OCD Living With OCD OCD and Intimate Relationships By LuAnn Pierce, LCSW LuAnn Pierce, LCSW Facebook Twitter LuAnn Pierce, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked in the field of mental health and human services for over 25 years. Learn about our editorial process Updated on January 16, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief Print Getty Images/PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Relationships and Stress Social Anxiety and Overstimulation Sex and Sexual Functioning Long-Distance and Online Dating Coping With Anxiety and Stress When Your Partner Has OCD Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can affect all areas of life. Many who have OCD choose not to date and avoid intimate relationships. There are many reasons people resort to this choice; chief among them is the desire to prevent or lessen their anxiety through avoidance of stressful situations. Fortunately, there are other ways to cope that are less extreme. Understanding and Managing Intrusive Thoughts In Romantic Relationships Relationships and Stress Intimate relationships can be stressful for many people—with or without OCD. But the usual relationship stresses that affect most of us—fear of rejection, loss of identity, previous failed relationships, performance anxiety, and body acceptance issues—are often amplified for those with this type of anxiety disorder. Obsessions that have to do with the loss of control, body image, fear of germs and contamination, anxiety related to physical closeness or being touched, and fear of loss or abandonment, may be easily triggered by intimate relationships. Feelings of self-consciousness and shame are often immobilizing. Trying to hide symptoms like counting or hand-washing can exacerbate anxiety. How OCD "Contaminated" My Relationships Social Anxiety and Overstimulation Additionally, many people with anxiety report feeling overwhelmed by social situations, particularly when there's a sexual attraction. While many become tongue-tied or flustered when in the company of someone they're attracted to, those with OCD often experience panic attacks or related symptoms that can be embarrassing or emotionally paralyzing. Sex and Sexual Functioning Issues related to sex and sexual functioning are also common concerns for those with OCD. Some of the medications used to treat anxiety have sexual side effects. Many who experience obsessions related to hygiene or contamination can find it very difficult to engage in sexual relations. Those who become over-stimulated when people are in their personal space can be especially concerned with thoughts or even cuddling. Long-Distance and Online Dating Many people, even those who've never struggled with obsessive thoughts or compulsive behavior, find the uncertainty of long-distance relationships and online dating to be very stressful. Those with OCD may find these relationships to be especially difficult. It's not unusual for the stress to create high levels of anxiety. Coping With Anxiety and Stress Avoiding stressful situations is one way to cope with anxiety, but it can be very limiting when it comes to intimate relationships. There are other ways of managing stress and anxiety in relationships that are worth exploring. Medication Talk to your prescriber about your specific symptoms with regard to intimacy and relationships. In addition to your regular medication, they may determine that you can benefit from something to take as needed for high-stress situations, such as dating or sexual intimacy. Mindfulness Mindfulness is a specific type of meditation that teaches us how to focus our attention and release our thoughts. This practice is used in the treatment of many mental health disorders. It's particularly effective in training the mind to observe and release thoughts without judging them as good or bad. Those who practice mindfulness find they're able to better recognize when they're ruminating or obsessing, and learn to release thoughts as often as necessary. Part of the teaching is that our minds are always busy, and thinking is what minds do. The skill is in recognizing when we are caught up in our thoughts and letting them go when this happens. Experienced meditators know that we seldom, if ever, have an empty mind devoid of thoughts. Relaxation Skills Deep breathing, guided imagery, and contracting and releasing different muscle groups (progressive muscle relaxation) are also effective ways of releasing and preventing anxiety. Yoga, tai chi, and other martial arts training can also help you learn to focus your thoughts and release tension in your body. Most of these include learning to use your breath effectively. It's believed that anxiety can't reside in your body if your muscles are relaxed. Good Communication Knowing what you want to say is only part of the equation of good communication. It's also important to know how to say it and when to say it. Talk with your therapist or a trusted friend about what, how, and when to discuss your OCD with potential love interests. Timing is important, so take it slow with new prospects. Role Play Practicing what you want to say about a stressful topic, even if you have to use a script, can relieve anxiety for some people. Once you develop a strategy and the language you want to use to talk about your OCD, practice with a therapist or friend until you feel comfortable. You don’t have to use the same words verbatim, but feeling prepared can take the edge off of an uncomfortable situation. When Your Partner Has OCD All relationships have their challenges, but dating someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder can bring up some unique considerations. Some things that you can to that can help make your relationship stronger: Learn About OCD It can be helpful to learn more about the symptoms of OCD as well as understanding some of the treatments that are available. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms, but knowing what you might expect can make it easier to be supportive and understanding of what your partner is experiencing. Be Empathetic Don't expect your partner to be willing to share everything they are experiencing, particularly at the beginning of the relationship. As you build trust and intimacy, your partner may begin to share more of their anxieties. A Word From Verywell It's critical to choose your partners carefully. One of the keys to a successful relationship is choosing someone you can be open and honest with about yourself, including the things that make you feel vulnerable. That being said, disclosing your OCD on the first date may not be the best idea. Talk it out with someone you trust and come up with a strategy and the right words for talking about OCD. Dating Someone With OCD: What You Should Know 10 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Doron G, Derby D. Relationship OCD. International OCD Foundation. 2014. Doron G, Derby D, Szepsenwol O, Nahaloni E, Moulding R. Relationship Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Interference, Symptoms, and Maladaptive Beliefs. Front Psychiatry. 2016;7:58. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00058 Weingarden H, Renshaw KD. Shame in the obsessive compulsive related disorders: A conceptual review. J Affect Disord. 2015;171:74-84. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2014.09.010 Aksoy UM, Aksoy ŞG, Maner F, Gokalp P, Yanik M. Sexual Dysfunction in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Panic Disorder. Psychiatria Danubina. 2012;24(4):381-385. Ghassemzadeh H, Raisi F, Firoozikhojastefar R, et al. A Study on Sexual Function in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Patients With and Without Depressive Symptoms. Perspect Psychiatr Care. 2017;53(3):208-213. doi:10.1111/ppc.12160 Real E, Montejo Á, Alonso P, Menchón JM. Sexuality and obsessive-compulsive disorder: the hidden affair. Neuropsychiatry. 2013;3(1):23. doi:10.2217/npy.12.72 McCann WJ, Marion GS, Davis SW, Crandall SJ, Hildebrandt CA. Applied Relaxation & Applied Mindfulness (ARAM): A Practical and Engaging Approach for Mind-Body Regulation Training in Medical Education. Annals of Behavioral Science and Medical Education. 2013;19(2):10-15. doi:10.1007/BF03355250 Cleveland Clinic. Stress: Learning to Relax. Updated January 29, 2016. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Treatment for OCD. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Maintaining A Healthy Relationship. 2020. By LuAnn Pierce, LCSW LuAnn Pierce, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked in the field of mental health and human services for over 25 years. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for OCD Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.