Relationship-Centered Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms

Relationship-Centered Obsessive-Compulsive Symptom (ROCD Type I) include obsessive doubts, preoccupation, checking, and reassurance seeking behaviors on three relational dimensions; feelings towards one’s partner (e.g., “I continuously reassess whether I really love my partner“; ), one’s perception of partner’s feelings (e.g., “I continuously doubt my partner’s love for me“(  and one’s appraisal of the “rightness” of the relationship (e.g., “I check and recheck whether my relationship feels right“).

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Previous research has indicated that, compared with the general population, OCD patients often report disturbances in relationship functioning, including lower likelihood of marrying and increased marital distress (Emmelkamp, de Haan, & Hoogduin, 1990; Rasmussen & Eisen, 1992; Riggs, Hiss, & Foa, 1992). Recently, Doron et al. (2012) proposed that OC phenomena affect intimate relationships more directly when the main focus of the symptoms is the relationship itself.  Doron et al. (2012) conducted two independent studies using community cohorts to assess relationship-centered OC phenomena and its links with related constructs. In the first study, Doron et al. (2012) examined the factorial structure of a newly constructed self-report measure – the Relationship Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory (ROCI; see Measures page). This 12-item measure taps the severity of obsessive (e.g., preoccupation and doubts) and compulsive (e.g., checking and reassurance seeking) behaviors on three relational dimensions: one’s feelings towards a relationship partner (e.g., “I continuously reassess whether I really love my partner”), the partner’s feelings towards oneself (e.g., “I continuously doubt my partner’s love for me”), and the “rightness” of the relationship (“I check and recheck whether my relationship feels right”).

In a second study, Doron et al., (2012) replicated the factor structure of the ROCI and assessed the link between relationship-centered OC phenomena, OCD symptoms and cognitions, negative affect, low self-esteem, and relationship variables such as relationship ambivalence and attachment insecurity. Findings showed the expected positive associations between ROCI scores and these theoretically related measures. Moreover, the ROCI significantly predicted relationship dissatisfaction and depression over and above common OCD symptoms, relationship ambivalence, and other mental health and relationship insecurity measures.

Doron et al. (2012) proposed several mechanisms that may make relationship-centered OC symptoms particularly disabling. For instance, they suggested that symptoms such as repeated doubting about one’s feelings towards a partner or the “rightness” of a relationship may destabilize the relational bond (e.g., “I can’t trust her/him to stay with me”), increase fears of abandonment, promote relationship distress, and challenge mutual trust. In addition, continuous preoccupation with a partner’s love may increase clinging and dependent behaviors resulting in maladaptive relationship dynamics (e.g., hierarchical relationships). Thus, relationship-centered OC symptoms can compromise satisfactory intimate relationships that are an important resource for individuals’ resilience and wellbeing.

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