she wrote. 

"A few words repeat for some time. 'Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.' 'Breakup, breakup, breakup, breakup, breakup.' 

"I try to tune out the thoughts with the sound of water from the shower."

Psychotherapist Stacey Kuhl Wochner says sufferers of ROCD should see a clinician to help with symptoms. She also advises using the "six-month waiting period" tactic. 

"I often talk my ROCD clients into taking a six-month hiatus from deciding about his or her relationship. I mean, six months won't ruin your life, right?  Every time a thought comes in that you might be making a huge mistake, reply by saying, 'Oh well, I'll figure it out in six months'." 

"The reason why I encourage this moratorium on deciding about the relationship is that this decision involves ceasing mental rituals and reassurance seeking.  When you stop doing compulsions you gain clarity and it will feel less important." 

A ROCD-centric Reddit forum also offers a space for sufferers to discuss their symptoms and various coping strategies.