OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is defined as a tendency to repetitive behaviors driven by unwanted, intrusive thoughts.
Retroactive jealousy is a type of OCD in which people tend to become obsessed with their partner’s previous romantic relationships.
The resultant irrational jealousy can instill feelings of anger and hate, and the consequent actions can border on abuse, all of which are highly damaging to a relationship.
This anxious attachment style can be a result of long-term childhood trauma or bad experiences with previous partners. Realizing that the pattern of obsessive jealousy is unhealthy is essential to help overcome it.
In this article, we elaborate on retroactive jealousy OCD, its signs, causes, and effects. We then explain appropriate treatment practices, therapies, and medications that can help you work through it.
Retroactive Jealousy OCD
While jealousy is a valid human emotion, retroactive jealousy is a disorder driven by relationship anxiety that can translate into extreme anger, insecurity, and hate. People affected by it are obsessed with their partners’ romantic and sexual history, which then causes them to act in an unhealthy and potentially dangerous manner.
Retroactive jealousy OCD has not been chalked to a specific cause. However, it is believed that a myriad of issues like childhood trauma, poor communication, a history of other forms of OCD, certain medications, and even genetics play a role in the culmination of obsessive jealousy.
- Research shows that mutation in certain genes associated with serotonin transport increases the risk of developing OCD. Genetic risk for OCD amounts to 48%, which is why if a family member is suffering from it, you are likely to have it too.
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse in childhood can manifest as an anxious attachment style in adulthood relationships, which can present as retroactive jealousy OCD.
- Evidence also suggests that excessive use of medications like antipsychotics and certain drugs can cause OCD. This is because it disrupts the level of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which then leads to compulsive and anxious behaviors.
- Abrupt levels of reproductive hormones due to oral contraceptives make you prone to developing several forms of OCD.
- Bad experiences, emotional /physical abuse, and constantly getting invalidated for natural emotions in previous romantic relationships can also naturally trigger relationship anxiety and retroactive jealousy OCD in your current and future relationships.
Here are some of the signs you can use to assess if you suffer from retroactive jealousy OCD:
- Randomly breaking into fights or accelerating an ongoing argument by bringing up something your partner previously confessed to you.
- Constantly second-guessing the relationship and having compulsive thoughts like your partner does not reciprocate your feelings.
- You might be compelled to believe that you should call things off with your partner. In parallel, you may also have contrasting thoughts about how you really love them.
- Seeking validation is natural, and you might find yourself scrolling through several internet blogs and videos that reaffirm your fears.
- Actively asking your partner for constant reassurance.
- Obsessively checking your partner’s phone, emails, and social media, and trying to always keep track of their movements and activities.
- Feeling overwhelmed about not having as good memories or experiences in your relationship as your partner had with their previous love interests.
- Judging your partner for their actions, such as previous sexual encounters, having a casual affair, etc. This can be associated with religious and scrupulosity OCD.
How Retroactive Jealousy OCD Affects A Relationship?
Retroactive jealousy OCD drains your mental health and is destructive to your relationship. Unwanted emotions and an inability to trust leave you constantly feeling anxious and worried about the future.
Your partner feels your behavior is overwhelming, which harbors feelings of resentment and hate. Additionally, your emotional outbursts can make them feel invalidated, untrustworthy, and under the radar round-the-clock, which is highly damaging to self-esteem.
This is abusive behavior which can eventually end the relationship.
How to Work Through Retroactive Jealousy OCD?
Identifying the problem is crucial for healing. If you can relate to the signs of retroactive jealousy OCD mentioned in the post, we encourage you to immediately consult a healthcare provider.
Authorized clinicians use the appropriate criteria to diagnose retroactive OCD after taking your history for relevant symptoms.
Once the diagnosis is made, here are some of the ways you can overcome it:
Once you realize you have a serious problem concerning behavioral patterns, discussing it with a counselor can help big time. Certified therapists are learned in behavioral therapy and exposure and response prevention (ERP) which they use to train you to deal with uncomfortable, intrusive thoughts in a healthy way.
It is crucial to mention that not using appropriate ERP based on the severity of your condition can have adverse effects. Therefore, it is important that you look for a highly-qualified therapist with good reviews before the consultation.
Some medications have been developed to treat severe forms of OCD involving disruption in serotonin and dopamine levels. SSRIs or serotonin reuptake inhibitors are most commonly used, as they make the neurotransmitter available in the body (instead of being absorbed by the neurons), which naturally improves and stabilizes mood.
Remember that medications can have side effects, and you should only resort to them if counseling and therapy practices fail.
The last but most important thing in the healing process is open communication with your partner. It is important to understand that your unhealthy obsessive jealousy is always directed towards your partner and is therefore challenging for them.
Remember that there’s no shame in asking for help. Admitting that there is a problem and discussing your emotions and thoughts can help your partner understand the situation better. With the two of you working together to improve your relationship and adequate counseling in place, you can easily overcome retroactive jealousy OCD in no time.
Even in this day and age, there is a stigma attached to mental health and related disorders. This can understandably lead you to suppress emotions and actively stop yourself from seeking help even if you realize there’s a problem.
We believe that dialogue around mental health and destigmatization of mental health disorders like retroactive jealousy OCD is crucial for affected individuals to work through it. Remember that identifying the problem and seeking help is important to heal, and with appropriate help, you enjoy a healthy and loving relationship with your partner.
Qrius does not provide medical advice
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only.
The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
Qrius does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions or other information that may be mentioned on this website. Reliance on any information appearing on this website is solely at your own risk.
This article does not endorse or express the views of Qrius and/or any of its staff.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius