Home » ROCD Break-Up Urges: Why Do I Get Them and How To Deal With Them?

ROCD Break-Up Urges: Why Do I Get Them and How To Deal With Them?

by edinburghtherapyservice
9 minutes read

Do you ever find yourself plagued by intrusive thoughts, images, or urges around the idea of ending your relationship? You’re not alone. For those with relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder (ROCD), these break-up urges can be relentless and distressing, leading to a constant state of uncertainty and doubt.

What are urges in OCD?

Understanding urges begins with differentiating between urges as compulsions and urges as intrusions. The urge to perform a compulsion typically involves a strong impulse or desire to engage in a specific repetitive behaviour or mental ritual in response to an obsessive thought. For example, someone with ROCD might experience the urge to Google “Is it normal to not feel butterflies?” after having the intrusive thought “What if I’m not attracted to my partner enough?”.

On the other hand, an obsessional urge may not necessarily involve performing a specific compulsion but can lead to intense distress and preoccupation with the fear of acting on intrusive thoughts. Obsessional urges are often associated with fears of losing control or causing harm to oneself or others. While similar to compulsions, obsessional urges may not always result in overt behaviours and can instead manifest as intense emotional tension or distress. For instance, someone with harm-OCD might have the urge to grab a knife and harm their partner. These urges go against their values, but they feel real and intense, leaving the person believing they are capable of acting on them.

Understanding ROCD break-up urges

Imagine being haunted by questions like:

  • “Are we truly happy together?”
  • “Could my partner be cheating on me?”
  • “Why am I not experiencing the ‘right’ emotions?”
  • “Am I settling for the wrong relationship, missing out on finding ‘the one’?”
  • “Does my partner love me?”
  • “Will this relationship stand the test of time?”
  • “Why do I find others attractive?”
  • “What if I’m not attracted enough to my partner?”

These intrusive thoughts can cast doubt upon the very foundation of your relationship, making it feel unbearable at times. The relentless pursuit of certainty becomes a never-ending quest, fueled by the desire to alleviate the anxiety caused by uncertainty. But here’s the truth: certainty in relationships is elusive. No one can be 100% certain about the rightness of their relationship, and the quest for absolute certainty only perpetuates the cycle of doubt.

These obsessions about breaking up can manifest not only as verbal expressions—”I need to decide whether to stay or break up ASAP”—but also as overwhelming urges or impulses to end the relationship altogether. It’s as if your OCD is screaming for certainty, and breaking up seems like the only way to attain it. 

In some cases, however, people with ROCD may end their relationships, believing it will bring relief from the anxiety. But here’s the catch: breaking up only to reduce anxiety and uncertainty is a compulsion—a short-term solution that perpetuates the cycle of doubt and anxiety, which is likely to carry over into the next relationship. 

As with any compulsion, the key is in the function of the behaviour. While breaking up a relationship can be a decision based on values and choice, it becomes a compulsion when done as a result of the distress caused by doubt and uncertainty, in other words, to avoid feeling anxious.

How to deal with the urges to break up

All relationships entail a degree of doubt and uncertainty, and you may never know for sure if your partner is the right one. ROCD break-up urges are a manifestation of your anxiety and not necessarily a reflection of the strength or viability of your relationship.

The key to overcoming these urges is to confront the anxiety and doubt provoked by the obsessions and urges, as opposed to avoiding distress by engaging in compulsive behaviours (such as rumination, researching, seeking reassurance, confessing, etc.). It’s about ceasing these behaviours and allowing yourself to experience the fear. Stop attempting to determine if your partner is the right one, refrain from analysing your feelings in the relationship, and simply allow yourself to be present, even when it feels uncomfortable.

A technique that can help you lean into the uncertainty is the “maybe, maybe not” method. Additionally, mindfulness can help you tame your intrusive thoughts, allow them to be without judging them, while focusing on the present moment. 

However, the best way to tackle your ROCD intrusive thoughts and urges is through therapy. In therapy, this process is facilitated by a therapist specialised in OCD and is approached gradually. The most recommended therapy for OCD is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) with exposure and response prevention (ERP). This therapy involves exposing the person to avoided situations or triggers of obsessions and urges and remaining in those situations without engaging in compulsions. For instance, in ROCD, the person might be exposed to kissing their partner without succumbing to any compulsions.

If you need help with your ROCD, we can help you. We specialise in OCD therapy and offer CBT with ERP as the main treatment option. Contact us today!

Further reading

Do you offer OCD therapy near me?

Edinburgh Therapy Service offers both in-person OCD counselling in Edinburgh (United Kingdom), and online therapy accessible worldwide. We specialise in therapy for OCD, offering CBT with ERP as the main treatment option. 

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The Edinburgh Therapy Service is a psychotherapy and counseling practice based in Edinburgh, Scotland (United Kingdom). We offer therapy both in-person in Edinburgh and online, available in English and Spanish.

Contact info

Contact us for more information or to book your first appointment: [email protected]