Most of us have once or twice grabbed a flower, picking each petal off, reciting "he (or she) loves me, he loves me not," to determine if the feeling was mutual with our object of affection. In a relationship, we tend to question from time to time whether our partner is Mr. or Mrs. Right, and whether we would be happier being with someone else. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, constantly obsessing over you and your partner’s fidelity, known as relationship obsessive compulsive disorder (ROCD), can not only make you anxious, but could potentially be ruining your sex life.

"ROCD symptoms are often overlooked by family and couple therapists," said Guy Doron, study researcher, of the School of Psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya in Israel, LiveScience reported. Doron and his team of researchers believe while moments of self-doubt and reassessment are normal in relationships, going to great lengths to check that your partner is loyal, such as repeatedly calling them, or looking through their email or Internet searches, is a sign of compulsive behavior. If these thoughts can impair a person’s ability to do his or her job, they can also interfere in the bedroom, leading to relationship, sexual dissatisfaction.

To examine the association between ROCD symptoms and sexual satisfaction, the team of researchers compiled data from an online survey to assess ROCD symptoms, relationship, and sexual satisfaction levels in a group of heterosexual couples. About 160 men and women in Israel completed an online questionnaire intended to assess ROCD symptoms. These couples had been together for about 15 years, on average. In the study, ROCD was defined by the presence of obsessions and compulsions focusing on romantic relationships.

The findings revealed ROCD symptoms were associated with decreased sexual satisfaction over and above symptoms of depression, general worry, OCD, and attachment orientation. The lower level of sexual satisfaction was mediated by relationship satisfaction. In other words, ROCD symptoms reduced relationship happiness, which in turn, affects sex life.

People with ROCD usually fit into one of two categories: questioning whether you love your partner or questioning whether your partner loves you. For example, one of Doron’s patients said that although he loved the woman he was in a relationship with, he couldn’t stop thinking about whether he might be happier with women he saw on the street, or on Facebook. "These relationships can often repeatedly break up and reunite multiple times a week" or month, said Steven Brodsky, a psychologist and clinical director at the OCD and Panic Center of New York and New Jersey, who has treated patients with ROCD, the DailyMail reported.

The authors of the study suggest it may be better for people with ROCD to receive OCD treatment. Couples counseling could worsen symptoms for people with ROCD because counselors may try to get couples to communicate better, or discuss what they find their partner is lacking. This can “[P]erpetuate, or worsen the OCD,” Brodsky said. Standard OCD treatment could help a person develop a better tolerance for their troubling thoughts.

The International OCD Foundation says one in 100 adults, or between two to three million adults in the U.S., currently have OCD, with a portion of these patients having ROCD.

 

Source: Derby D, Doron G, Mizrahi M, and Szepsenwol O. Right or Flawed: Relationships Obsessions and Sexual Satisfaction. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2014.