• February 22, 2017
  • OCD

How OCD Affects Intimate & Romantic Relationships | Orlando OCD Specialist Shares 

At The Center for Anxiety and OCD at GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, we provide specialized treatment for those struggling with OCD utilizing ERP and CBT. Our OCD specialists are specifically trained to treat OCD, providing evidence-based, effective treatment to sufferers, and support for their families. 

It is well known that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder than can have a negative effect on social, occupational and interpersonal functioning. However, it is rarely discussed that OCD can also have a very negative effect on intimate relationships.

Researchers who have studied the marital status, the quality of marriages and relationship satisfaction for individuals with OCD have found that many individuals with OCD are not married or in a relationship and those who are married, often experience a great deal of marital distress.

Research has suggested that whether someone with OCD marries is influenced by a number of factors that include the person’s gender, the age of OCD onset and the severity of OCD symptoms. Studies show that a greater number of men with OCD do not marry and that men with OCD tend to avoid close relationships. The age of OCD onset may contribute to this, as men tend to have earlier onset of OCD (typically between the ages of 6 and 15) compared with women, whose typical age of onset is between the ages of 20 and 29. Studies have found that only 30% of individuals who developed OCD during childhood were dating by the age of 16. It was found that these individuals also experienced considerable problems with their social life. It is thought that the early onset of OCD may hinder the development of social skills that are necessary for finding and keeping a partner. Poor social skills may also cause problems in later in intimate relationships because the skills necessary for having positive intimate relationships are never really developed. In addition, those with OCD may also avoid social situations, which may prevent individuals with OCD from meeting a potential partner.

The severity of OCD symptoms has also been found to contribute to relationship satisfaction. Research shows that 90% of men with severe OCD symptoms are single and 40% of both men and women with severe OCD live in isolation, avoiding interactions with family and friends and avoiding social activities. The severity of OCD symptoms have also been found to interfere with sexuality, primarily due to obsessive thoughts about becoming contaminated through sex.

It is also hypothesized that because individuals with OCD who have more severe intrusive thoughts are so preoccupied with their obsessive thoughts, they have less time and mental energy to connect in an intimate way with a loved one.

Many individuals with OCD refrain from disclosing their obsessive thoughts to others, as they tend to fear that others will use their obsessions against them, that people will think they are “craz”y and that disclosing their thoughts will lead to shame and embarrassment. It is often difficult for a partner to truly understand the behaviors of their partner with OCD, thus partners often become frustrated, believe the person with OCD is “crazy” and lose respect for their partner. The partner without OCD’s hostile criticism, negative communication patterns and participation in rituals also impacts both their partner’s OCD and the overall relationship functioning. Thus, it is not surprising that individuals with OCD are more likely to be divorced than individuals without OCD.

At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, we believe it is extremely important to keep in mind the intimate relationship of clients who are in therapy for OCD. Whether clients with OCD have difficulties establishing a relationship, maintaining relationships or experience difficulties in their current relationships, intimate relationships are an important aspect of treatment. At GroundWork Counseling, we keep this in mind even when we treat children with OCD as we are aware that those who develop OCD at a younger age may need social skills training in combination with Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) so the child with OCD can learn the necessary social skills that will help the child to establish and maintain intimate relationships in the future.


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