What is the Difference Between Relationship Anxiety and ROCD?

by | Oct 25, 2020 | Anxiety, Break Free From Relationship Anxiety | 61 comments

When I first started writing and talking about relationship anxiety over seventeen years ago, the term ROCD (relationship obsessive compulsive disorder) was barely a blip on the psychological radar screen, and it certainty hadn’t hit the mainstream cultural lexicon. As I hadn’t encountered anything like the symptoms I had myself experienced when I met my husband and then heard about daily in my work with clients, I coined the term “relationship anxiety” to describe the following:

• Intrusive thoughts that one’s partner is not [social, funny, attractive, moral, ambitious, intelligent] enough.

• Obsessed with answering the question, “Is my partner right for me? Is there someone better out there? How do I know that I’m making the right decision and that we’re a good match?”

• Perseverating on whether or not there are enough “in love” feelings, chemistry, and sexual attraction; often highly focused on a sense that “something is missing” or “something is wrong.”

To be clear, these are people who describe their partner as “loving, kind, honest, we share similar values” and will often (although not always) say something like, “They’re everything I’ve ever wanted.” We’re talking about relationships where there are no red flags, a strong sense of safety, and a foundation of friendship (you like each other).

Relationship anxiety can hit on date one or can show up twenty years into a marriage, and it crosses all lines of geography, race, religion, sexual orientation, and age. In other words, you can be sixteen years old struggling with relationship anxiety or you can be seventy. You can live in the United States, India, China, Australia, or anywhere else in the world. It quickly became clear as I came into contact with a worldwide cross-section of clients and course members that relationship anxiety, like all forms of anxiety, is a great equalizer.

Then I started to hear the term “ROCD.” I first came across it on the early version of the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety forum (which was the Conscious Weddings message board at the time) when a course member began discussing this diagnosis that she had received from her therapist. I must admit: I was turned off by the diagnostic term and spent many years veering away from it. But the more I learned about ROCD the more I realized that, in terms of symptoms, it was actually exactly the same thing as relationship anxiety.

In other words, when you look up a list of symptoms for ROCD you’ll find the same list I’ve shared above.

But most of the similarity ends there. And this is why, while I fully support many of the tools that CBT teaches and incorporate some of them into my work -and I know that it’s helped countless people find more peace and acceptance with their symptoms – because I come from a depth psychological perspective my work with relationship anxiety has always taken a deeper and more holistic approach. And because I’m frequently asked both here and on Instagram what the differences are between relationship anxiety and ROCD, I’m outlining them below.

 

The differences between relationship anxiety and ROCD are multilayered:

 

The first difference is in the name. As I’ve written about many times, I hesitate to label a collection of symptoms as a “disorder” as it can create a stigma, which can then lead to the belief that there’s something wrong with you. There isn’t anything wrong with you if you’re struggling with relationship anxiety. In fact, as I talk about frequently in my work and especially in The Wisdom of Anxiety, there is everything right with you as anxiety stems from being exquisitely sensitive, highly conscientious and moral, deeply intelligent and analytical, and profoundly empathic. In other words, the people who find their way to my work blow me away every single day and are what this world needs. To label a highly sensitive-anxious-creative/spiritual person as “disordered” is a failure to acknowledge the immense gifts and messages embedded in anxiety. Furthermore, starting with a mindset of compassion and even reverence facilitates the healing process.

The second difference is in the treatment protocol. While CBT relies primarily on working to correct cognitive distortions then slowly desensitizes the mind by exposing it to the thing it’s most afraid of without engaging in compulsions (Exposure and Response Prevention or ERP) with the sole intention of eradicating symptoms, a depth perspective is more interested in identifying root causes and healing at the root. While it’s essential to correct cognitive distortions, especially the panoply of faulty messages we’re all fed growing up about love, attraction, and sex, and it’s essential to take action regarding fears – both tools and mindsets that I teach in my work – it’s also critically important to explore what is embedded inside these symptoms.

Once root causes are identified, depth psychology draws from its vast and time-honored toolbox to establish inner safety between the scared child now manifesting as relationship anxiety who is asking, “Is it safe to love?” and the inner loving parent who can start to respond to the distorted thoughts with truth and create inner safety by accompanying the child through their fears. Depth psychology also recognizes the critical importance of learning to meet one’s emotional life with compassion, for it’s often when a highly sensitive child is overwhelmed by their emotions that they travel up to their head (intrusive thoughts) to try to gain safety. Without working both emotionally and spiritually to create safety, the scared inner child will continue to project onto various sources – primarily one’s partner in the case of relationship anxiety – as a way to avoid taking the risk of loving and being loved.

The third difference is in the mindset. While the CBT literature explicitly states that OCD is incurable, that you’re wired this way for life, and the best one can hope for is to manage symptoms with medication and strategies, the depth psychological mindset takes a vastly different approach as it recognizes that when we identify the root causes of anxiety we can heal at the root. You are not incurable or beyond hope. In fact, it’s the very symptoms of your relationship anxiety that offer a doorway and roadmap into healing from early pain.

We know from multiple studies both in Western medicine and in psychology that the therapist’s belief in the client’s capacity to heal plays a significant role in their healing, as does the loving, warm, and compassionate relationship between therapist and client. In other words, when your therapist believes you can heal and approaches you and your symptoms with compassion and reverence, you’re more likely to heal. This may be the most important and unsung aspect of healing, as I wrote about here.  

Embedded in this mindset is also a recognition that finding meaning in our anxiety plays a critical role in the healing process. In other words, if we’re solely focused on eradicating symptoms we miss the opportunity embedded in a dark night of the soul – which often occurs when relationship anxiety hits – to grow and heal through multiple layers of our beliefs, habits, and mindsets that are preventing us from loving and being loved. The pain of anxiety is not random or a punishment; it’s your psyche’s ways of helping you grow as you learn how to work with fear and enlarge your capacity to love.

There’s also a significant difference in terms of the overarching mindset about intrusive thoughts. Much of the CBT literature talks about anxiety and obsessions as “monsters” and “bullies”, with the action being to “fight back and show the bully who’s in charge.” While I understand the thinking behind this language, it runs counter to the depth psychological and contemplative mindsets that view these unpleasant symptoms as messengers from the unconscious inviting us to heal and grow.

For depth psychology is predicated on a profound curiosity about the human psyche and the ways in which it compensates for early pain and trauma through the constellation of complexes (what CBT calls obsessions and compulsions, depth psychology calls complexes). For me, as for many of my clients, shifting from viewing symptoms as enemies to viewing them as messengers creates a softer starting point from which to approach them. After all, a bully is a scared child in disguise, so only to view symptoms as bullies without becoming curious about what’s embedded inside the character limits the healing and immediately creates a combative internal environment where we’re at odds without ourselves in a scary and violent situation. This isn’t usually conducive to healing.

 

The bottom line is that relationship anxiety touches on every aspect of our being – heart, body, mind, and soul – and attacks what matters most to us: our relationship.

 

To attempt to work with relationship anxiety only from the top down by managing symptoms misses the profound opportunity to address the wounds around love, sex, attraction, and safety that arise when relationship anxiety takes hold. Working with relationship anxiety from a depth perspective is an opportunity to learn how to work with your thoughts, to learn about the critical concept of projection, to recognize the ways in which you resist taking responsibility, and to receive the roadmap you should have received in school for what it means to attend to your emotions with compassion, care for your body, and fill your inner well of self and soul.

Here’s what I know: 

 

There’s nothing wrong with you.

You’re not broken or disordered.

You are fully capable of finding wholeness, fulfillment, clarity, peace, meaning, and love in your relationship without being saddled with anxiety.

You are fully capable of healing.

I’ve witnessed and guided thousands of people through the material that helps them break free not only from relationship anxiety but from the lifelong anxiety that has had them in its grip since childhood, for it’s unlikely that this is the first time you’ve struggled with anxiety. (If you’re curious about what I mean when I say “break free from anxiety”, please read this post.) And if you’re ready to do the deep work, the same can be true for you.

If you would like to receive the information, tools, and support that I offer those suffering from relationship anxiety with the benefit of working through the material with other like-minded learners and having access to six group coaching calls with me, I invite you to join us for the second LIVE round of the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety course. I’ve been offering this course in a self-guided format since 2010, but it’s become increasingly clear to me over the years that I’ve done this work that an element of healing can only happen in community with active, real-time support.

Relationship anxiety is a powerful portal and an invitation; it brings people to their knees from the agony and it’s through this suffering that they’re determined to learn a better way. When people work through this material they discover a roadmap not only for relationship anxiety, but for life (please read through the testimonial on this page where people talk about the deep learning and healing they’ve done through the portal of relationship anxiety). I’m excited to be able to offer you not only this roadmap, but to connect with you directly on the group calls. These calls go deep, as people recognize immediately that they’re in the company of like-minded people who are struggling in exactly the ways that they’re struggling. This, too, is deeply healing, for normalization heals the shame layer that says, “I’m the only one.”

You’re not the only one. There’s a worldwide community waiting to take your hand and help guide you through this tricky terrain. And there’s me: I’ve been there, I know this terrain like the back of my soul, and I’m excited to meet you at the portal and help guide you through. The live course starts on November 15, 2020, and I look forward to meeting you there.

Note: If you’re already a member of the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety course and would like to join the six group coaching calls, you can do so here. 

Categories

61 Comments

  1. Love it. I think the most important part of this article may be the bit where you mention “the loving, warm, and compassionate relationship between therapist and client.” I think that this is the essential variable, regardless of the modality one is using. Some people can heal from CBT, some from psychodynamic/analysitc approaches, but the crucial aspect is the skill, wisdom and compassion of the therapist. Indeed, have found that the fact that my therapist/analyst is so open-minded, and not deeply wedded to a specific ‘school’, helps me to broaden and open my own psyche. I take the good bits of all the different schools of psychology and synthesize them so as to apply to my own unique mind.

    Reply
    • Yes, thank you for underscoring this, Joshua. I’ve added a link above to a post I wrote on this topic last year.

      Reply
      • fab! It’s also not an element you can design a scientific test for, which I believe is one of the primary reasons our society in the west, being obsessed with science, veers towards the replicable model of CBT

        Reply
        • Exactly right! You can’t test for love. Which, ironically, is one of the key spikes of relationship anxiety ;).

          Reply
          • yep although I personally find that comforting and soul-enhancing rather than spiky.

            Reply
            • I think that speaks to how far you’ve come in your inner work.

              Reply
              • well fascinatingly, my RA is now attached to my therapist as much as, if not more than, my partner. I’m sure this is quite common!

                Reply
                • Ah yes! You’re in a transference which is wonderful as it carries so much potential for healing at the root. But it’s important to note that unless a therapist is working from a psychodynamic perspective they’re not going to be able to harness the immense power of working with transference when it arises.

                  Reply
                  • I love this post. I think the only concept that is hard for in terms of Relationship Anxiety is that anxiety is a messenger. One could easily interpret that as meaning that the intrusive thoughts are true and deserve further examination which often comes in the form of rumination. Could you explain that concept further or point me to one of your posts that makes the distinction between messenger and truth? Thx!

                    Reply
  2. You may be interested in the work of Pete Weiss – a therapist who originally trained in CBT and is now completing a Doctorate in Contemporary Psychoanalysis in the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, where he is working on integrating behavior therapy and contemporary psychoanalytic theory. I heard an interview with him recently on a podcast and it was very interesting to hear about his ‘conversion’ lol from practicing pure CBT therapy

    Reply
    • I’m extremely interested and will look him up right now. Thank you!

      Reply
      • I love your work, I tried so many things before and it has your work that has truly made a difference. I’m.reading your book and just reading it has helped. Next thing I need to do is the exercises. Thank you so much. Xx

        Reply
        • I’m so glad to hear that :). x

          Reply
      • I struggle with the “root of my anxiety” due to being such a deep thinker. When it comes to anything I can’t physically “see”, I often question the “root” of the problem and how do you “really “ know what it is.

        Reply
    • wow it sounds interesting! I listened to a bit and he said “psychoanalysis is a form of exposure” – I found myself saying YES!!! Psychoanalysis gets SUCH a bad rap in the OCD literature (which spikes me!) but when I trust myself and my relationship with my therapist I recognise that, for me, analysis has been the difference between life and death (maybe literally)

      Reply
      • Can you post a link of where you listened to him, Joshua? I think this will be helpful for others.

        Reply
        • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLDFO85Rq70

          It’s quite a long interview. I only listened for a tiny bit, as I recognise that for me this is one of my big spikes and it does not serve me well to go down a big internet rabbit hole. But what I heard sounded interesting.

          Reply
          • Good job showing up with your inner parent and setting a YouTube boundary! Thank you for sharing the link.

            Reply
            • I too listened to this podcast with great interest and thought of Sheryl’s work. I’ve found a combination of Sheryl’s wisdom and listening to stories of others with OCD to be a journey to a real synthesis of an understanding that helps me cope with my relationship anxiety/ROCD. The fact that I do not identify as highly sensitive and had a very emotionally safe childhood has meant that I need to come to terms with the fact that some of Sheryl’s work does not speak to me, but what speaks is more, the whole concept- for me, a messenger that life was feeling awfully uncertain at the time that my anxiety started and that I needed to spend a lot time just delving into how I could get more comfortable with being uncertain.

              Reply
  3. This is so important! CBT in my perspective is widely used because it is very easy to measure, it’s short term (and therefore governments can justify giving money to these programs) and it’s effective in the short term. What I have found is that over time, people who did CBT and had success relapse and the symptoms come back fairly quickly. This isn’t to negate that CBT can offer a lot, but that I really believe what you are saying about healing at the root is so much more vital.

    Reply
    • Yes, Brooke, there are multiple reasons why CBT has become the “gold standard”, many of which have to do with insurance. As you say, there are benefits to it but it doesn’t help people heal at the root. It’s one tool in a hopefully varied toolbox that skilled therapists can draw from.

      Reply
  4. Hi,
    I recently have started struggling with relationship anxiety and for a time I thought it was ROCD, but the more I’ve educated myself through your page I realize it is just my past traumas that my anxiety is trying to point me towards. It’s hard though, I am struggling with realness of the anxiety and how real it feels in my relationship right now. I will be cuddled up to my bf and then the thoughts start spiraling out and I feel so guilty. I’m hoping your course and my new therapist will someday help me break free and learn to be happy with my boyfriend again and not feel like I’m prisoner to my mind and it’s wild distortions of reality

    Thank You!!!!

    Reply
    • Yes, anxiety and intrusive thoughts are expressions of old pain. That’s why I write about them as projections: past pain rising up to the present and projected onto the screen of your partner. This will all start to make more sense and find healing as you progress through the course and work with your therapist.

      Reply
      • Hi everyone, so glad you liked the interview with Pete Weiss 😊❤️

        Reply
  5. I have had anxiety my entire life, my intrusive thoughts started when I was 16. It was a suicidal thought, that shook me to my core! Somehow they subsided and I was able to carry on with my life, the thoughts just went away. Eventually they returned but shifted to an entirely separate topic and through out the years they have bounced around. I have struggled with 4 subtypes of pure “O”. This actually brings a lot of comfort for ma personally, for knowing is half the battle. It allows me to discern “gut” feelings, vs. pocd, hocd, rocd and fear.

    Reply
    • Anxiety often jumps around in a game of whac-a-mole until we address it at the root. I talk about this at length in my book.

      Reply
      • I struggle with the “root of my anxiety” due to being such a deep thinker. When it comes to anything I can’t physically “see”, I often question the “root” of the problem and how do you “really “ know what it is.

        Reply
        • Liza, I really struggled with this for a long time. I honestly think that for me, the deep thinking became a compulsion in and of itself. I realized that the “deep thinking” was actually rumination, going around and around in circles trying to figure out that “root cause” when I’d already pretty much examined all of the emotional influences in my life as best I could over a period of 20 years. When I recognized that, and made the choice to treat it like any compulsion and “let it go” with my mindfulness practices, it was incredibly liberating. For me, time to live in the now, knowing that I’ve recognized and integrated past formative influences as best I can.

          Reply
  6. I have struggled with 4 subtypes of pure O. I find comfort with this knowledge, for knowing is half the battle. It helps me discern “gut” feelings vs. a symptom of pocd, hocd, rocd, etc. and “fear”

    Reply
    • Yes, this is where a diagnosis or label can be extremely helpful.

      Reply
      • Agreed entirely Liza and Sheryl! It’s been a long time discerning, but being able to recognize what’s OCD and what’s gut finally clicked this year. It took an incredibly long time for me to be able to access gut because the ROCD thinking had gotten so fused with my entire being over the waxing and waning of 28 years. But being able to finally say with confidence “this is OCD thinking” gave me the confidence/comfort I needed to finally take it over the line and embrace it. I have great hope that it won’t take others that long now that there are so many accessible resources on this topic!

        Reply
  7. Hi,
    I’m pretty sure I’ve been dealing with ROCD and relationship anxiety since the beginning to this year. I was wondering if it was normal to feel like you don’t want to be with your partner (if that can be a part of this) I do not want to feel this way at all. Advice would be warmly appreciated. Thank you!

    Reply
  8. Hey!

    That first part where you said, “you can be sixteen years old struggling with relationship anxiety or you can be seventy.” was amazing to read. As a teenager struggling with relationship anxiety, it was so reassuring to finally hear that.

    As a teenager. I’ve been constantly told my current girlfriend is my “first love” and she won’t last or I’m too young for love. My girlfriend and I are very much so mature for our age and want to make our relationship work/last. I don’t see an issue with that. Even if it all crashes and burns, I’ve learned some valuable tools on what love truly is and how to be in a happy/healthy relationship.

    Thank you, Sheryl. I’m trying to work hard on this.

    Reply
    • I’m glad you’re here and I’m so glad to read that you have a mindset of learning. This will serve you very well in your life!

      Reply
      • Thank you!

        I have a final question: The relationship, in the beginning, was almost entirely via facetime. As we start to see each other more and more in person, how do I navigate this new way of interaction without getting sunk into anxiety?

        She is beautiful both ways, but different. It’s kind of scaring me.

        I think someone asked a similar question in a recent blog post.

        Reply
        • You practice meeting your anxiety in the moment, which means being curious about it by asking questions like – what is it telling me on the surface and then what is it protecting me from feeling?

          Reply
    • Hi Jackson, my RA hit hard when I was 18. You’re not alone.

      Reply
      • Yes mine hit me when I was 15 and I met my husband. Again when we married 20 years ago. I’m now 40 and have been in and out of it ever since, but have managed to hang in there with him. I have experienced it in close friendships too. I am only just naming what this is and it feels like such a relief. I have signed up for the 2020 live round and have hope I can finally move through! It can hit you very young, all you need to is to be truly in love. In fact I might go so far as to say that RA only happens when you love someone because it is that deep connection and intimacy that is the trigger.

        Reply
        • I look forward to connecting on the course!

          Reply
  9. Hi Sheryl!

    First off, I just want to thank you for this course! I have been struggling with relationship anxiety for almost three years now and having this course has been a lifeline and so helpful as I work to shift my perspective from simply diminishing the symptoms to actually wanting to learn from them and get to the core issue.

    Recently, I have been finding myself consumed with the worry of finances and projecting that onto my partner. I realize that this projection exists to protect me from my lack of or fear of lack of security. When I acknowledge that this is simply a projection, the anxiety does diminish, however, it always comes back. I think this is because I’m not actually dealing with it, rather just naming it as a projection. I am, however, having a difficult time figuring out what realm this falls under and how to start working with this projection. If you have any advice on which realm and how to start to calm this deep-rooted fear, that would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hi Hannah,

      Did you ever get this figured out? I’m currently experiencing the same issue and am having a difficult time working through it. Would love to hear if/how you’ve worked through it yourself.

      Reply
  10. Can the thought of “What if I’m only in a relationship because of lust?” or “What if I’m mistaking lust for love?” be attributed to relationship anxiety?

    Reply
  11. Sheryl-

    I’m happily in love with my boyfriend, but I feel attracted to another man. My brain keeps thinking about him. I always thought to myself I would never get to this place with my current boyfriend, now I’m worried I’m going to do something bad. I do struggle with relationship anxiety/OCD, is this a part of it?

    Reply
    • Yes, it’s very likely part of your anxiety.

      Reply
      • All I’ve really known about relationships is that feeling of excitement/infatuation and I felt that with the other man today. I think it’s because I long to feel those feelings again because that’s all I know. I have to remind myself that those feelings are not love and they won’t last forever.

        Does this sound right?

        Reply
  12. Today I spent a lot of time thinking about my ex, not even my ex, but a fling I cut off because I suddenly became no longer attracted to him.

    I moved on and am way happier with my current boyfriend, with who I went through the loss of attraction spike but I remained with him.

    I’ve been slightly worried that what if the last fling was just relationship anxiety in the way and it’s not just a fantasy, I just love them and miss them.

    I’m lost, Sheryl. Absolutely anything you have to say would be great. Happy birthday as well!!

    Reply
  13. Sheryl,

    I want to let you know, I had a breakthrough with my relationship anxiety yesterday –

    My girlfriend and I were taking a nap. Her phone started to ring so she went to check it. I kept my eyes closed and she assumed I was asleep, so as she got up to deal with something related to the phone call, she kissed me so sweetly on the head.

    At that moment, I felt so safe and warm and secure. My heart skipped a beat, I felt a warm pit in my stomach. It was a real breakthrough.

    Thank you, Sheryl. I wouldn’t have gotten there without you!

    Reply
    • Beautiful :). Thank you so much for sharing this moment with us here.

      Reply
  14. I have never been in a truly loving relationship before so I don’t really know what you mean by a strong sense of “friendship.”

    I can’t tell whether or not there is that sense of friendship and my anxiety is getting in the way or that if there just isn’t at all and I’m holding onto false hope (I really hope this isn’t true!)

    Is there the chance you could go into some more depth with the idea of friendship in a relationship?

    Reply
  15. Insightful post once again!

    So sorry to be late to the comments, but I’ve been having the fear that when I do finally give in to the risk of love that I won’t have any reason to keep fighting for our relationship.

    For example, I constantly have the thought that I’m not good enough, but what if when I finally do gain confidence in myself and have no anxious feelings that show I care, I’ll run because I’ll think too highly of myself or I’ll have no anxious feelings to keep me motivated.

    Does that make sense? Let me know :))

    Reply
    • It makes sense and it’s a classic fear-based thought!

      Reply
  16. Hello Sheryl + everyone. I need help.

    I love this blog. I’ve been reading it for the last month and a half when my relationship anxiety first started. Thank you, because without these tools and shared experiences I wouldn’t be able to continue to do the work.

    Now…for this whole month, I’ve felt convinced that I must work on my problems (insecurities, low self steem, etc…) for my relationship to work out. But yesterday I started to feel a strong sense of calm, everything was great. Then, he talked to me in the morning and said something about manipulation. Since last night, I’ve started thinking that I might be in a relationship with a narcissist. But I don’t know what to believe. I don’t know if this is me interpreting every situation like that (I searched for the description of a narcissist and it seems to match) or if what I’m thinking it’s true at all.

    Can anyone provide some guidance or support? Or help me understand what an actual narcissist is like?

    I’m scared, confused and hurting a lot. I don’t know what to think or who to talk to.

    Thank you all in advance. Much love.

    Reply
  17. I sure do love this site and this blog.
    My latest fear is finding someone more attractive than my partner. My hook is someone I rarely see at my church, but all of I sudden, when I see him, I feel a pit in my stomach. He’s not ugly, but I’m afraid (out of nowhere) that I think he’s better looking than my boyfriend. Now I’m scared I’ll constantly compare the two. I feel guilt over this, too. My boyfriend is soon to be my fiance! We’ve been talking about getting married for awhile, and no one gets me the way he does. He has fought with his weight all his life. and lost quite a bit. He’s very self conscious about it and I try to encourage him the best I can.
    This other guy, while skinnier, doesn’t know me the way my BF does. And this fear grows in me (if I feed it) that if I were to get to know him, I’d leave my BF for him. I just want to be able to trust myself.
    I come from a home where my parents divorced, and I’ve been through a divorce. I haven’t dated much in 15 years, but I’ve been with my BF off and on since Feb. 2020. I don’t want to leave him. I just fear finding others good looking and I don’t know what to do with that.

    Reply
  18. Hello! I am a long time visitor and friend of the site. I struggled with pretty extreme RA/ROCD for about two years. I still have intrusive thought flare ups every now and again, but for the most part feel happier and healthier than I ever have these days! A combo of an amazing talk/psychodynamic therapist, Sheryl’s work, and mindfulness/meditation really did the trick for me. I have recently started training as a Therapist myself and began reading through an CBT workbook for OCD that a client of mine was interested in (my style of therapy is more aligned with Sheryl’s- I am not super familiar with CBT or ERP). There were many exercises in the book that were helpful, but I was super disappointed to see that in the back of the text there was a section that literally said “When To Run” which was essentially a warning section that stated that there was no chance for healing from OCD if you work with a talk therapist and do not complete ERP treatment. This spiked my anxiety BIG TIME and upon reading those words fell into a rabbit hole of doubt that my entire healing experience with OCD was invalid and that I did not truly “heal” because I didn’t find ERP/CBT that compelling or helpful. Although it’s been 6 years since my symptoms initially arose, upon reading that warning section anxiety took the wheel instantly. I logged on to Sheryl’s site immediately and reading this post was like warm water on dirty skin.
    My anxiety does not like black and white thinking at all, so reading words like “gold standard” and “ERP is the only way” really frustrates me and spikes me. The funny things is, I actually find a lot of ERP/CBT tools helpful and I hope as a future Therapist I will be able to integrate those helpful tools while also being able to hold space for trauma, core fears, and self exploration. I truly believe anxiety is a messenger and overtime my anxiety has become a great friend of mine (if not a little over protective sometimes ;] )
    I trust myself and my own experience with RA/ROCD/OCD and I know that without the life saving work of people like Sheryl and my own therapist I would not know the peace and self love that I know now. There is no “right” way! There is only the way that works for you. Sending love to all on this healing journey <3

    Reply
  19. Hello Sheryl,
    Now I am doubting even more if this is relationship anxiety or not. Because at the beginning our relationship had red flags- as soon as we got intimate he wanted to leave, but stayed- saying that he wanted to work on his avoidant patterns.

    I experienced other themes of OCD in the past, and the difference between those and ROCD now, is that ROCD doesn’t feel terrifying like other themes did, I mostly feel doubt if I have to break up or not and for each tinny trigger I feel the compulsion to end my relationship- especially when any expectation is going unmet so I can feel free from anxiety.

    Also when I do nervous system regulation exercises and I am balanced in my ventral vagal – I feel calm peace and as I am living in the most loving relationship. Until a thought comes up that says” what if he will break your heart or what if he doesn’t know how to meet your needs” and anger comes coupled with high anxiety and the thought loops and doubts begin again. I became irritant with him, emotionally distant etc until he cares and shows me love unconditionally then I can soften.

    But at the beginning it was that red flag so I do not know it it’s relationship anxiety or just the wrong one – also because this theme feels different from the terrifying other ones.

    Reply
    • Also I wanted to add that after anger and severe anxiety; I sob deeply. And very often I express to him how unhappy I am and I also express the desire to break up and he still stays very close and caring to me- I also stated that I want a pause or a break up from the relationship and he respected it and still was taking care of me saying that he will always care about me no matter my decision- even though deep down I never wanted to break up from him. Actually I want to spend more and more time with him.

      Reply
      • One last thing that I wanted to add is that I joined for more than one week some groups about relationship polarity: feminine and masculine. And I would ask questions about how a masculine man should attune and respond in the hope that I would reassure to myself that he is not the right one- but all the answer usually were exactly how he acts and shows up for me. Leaving me compelled to ask more detailed question so I could complete my compulsions in resulting that he is not what I am looking for.

        Sorry for this much over explaining .

        Thank you Sheryl 🙏🏻

        Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Is my doubt about my relationship an offshoot of my own anxiety or is it a warning that I’m with the wrong person?

Many people wonder what “relationship anxiety” is and if they are, indeed, suffering from it. They also desperately want an answer to that million-dollar question.

The answer to this question is contained in the assessment. Fill in your information to receive an immediate answer (and a lot of reassurance just from going through the material).

Categories

Struggling with Relationship Anxiety?

Sign up for our free assessment

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest