Tip #29 Q&A

Some of you have emailed me asking some very pertinent questions in regards to ROCD. Most of the questions overlapped between individuals. As someone pointed out in a previous post, it could be beneficial to have access to the same “answers”. So here is a general summary or overview of my answers based on my own experience with ROCD:

How do I know it is truly ROCD and not me falling out of love with my partner?

This is one of the questions that I have been asked the most.

First, I always  like to stress that I am not a qualified mental health professional. I am just someone that went through a long period of ROCD and “recovered” from it. I like to make this clear because this is the right thing and fair thing to do. Ultimately, I encourage people to look for professional help if they can afford it or point them to books and other literature that helped me along the way. I think it is important for each of one of us to take personal responsibility for our recovery.

Second, the important bit is the OCD bit. Not the “R” bit. Everyone in a relationship at certain times will question the quality and truthfulness of the relationship. It is a NORMAL thing to do. Especially, if the relationship is under stress. The difference between a “normal” person and ROCD person is that in the ROCD sufferer the questioning becomes an obsession. The “normal” person is able to resume switch off the questioning. The ROCD sufferer can’t. So if you are obsessing about your relationship and this is impacting your thinking, feeling, etc then most likely it will be ROCD.

Third, there seems to be a huge misconception that the level of love in a relationship should remain static. Somedays, you will feel tired and unable to feel much love. Other days you will feel exactly the opposite. If our idea of being with the right person is based purely or mostly on the way we feel than we have fallen into the Hollywood trap – find the right person and you will be forever happy without any work from both parties.

Fourth, being in the “right” relationship is more about being the right person than being with the right person. If you share most of the same values, are both willing to work towards your happiness and there is no abuse in the relationship, most likely you are already in the “right” relationship. Again, this is more a choice than anything else. You can both decide to be happy. Growing apart is more about not nurturing the relationship than not being with the “right” person.

Why can’t I stop questioning or thinking about my relationship?

This is the obsessive side of the disease. It is not easy to switch off. Sometimes it will require medication, other times just therapy. It seems to increase or get worse when people are depressed or anxious. So improving from ROCD will most likely require improving from depression and anxiety.

Why can’t I feel the same way anymore when I want to feel the same again?

Over-thinking has a funny effect on the brain. Your emotions get depleted. It is much harder to feel something. When we feel depressed it is very hard to feel anything else. We just feel down. The other side of the coin is that the more you want to feel something, the more aware you become when it is not there. So this just reinforces the cycle of not being able to feel because you are raising your anxiety.

So to start feeling something again, we need to stop wanting feelings to be there when we expect them to be there and stop the over-thinking.

Why is it difficult for me to accept that I have ROCD?

OCD is also known as the doubting disease. Once we seemed to have found an answer, our brain will try to find an exception to our answer. This is what the brain does when it is anxious. It looks for possible signs of danger.

How can I get better?

Getting better will require medical advice to know if you need medication. Therapy to learn the right tools on how to cope with ROCD. And most importantly, COMMITMENT on your behalf not to give up. Sometimes finding the right medication and right therapists happens in the first instance, sometimes later. I was lucky enough with my medication as I did not have to switch to anything else. Not so lucky with my first therapists but managed to learn something useful from all of them.

Why can’t I feel sure about it one way or the other?

Wanting to feel certain is part of any type of OCD. It torments the sufferer and drives the condition. I like this quote:

There is no such thing as absolute certainty, but there is assurance sufficient for the purposes of human life.

John Stuart Mill

Will I ever feel normal or recover from ROCD?

Yes, if you are able to move from focusing on the problem to focusing on possible solutions.

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23 comments

  1. Lately I haven’t been getting much sleep and since I’m not seeing someone, my rocd has calmed. But there is always that nagging fear that comes up every now and then that it will come back at any moment. Even just a fear of the anxiety coming back seems to be recurring. Lately, that fear has grown to include my fear of other intrusive thoughts, disturbing me. I’ve read about hocd and other things and I feel like now I’m appropriating them for myself…has this happened to anyone else? What do you do? I’m not used to thinking disturbing, weird thoughts, only relationship questions.

    1. Hi
      One of the common themes running through this blog is that the brain can’t be controlled to the finest detail and any attempt to do this will result in further problems. What we CAN control is how we react to these messages that the brain sends us. As you might have figured out, the R in OCD is not what drives the anxiety but rather the O and the C. That explains why ROCD, HOCD, POCD etc are all interchangeable. The good news is that the same techniques used to treat ROCD can be used for POCD, HOCD, and other anxiety disorders. So trying to treat the R or the H is not the most useful strategy in the long term. At least in my opinion! Drop me a line if you want to chat more.

  2. I’m very determined to heal from my ROCD as well as my relationship anxieties. I’ve been with my loving boyfriend for 6 years and have had some kind of anxiety throughout. I’ve been struggling with ROCD for 15 months and still struggle to see if it’s reality or my brain annoying me. I can not afford to see a therapist or medication as I am supporting myself through college right now. I think that I might benefit from mindfulness exercises and have heard many positive things from them, especially for obsessive and unwanted thoughts. I’ve looked up a few exercises online and am just wondering what exercises work the best!

    P.S. Your blog has been very helpful lately and I find a lot of inspiration from reading your tips. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Kat

      The most important factor for me is psychological resilience (you can look that one up!)…which it looks like you have plenty. With mindfulness it is more about developing a skill over time than having the right exercises. The important thing is that you find exercises that you can apply daily and that you like. Drop me a line if you want some links…

  3. Thanks so much for creating this blog. I feel very few people can understand or relate to this problem… even many who experience OCD in general. I’m 32 and have been struggling with this since I was in my teens… it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve noticed any recognition of ROCD existing, and it’s a relief to see that I’m not alone. Sometimes I feel like one of the things I need in my life to really feel fulfilled (a meaningful relationship) is simultaneously the one thing I can’t have in my life because of the dreadful anxiety it can cause me… between a rock and a hard place.

    I take a cocktail of SSRI/SNRI drugs, and this is pretty effective against all of my OCD symptoms *except* the ROCD. My OCD is kept at bay until I meet someone I like a lot and the prospect of real romance looms, at which point the drugs are no match. I imagine therapy would probably be helpful, but I feel like I would need to find the right therapist… someone with OCD experience, and someone who wouldn’t make me feel judged due to my problem.

    I’ve noticed two things about how I think… one is that I overvalue the importance of thoughts, especially mental images. I can’t shake the conviction that thinking about things in the “right” way will somehow make them right. Second, visual imagery and visualization is a huge part of my issues. Both the obsessions and compulsions seem to play out exclusively in the visual area of my brain. I wonder if it’s like that for others?

    I’ve met someone recently and I’m really trying to hang in there. For most of the last 10 years I’ve allowed no one to get very close, because as soon as the anxiety hits, I flee, deciding being alone is better than being anxious. As I get older, I’m trying to hang in there, understanding that I’ll only ever get better if I face the fear and at least try as long as I can, rather than fleeing.

    1. One of the things that normally happens is that self-fulfilling prophecies are very effective in ROCD. IF you think it is not going to work, it is not going to work. The other thing is that if you run away from your problems, you will never get them solved. Sometimes ROCD sufferers think that if they meet the “right” person they will not have ROCD anymore. The truth is that the problem is with the person that suffers from ROCD not the opposite…

  4. I am engaged to a really wonderful guy who has brought so much light and joy in my life. The whole time we were dating I looked forward to being his wife. But ever since we got engaged, I’ve had growing fears and anxieties, and since I knew previously that I had OCD, my growing negative feelings reminded me a lot of it, so I looked it up online and found out about ROCD. Bingo! I seem to have a very bad case of it, and I’m feeling extremely depressed. I can’t tell which way is up or down. I seem to loose sight of any positive things I felt or thought in our relationship, and dreams of a bright future with him seem to get cloudier and cloudier. Question: Is it a symptom of ROCD to start to have feelings of loathing toward the one person you know you want to love? I’m so screwed up and need help.

  5. Okay, maybe ‘loathing’is too strong a word. I know I always enjoy being with him. I just wondered if it’s possible for a sick mind to be so analytical and nitpicky and twist your feelings into thinking you dislike him. Then of course, how would I know that’s the real me or if it’s lies in my head? Sorry to post twice.

    1. Yes, it it is very frequent for a broken brain to be more aware of the negative aspects of the other person and to disregard everything else. This is your brain going into overdrive and trying to find reasons for not to be in relationship with the other person as it wants to protect you. That is what anxiety does to you. We try to solve the problem by over-thinking when it was over-thinking that created the problem in the first place. Your brain is always looking for danger…until you re-train it. There is a lot of work to be done but it is achievable.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing everyone. I have just figured out what’s wrong with me after nearly two years of panic attacks and anxiety. I stopped sleeping altogether at one point my symptoms got so out of control. It is such a relief that other people know what this is like. My family used to joke when I was real young about me having OCD I never imagined it could affect my life so much. I am so grateful to people who put up information here. Has anyone ever tried EFT for this condition, I have seen many therapists and been working on my stuff for 15 years but only developed ROCD when my partner asked me to marry him!! I thought it was the strangest thing in the world that I couldn’t sleep because of panic attacks for the next 2 years. Something told me that my relationship wasn’t the problem so I’ve stuck with the therapy. I feel even finding this site is the first step to recovery. I’m so grateful to read advice and others experience.

  7. I was wondering if anyone else has noticed a recurring pattern which triggers their ROCD. My counselor says that even people with OCD aren’t triggered with some sort of trigger (and of course, most of the time the triggers don’t make logical sense). But trigger there is. This is what I’ve been noticing in myself:
    When I am irritated or angry with my fiance, or if there is a difference of opinion on an important discussion I know we should be having but I’m afraid that discussing it will mean discovering we are too different and shouldn’t go through with getting married, I start to avoid talking through things with him. Or I stuff my emotions, not knowing how to communicate when feeling upset. So when we are sharing a close moment, I’m not feeling positive feelings. I am concentrating on the stuffed feelings I have inside. And when he says, “I love you,” and I reply that I do to, I feel like a liar, because I’m not “feeling.” That starts accusing voices in my head, and when I feel like a liar, I start wondering if the whole thing’s a show, which starts the doubts rolling. That starts fear, and I spiral downward. I exhibit every symptom of ROCD.
    NOW,… when I stop playing chicken and we start working through our differences, I find that things really aren’t as bad as I thought they were. Then I start feeling secure, stable, and the doubts and voices stop. I enjoy being with him, I stop worrying about what I’m feeling, I start to feel, I feel happy, I start anticipating the future with him again. I feel the key is to TALK TALK TALK, even though it’s hard sometimes, learning how to do conflict resolution, learning how to compromise, being honest, loving etc. I also find that working through problems together, even if we disagree or argue, will eventually lead to us feeling closer than we were before. (Involves patience, grace, and humbleness, forgiveness.)
    Does anyone else have things that “trigger” their ROCD?

  8. Thanks so much for this!
    I was wondering if you had any advice about some techniques I can follow when the following triggers hit:
    – my bf’s southern accent never used to bother me. Now I can’t stand it and it makes me worried I don’t love him or I can’t stop internally criticizing him.
    – I’m more intellectual (not intelligent) than he is and I am terrified when I’m around other intellectual people at my job (at a university) that I will meet someone else who is a better fit for me. I’m also worried about what it means that I’m more intellectually stimulated by others. My bf is amazing in so many ways—kind loving funny smart attractive driven, etc. but I keep ruminating about whether he is smart enough or driven enough or intellectual enough for this to be a forever thing or whether I might meet someone new. It’s terrible.
    -fear of forever. He’s about to propose and I am scared it isn’t right. No red flags or misaligned values whatsoever. But, if I can’t stop criticizing him or nitpicking him in my head for everything, am I ever going to give him enough love fully? Will I regret it?

    I want to work on this but I can’t seem to make any techniques work. How do you effectively practice mindfulness mid conversation?
    How do you know this is the person you should marry?

    1. Hi Evie

      There are no specific techniques to deal with your specific triggers. And I am glad that this happens because once you “solve” a trigger in your mind, another one will pop-up. So it would not be very useful. What techniques have you tried? Drop me a line on my email if you want to go into specifics.

      In regards to your marriage question, no one really knows with a 100% surety if they are doing the right thing. They think they do but no one knows. If they really knew, there would be no divorces or breakups. A lot of people that met their “soulmates” and got married are now divorced. I think it is more important nurturing the relationship and becoming the right person than finding the right person. If you find another individual that thinks very similarly to this then you are on the right track to a last loving relationship.

  9. Thanks— I actually don’t know your email, but I’ll respond here:
    I guess since there aren’t ways to handle specific triggers I’ll just ask about helpful things to do both when he and I are together and when my mind is just racing when we’re apart that deal with one of those issues (or another one that hasn’t come up yet.)
    My therapist is just a talk therapist and I’ve seen no improvement with her.
    So in my attempts to deal with it on my own so far, I just attempt to recognize whenever I’m feeling anxious about the relationship or my partner and then call it “OCD” and tell myself that it is just my brain acting up and thereby dismantling its power (akin to mindfulness)– sometimes this works, other times it doesn’t, just because I sometimes wonder whether this is a question worth asking or if I should be looking for something else or someone more like me (see the issues I mentioned above), etc. etc.
    My biggest fear right now is that I’ll find someone else who I am better suited for, who is more “impressive” (note that I fear not being impressive enough in my own life, so maybe this is a fear about me I’m projecting onto him), etc. etc. Sometimes this happens when I meet another man– rather than just enjoying a casual conversation, I keep asking myself if he might be better for me— ridiculous! My boyfriend is incredible!
    Again, it really is just a fear of uncertainty— and I have had multiple issues with pure-O fears/worries/obsessions since I was about 13. But, it hurts that much more because it deals with my first “forever” decision in picking a partner!

  10. Additionally, sometimes I feel weird or guilty about making a clever or smart comment or using a big word when I’m around my boyfriend and when we’re apart as well. I think it’s because I fear being smarter or more accomplished than he is because then I would maybe look down on him or look for someone else. Believe me, I know it’s messed up (and probably unjustified– I’m smart in many ways— he’s smart in other ways…he’s very emotionally, socially, and mechanically intelligent— I just happen to be a better writer, analyzer, and speaker) and I feel HORRIBLE when this happens.

    1. Hi Evie, here is my email. pingfrance@hotmail.com. What you just said affects every ROCD person one way or the other. The flavour does not really matter. What matters is that you are eating ice cream – forgive me but this is the best metaphor that I have come up to explain things…

    2. Just re-read your message. And I definitely think that you are you thinking too much! And I also think that you should not stop making smart comments or using big words. If this is you, you should not let ROCD dictate how you are going to behave around your boyfriend. And your boyfriend likes you for what you are. So why give in to ROCD and overthinking?

    3. Hey Evie,

      I know it’s been a long time since you wrote this post. But if you get this message, I’d be interested in talking to you about your experience since what you wrote really resonates with me. Just reply here and maybe we can exchange emails.

      Thanks!

  11. I think this is a great website and is really helping me!! However the top few paragraphs about is this ROCD or falling out of love I find it really hard to know still how you distinguish the difference?

    1. Hi Jasmine, there is no easy answer to your question. The reason for this I would say is that there is not easy to define what falling out of love is. Love is a choice not a feeling. So what you mean maybe is choosing to stop loving.
      Maybe you mean falling out feelings. And this is a natural thing. After you are in a relationship for a long time feelings of infatuation will eventually disappear.

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