ROCD and other personality and societal factors:
Personal factors may interact with societal influences to affect one’s ability to feel secure with one’s choice of a partner. In recent years, we have seen a significant increase in exposure to other people, their behaviors, and personal lives. Such increased exposure is particularly evident in digital social networks (e.g., Facebook, Google+) and dating websites/applications, thus creating an illusion of availability. Many clients with ROCD describe such extensive exposure to “potential” partners as a powerful trigger of their relationship doubts and preoccupations. Studies in behavioral economics have long supported the role of perceived availability of better options in indecisiveness and differing choices (e.g., Tversky & Shafir, 1992). In the context of romantic relationships, recent studies looking at decision making in online dating show that more search options (i.e., increased perceived availability) result in excessive searching, poorer decision making and reduced selectivity in finding potential partners ( the “more-means-worse effect”; Wu & Chiou, 2009).
More recently, Yang and Chiou (2010) examined the moderating effect of personality tendencies on decision making in the context of choice proliferation. Findings indicated that the more-means-worse effect is accentuated among individuals with “maximizing” decision making tendencies. Maximizing strategies are aimed at achieving the best possible option and require an exhaustive search of all possibilities (Simon, 1956; Shwartz, 2002). In contrary, “satisfying” strategies strive for a “good enough” choice, searching until meeting an acceptable option. Indeed, individual differences in maximizing decision-making strategies were liked with poorer mental health (e.g., depression symptoms), increased maladaptive beliefs (e.g., perfectionism), more regret, and higher likelihood of engaging in upward social comparisons (Shwartz et al., 2002). Maximizers were also found to spend more time reviewing options when making a choice than do satisfiers, arguably increasing maximizers’ uncertainty regarding the best choice (Dar-Nimrod, Rawn, Lehman, & Schwartz, 2009; Iyengar et al., 2006). Moreover, recent findings suggest that maximizers tend to avoid commitment to their decisions in a way that contributes to reduced satisfaction (Sparks, Ehrlinger, & Eibach, 2012). Thus, increased perceived availability of alternatives together with a maximizing decision making strategy may increase doubts regarding one’s relational choices.