This page includes initial findings from recent studies undertaken by our group. These findings have not yet been subject to the academic peer-review process.
Background: Relationship-related obsessive-compulsive phenomena (ROCD) are encountered frequently in the clinic, and involve severe consequences to personal and relational well-being. One common presentation of ROCD involves disabling preoccupation and doubts focusing on intimate partner’s flaws (partner-focused obsessions). It was previously suggested that individuals perceiving their partner’s failures or flaws as reflecting on their own self-worth may be more sensitive to intrusive thoughts pertaining to their partner’s qualities and characteristics. In the current studies, we assessed the link between partner-focused OC symptoms and self-esteem contingent on partner-value. Methods: In two studies we assessed the impact of experimentally induced partner-focused intrusions on self-esteem. In Study 1, we assessed individuals’ self-esteem after one of three primes: (a) thinking about your partner comparing unfavorably with others of the same gender (i.e., alternative partners), (b) thinking about your partner comparing unfavorably to yourself, (c) and a neutral prime. In study 2, we tried to replicate Study 1 and also examine whether favorable comparisons of one’s partner to others would have an opposite effect on self-esteem than unfavorable comparisons. Results: Compared with the other groups, participants who were primed to think of their partner being unfavorably compared to others reported lower self-esteem, but only if they had high levels of partner-focused symptoms. Favorable comparisons of partner to others did not have a positive effect on self-esteem among individuals with high levels of partner-focused symptoms. Conclusions: Partner-value self-sensitivity may be one of the perpetuating mechanisms involved in partner-focused OC phenomena.
Published: Doron, G., Mizrahi, M., Szepsenwol, O., & Derby, D. (2014). Right or Flawed: Relationships Obsessions and Sexual Satisfaction. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11, 2218-2224.
Study 1: Background and Objectives: Obsessive compulsive (OC) phenomena centering on intimate-relationships may lead to significant impairment in daily functioning. In this research, we investigated whether increased fear of abandonment (attachment anxiety) and stronger reliance on intimate-relationships for one’s feelings of self-worth will be linked with higher relationship-centered OC symptom severity. Method: 171 Israeli participants (77 women) were recruited via an Israeli online survey platform and completed questionnaires relating to their attachment orientations, self-perceptions, mood variables and relationship-centered obsessive compulsive symptoms. All participants were involved in intimate relationships at the time of the study. Results: Attachment anxiety was a significant predictor of relationship-centered OC symptoms, especially when accompanied by self-contingency in the relational self-domain. This remained true after controlling for obsessive compulsive beliefs, general worry tendencies, depression and general self-esteem. Limitations: Our study was correlational and conducted with non-clinical participants. Conclusions: Self and attachment vulnerabilities may have a role in the maintenance of relationship-centered OC phenomena. Treatments addressing such double relationship-vulnerability may enhance treatment of relationship-centered obsessive compulsive phenomena.
Published: Doron, G., Szepsenwol. O., Karp. E., & Gal. N. (2013). Obsessing About Intimate-Relationships: Testing the Double Relationship-Vulnerability Hypothesis. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 44, 433-440.
Background and Objectives: Obsessive preoccupation and doubts centering on one’s intimate relationship may have a negative impact on the romantic dyad and lead to significant distress. In this research we investigated whether the co-occurrence of fear of abandonment and overreliance on intimate relationships for self-worth – what we call a double relationship-vulnerability – is linked with relationship-centered obsessions and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Method: In this study we employed an experimental design to assess response to subtle threats to the relationship self-domain in individuals with double relationship-vulnerability. Results: Findings showed that when confronted with subtle threats to the relationship self-domain, individuals with double relationship-vulnerability are more likely to experience distress and engage in mitigating behavior in response to relationship doubts and fears. Limitations: Our study was conducted with non-clinical participants. Conclusions: These findings suggest that double relationship-vulnerability may make individuals more susceptible to the development and maintenance of relationship-centered obsessions and compulsions.
Study 3: Exploring the longitudinal effects of relationship-related obsessive-compulsive phenomena
Relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder (ROCD) is characterized by obsessive doubts and worries centered on the relationship (i.e., relationship-centered) or the relationship partner (i.e. partner-focused). Such obsessions often lead to significant distress and are commonly associated with compulsive behaviors (e.g., compulsive checking and reassurance seeking) aimed at mitigating this distress. Both ROCD themes have been linked with relationship dissatisfaction. The current study examined the reciprocal relationship between partner-focused and relationship-centered obsessive-compulsive (OC) phenomena over time. Participants (N = 141) completed measures of partner-focused and relationship-centered OC phenomena at two time points one year apart. Partner-focused OC phenomena were associated with an increase in relationship-centered OC phenomena one year later. Relationship-centered OC phenomena were associated with the persistence of partner-focused OC phenomena one year later, but only among individuals in long-lasting relationships.