Dealing with GF's Relationship OCD
October 19, 2010 12:08 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend's OCD and anxiety causes her to get stuck in loops of obsessive thought that really mess with our relationship. How can I deal with this better, and can therapy help her?

TL;DR summary at the bottom.

Have you ever been walking down the stairs, and then think about walking down the stairs, and then you start to get confused and panicky because shit which foot goes next and suddenly you realize you're over thinking how to walk down the stairs to the point where you don't know how to do it?

It's like that. Only with our relationship. Usually it's comments from her friends or family that set it off.
Apparently her aunt told her the other day, when I went with her to a family function, "you can tell he really cares about you."

And the seed is planted. This is how she describes her thought process:
She starts thinking about how much I must like her, but does she like me as much? She doesn't know. Does she? Oh shit, doesn't the fact that she doesn't know mean she must not? And she says she never got that "butterflies in the stomach" feeling of infatuation she got when she was in high school... So she must not like me. Right? Because how else can she tell that she likes me unless she gets that head over heels feeling? And I must be completely infatuated with her, I must not ever have any doubts or reservations about our relationship, and I must always be happy to see her and to talk to her no matter what, so of course this makes her a horrible person. Etc.

She has also told me about how when she was in high school (she graduated college last year) she would have obsessive thoughts over whether or not she is gay/bi. I asked her about it and later showed her this, and she said that describes almost perfectly what would happened in her brain.

And so she tells me all these thoughts and doubts she's having. But I don't know what to say or do. If it were a problem with my behavior causing problems, then I'd know how to fix it. But I don't know.

I tell her it's fine to have doubts, it's ok to not always want to see or talk to each other all the time, and I tell her I have no idea where she got the idea that I never have doubts or days when I'm ok with not seeing her. Hell, she knows I don't always want to see her every day, and that sometimes I want to just keep to myself, and she knows that sometimes I'd rather play video games than talk on the phone, just like she sometimes would rather watch TV. That's normal. I tell her this every time this happens.

But this rational thinking goes right out the window for anywhere from a day to a week. And then things are back to normal. Woops, sorry about that. I wasn't thinking straight, I got confused. We're good, right?

Each time it happens I implore her to go see a therapist. Her medication was prescribed by her regular doctor and barely helps with her OCD and anxiety. But work happens and schedules interfere and then rescheduling gets put off and then her car needs work and this that and the other thing and then it happens again.

And that's what happened last night. And I've had enough. I can't deal with this anymore, because it's like getting dumped every time it happens and then having to act like everything is peachy when she comes around again. And I don't think that's fair to me. So I ask her if she wants to be with me. Silence. I ask her if she wants to dump me. Silence. I can practically see her tires spinning in the mud, because she can't get a constructive rational thought in edgewise to her brain. So I say alright, I guess we're breaking up then. She seems exhausted by the whole thing and sort of shrugs and says "ok."

I wake up this morning to a text saying that she's upset, she hopes we can talk and work things out, and that she's sorry for not making sense and upsetting me, but that she's trying to be honest with me by telling me about it.

I tried talking to her on the phone today but it didn't get anywhere. She tells me she likes me and enjoys being with me and she is happy with me, and then she says she's confused and doesn't know if she likes me and can't answer either way when asked "do you think we should stay together or break up," completely contradicting herself. When I say ok, then I guess we should break up if you can't decide whether you want to be with me or not, she gets incredibly upset.

I'm not the kind of guy who says shit like "yeah my ex-girlfriend was crazy, and by that I mean I was an asshole and she dumped me but I'm just using the perceived irrationality of women to cover up my own flaws." I don't respond to arguments or disagreements we have by saying "oh honey you're just being irrational." She has told me that this kind of irrational thinking messed with her last relationship too. She admits that she isn't thinking right when it happens.

So I'm willing to try and make it work, but only if she sees a therapist about it, and calls today to schedule the appointment.

TL;DR: My girlfriend has OCD+anxiety and gets stuck in loops of obsessive thought, one of which typically centers around our relationship and concerns over whether or not she likes me as much as she/others perceive I like her. This happened with her previous boyfriend, and it happens regularly enough with us. I simply cannot deal with this emotionally anymore, and have told her as much. She has always seemed willing to see a therapist, for this and to help with her other OCD/Anxiety problems, but things keep happening to put it off, though I don't think she's making excuses. After tonight's episode I'm putting my foot down and telling her to schedule an appointment today for whenever she is next able to see her.

Am I dealing with this relatively ok? I try to be understanding, but I need to also think about what's best for me. Am I being unreasonable?

How can I deal with this situation better? What can I do to help her? How can I show her that doubts and concerns about our relationship are OK? Is this something that a therapist could help her with? Have any of you experienced this, either in her place or in mine? Is there a place I can find similar stories to show her it's ok, she's not the only person with OCD who has these sorts of thoughts about their relationship?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think you are being unreasonable about this. It doesn't sound like she is in a good place mentally right now and probably needs to see a therapist ASAP. If putting your foot down means that she gets help, then that's what you need to do. It sounds like you are dealing with it remarkably well.
posted by amicamentis at 12:15 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is nothing you can do to change this situation. Nothing. All you can do is tell her that you are unwilling to repeat this cycle over and over, and that as much as you do care about her, she's going to have to commit to seeing a therapist and make progress before you can resume dating.

It's OK to have boundaries, and it's OK to get off the crazy train.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:18 PM on October 19, 2010 [7 favorites]

The mental illness isn't her fault. The way she deals with it (or fails to) IS her fault.

It is not fair to you to put you through what must be a grueling emotional wringer on a regular basis. I know because I've grappled with mental illness, and I've inflicted it on boyfriends. The guilt is staggering, regardless of the root cause. It's up to each individual (with support and encouragement from their loved ones) to find the therapy/meds necessary to ensure that their illness doesn't have a deleterious effect on their relationships. Period.

When she's NOT in one of her spirals, I'd give a (gentle, loving) ultimatum: "I'll do whatever it takes to help you move through this and get better... as long as you can find a way not to feed my tender bits through the wringer of your neurosis OVER AND OVER AGAIN."
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:26 PM on October 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

Alison Bechdel wrote (and drew) a genuinely excellent memoir called Fun Home. One of the things she talks about in it was how, as a child, she dealt with some pretty overpowering OCD. One of the ways it manifested was that in her diary, she appended a small "I think," to the end of every sentence, since she could not be completely certain that everything she said was objectively true. I am now reminded of that.

Is this something with which a therapist can help her? Well, guarantees are tricky to make, but I will say this: Seeing a therapist will help more than not seeing a therapist. It's the right place to start, and she needs to do it. From the sound of it, she needed to do it a long time ago.

Reinforce how much you care for her, how much you want to see her happy, et cetera. Be clear that this is hard for you to do because of that. But explain that you need to know she's going to put in the work to get help, and you've got to put your foot down.

You really can't deal with this situation any better than you already are. It's better that you do it now rather than later.

I hope it goes well, and if she's genuinely willing to work on this, I see no reason why it shouldn't. Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:29 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

There is only so understanding you can be with a mental illness & keep your own psyche intact. Only you know where that line is, but based on what you've said, you're riding up against the edge of this.

There is no foul in calling a relationship off because, despite the affection and attraction you feel for something, you cannot cope with their dysfunction. So know that this is an option, whether you choose it or no. You're not stomping on the sick person when they're down, you're making a judgement call on whether or not there is a dealbreaker on the table for your being a compatible couple.

Be aware that some of these things [anxiety/ocd symptoms] can be controlled with hard work and medicine. Also be aware that, even if she went to the doctor tomorrow, was lucky enough to find the right medicine & dosage the first time, stuck with it, and got better, this does not get better overnight. These things take time to correct, even under the most positive of circumstances.

Last thought: A lot of people are genuinely afraid of the possibility of going to a therapist & having medication recommended. It could be part of the foot-dragging you're seeing, although that is pure speculation on my part. I know first-hand the fear that when the doctor is done with you, you won't be "you."
posted by Ys at 1:02 PM on October 19, 2010

I have OCD and am currently on Prozac for it. I know you mentioned that she is on medication, but I suggest either a higher dose or a newer med. The Prozac does wonders for my weird thoughts.

I once was walking towards my apartment and I *saw* myself turn the corner, only to find my wife's severed head sitting on the doormat. Then I suddenly realized that I hadn't reached the corner yet, but I was terrified of turning the corner because I *knew* what would be there. Of course there was nothing...

Another time while I was driving I became fascinated by the knot on my shoe string. I kept looking down at my shoe to figure out why the knot looked so strange, then I would think "Crap. I can't look down. I need to drive!" A few seconds later I would find myself staring at my laces again...

After our first kid was born, my wife wanted to trade sides of the bed so she could be near the bassinet. But my OCD didn't want me to change sides, apparently. I dreamed that everyone was speaking backwards and all books were printed backwards, then I woke up and hallucinated that I was bleeding everywhere. She switched back places after that...

My point is, the medication has all-but-eliminated these kinds of random, unwanted thoughts. The pills have probably saved my marriage.
posted by tacodave at 1:06 PM on October 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

In all honesty, you can't really help her. You can't force her to go see a therapist. You can't twist your life and your reactions to her illness to make it better or more manageable for her. At this point, the only thing you can manage is your own well-being.

I think it's entirely reasonable to tell her that if she doesn't actively pursue getting help for her mental illness, you can't continue to be with her. You really do need to take care of yourself and part of that is deciding if overall your relationship with her is good for you or not. It sounds like her inability to seek treatment for her mental illness is interfering with your happiness and peace of mind and that's not cool. You deserve to be happy and you deserve to be in a fulfilling relationship. She at least needs to meet you halfway by going to therapy getting on medication that has a change of helping her.
posted by Kimberly at 1:09 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

You really can't deal with this situation any better than you already are. It's better that you do it now rather than later.

Her medication for OCD and anxiety should be managed by a competent psychiatrist, not her GP, especially if it's not helping.

That being said, even if she gets the help she needs, that doesn't mean all relationship problems will go out the window. It's entirely possible she has rational, logical issues with your relationship, and her anxiety is preventing her from dealing with them in a healthy way.

I don't know if you're in the US or not, but if you are & she's dealing with private health insurance companies, it can be really difficult to find in-network providers & make sure treatments and medication are covered by insurance. Helping her deal with it and advocate for herself might go a long way in her getting the treatment she wants and needs.
posted by inertia at 1:13 PM on October 19, 2010

Last thought: A lot of people are genuinely afraid of the possibility of going to a therapist & having medication recommended. It could be part of the foot-dragging you're seeing, although that is pure speculation on my part. I know first-hand the fear that when the doctor is done with you, you won't be "you."

This is big. The stigma to therapy and medication can be huge. My wife has had panic attacks and spikes of anxiety in the past, but didn't go to any doctor or therapist until she was in her mid-20s. Her life is nothing so intense as the life and mind of your girlfriend, but I've experienced a hint of that, and it is scary and daunting and it makes you feel useless, and at worst, used. When my wife was prescribed a low does of anti-anxiety medicine, she talked with friends and family about it casually. Her father still thinks it's all in her head, and is something she can probably work out on her own, but he has is own issues of manic mood swings. Some friends said similar things, but the fact is, they're right. It is all in your head, but that doesn't mean you can control it with ease, any more than you can control who you love or how much you hate broccoli. And she also found out that a lot of friends were on similar medication, some on heavier doses. They seem normal enough, and they are.

The stigma of needing help, especially mental help, seems to keep a lot of people from getting to a better place. My wife is lucky - her anxiety was specific enough that a small dosage helped her stay level through some tough times, and now she knows she's not dying when her heart races for no apparent reason, and that whatever she is focused on will pass, and she is now living without that medication. But she needed to start with medication, to find a new balance.

As for therapy, I've had no first- or even second-hand experience. From the range of AskMe questions and suggestions I've read, it sounds like your girlfriend needs to find the right fit, and can't give up after one bad encounter, if this is a path she wants to take. As for your role: you can suggest and prod, but unless she wants you to hound her or make the appointments for her (and if that is something you are comfortable doing), the only things you can give her are patience and support. For my wife, me just being there makes things better, but in your case, distance may help her figure out what she wants and needs. Good luck to both of you.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:18 PM on October 19, 2010

She's behaving in a way that's making you unhappy, and despite promising to take steps to change, she has not taken those steps. It is perfectly reasonable for you to set a boundary, that she needs to start and continue taking the steps by a certain date/within a certain specific timeframe or you're going to move on.

It doesn't really matter that it is OCD; it just matters that she should care enough about how you feel to follow through on her promise, and if she can't do that, your relationship can't continue without you being unhappy. Pretty straightforward. Carry on.
posted by davejay at 1:21 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I found that Xanax, taken as needed, snaps me right out of that shit. So she might not have found the right medication yet.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:36 PM on October 19, 2010

Friend, I was JUST in the same situation.

I left it behind with a hole in my heart and a weight off my shoulders. Time will heal, and if the care is mutual you'll be able to "be there" after time without being sucked into a decaying orbit of co-dependence.

Id rather feel empty than be crushed, so i moved on. It was the right move, even though it felt like i was abandoning "the good times". If you really feel like you've done all you can, then you've got to move on.
posted by bobby_newmark at 1:40 PM on October 19, 2010

I'm not sure if I can offer any sort of practical advice here, but maybe some reassurance.

By which I mean: um, are we dating? No seriously. I do something very similar when I go into "crazypants" mode and nothing makes sense and everything is terrible and I don't know how I feel or what I think and how does this whole relationship shit work anyway?

In my case, there is a very clear root cause of my spiraling freakouts, which is an abusive relationship I had in college. My current dude (the first dude after the nasty dude) understands what I went through in that relationship and why I completely flip my shit sometimes when we're together, and I think I can't handle our relationship and I can't figure out how I truly feel about him and shouldn't I feel all warm and fuzzy if we love each other so much and etc, etc, etc.

So I can kind of relate to your GF's crazypants time. I don't think you're being unreasonable; you're a human being, who has limits, and there is only so many times a person can be pseudo-dumped by the person they care about before it becomes something that you just can't handle anymore.

I am slowly finding my way out of the crazypants cycle--it helps that my guy apparently has the patience of Job and just sort of takes it when I try and push him away. But I know he has a limit too, and I don't want to find it, so I work.

I have depression and anxiety issues, and after trying four different meds over the course of the last ten years, I've finally found something that works for me, helps keep the crazypants a little more under wraps (i.e. I'm actually a functioning person when it happens instead of a total mess), and it's prescribed by a psychiatric nurse who I've been very open and honest with. I went to on-campus therapy for a year, and the counselor there had specific strategies to help with that spiraling downward thing.

So I'm saying that, basically, I agree with other people here. That her guilt will be crushing if she destroys this relationship because of her OCD thought processes, that you are not being unreasonable in wanting to help her, that therapy would almost certainly be better than her no therapy right now. And maybe medication is the answer, but that's also a process that she'll have to go through.

It is clear, to me, from your message that you greatly care about her and you want her to find a way to get through these freakout spirals both for her own sake and for the health of your relationship. I think therapy should definitely be encouraged; and I admire you for wanting to support her throughout this process, but I do want to reiterate that it doesn't make you unreasonable or a bad person if you just can't handle all of this right now.

::hugs:: and best of luck to you both.

Also, fuck that was long, sorry.
posted by adrianna aria at 1:46 PM on October 19, 2010

Er. I didn't mean to imply that your girlfriend has some underlying root cause that, once found, will fix everything; or imply that she's keeping something from you, or anything like that. With that example I meant that I go through something similar but I know why it happens and I know I'm not going to always be like this; I think therapy would help your GF figure out why her brain does that (and maybe it just happens, that's possible too) and help her with coping methods that don't involve pushing away someone she cares about and who cares about her.
posted by adrianna aria at 1:49 PM on October 19, 2010

Someone close to me goes to therapy and takes Fluvox, a med used specifically to treat OCD and anxiety. Since starting the drug, she has been noticeably (to herself and others) less anxious and less obsessive. My only point is that there can be relief for these kinds of painful symptoms. I think if your gf's not willing to put significant work and energy into herself, you can't put work and energy into her or into the relationship. I hope that she's open to getting help.
posted by tacoma1 at 2:25 PM on October 19, 2010

I simply cannot deal with this emotionally anymore, and have told her as much.

Then don't. Seriously.

Yes, I know, you want to be a "good person" and all that. And we all want to be able to "fix" people. I know how it is; my partner had some "interesting" issues to work through when we started out. But self preservation does not, in any way, make you a bad person. If she's not a participant in making things better, then she's actively making things worse for you.

Bow out, wish her the best, move on, be happy. Life is short. Etc.
posted by kjs3 at 2:45 PM on October 19, 2010

I've had bad anxiety and OCD for years, and it only started getting better once I put my foot down and decided I to do something about it.

I used to take 20mg of Fluoxetine, but have recently switched to Citalopram, which seems to have less side effects, at least, for me.

I must also stress that, if she does ever decide to go on medication, that alone will not fix the problem. CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is an absolute must, as it helps break down the looping negative thoughts.

Meditation can do wonders. It has for me.

After ten years I still rigorously pay attention to how and what I think. I know this will not sound encouraging, but anxiety (at least at the high level your gf seems to have) rarely goes away entirely. If you feel like you cannot cope or deal with the situation, there is absolutely nothing wrong in feeling like that. You can't "fix" her. That's something she has to decide to do herself.
posted by New England Cultist at 4:19 PM on October 19, 2010

Long-time lurker here, breaking my code of silence for a question that I actually feel qualified enough to answer.

I was your girlfriend. For every relationship I was in from ages 18 to 26, I'd pull apart everything about the guys I was with and what we had together, constantly asking questions of them and my friends/family about whether this or that doubt was ok to have, or meant that we should break up right away. I even used to focus on the same 'butterflies' feeling (or lack thereof), checking for it whenever I was with or even thinking the guy, and feeling almost sick with anxiety if it wasn't there. I'd still have good days/weeks when I felt absolutely in love and could see it all clearly, but then something would 'spike' me again (a comment from a friend on how in love they were/ something on tv/ in a magazine) and I'd be spiralling into my doubting frenzy. Eventually the anxiety would get to the point where I found it hard to sleep/eat/work properly, and I'd generally end up breaking up with the guy.

I had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder before, and had seen various therapists and was on and off prozac (generally prompted by these relationship-related anxieties), but hadn't considered OCD until I came across this article. I sat and read it and actually cried. It was the first time I actually felt like someone understood what had been going on with me, and that I wasn't just some crazy commitment-phobe who was destined to be single forever. I strongly recommend reading it yourself, if you haven't already, and giving a copy to your girlfriend to see if it rings true. The first half is mostly about H-OCD (or 'gay OCD'), and then the towards the end it concentrates on R-OCD and possible treatments.

When my most recent relationship started, and the doubts started coming up again, I started seeing a new therapist who agreed that I probably have OCD, and I worked with her for a few months, which made things more bearable. I also gave my boyfriend a copy of the article and some other pure-OCD / R-OCD links so he's understand what was going on. This definitely helped, but after a while I realised that my therapist didn't actually know much about this specific subset of OCD, and that I was not really making much proper progress. In the end I decided to bite the bullet and contact the psychologist who wrote the article, and for the past 6 months have been paying him extortionate amounts of money to have a session with me on Skype every week. It's possibly the best thing I have ever done.

Zooming forward to now, I am still with my boyfriend, we just celebrated our one year anniversary (of dating, not marriage, that would be a success story and a half!) last month. The R-OCD is still something I deal with most days, and I still have some more work to do, but this therapy has allowed me to be a fully-functioning, generally happy person who is also in a relationship, which I genuinely thought could never happen.

Anyway, that's my experience for what it's worth. If you decide to give this girl another go, I would definitely advise that it be on the condition that she commit to seeing a therapist and actually working on this herself. As I have found, it's not that easy to find a therapist who has much experience in treating R-OCD so make sure you (or your girlfriend) ask about this before you commit to seeing someone. My therapist uses something called index-card therapy, which seems to be the gold-standard for most pure-OCDs, so I expect anyone with enough experience would be familiar with this. I'm happy to pass on his details if you PM me, like I said he's pretty expensive but he has other staff that use the same techniques at different price levels, and they offer sessions over Skype/telephone if you don't live in the area. I don't want to sound too much like an advert though, and I'm sure there are other therapists out there who can treat this condition successfully, it's just a matter of searching them out.

Apologies for the long long post, hopefully it was somewhat helpful and please PM me if you want any more info. If I think of any other helpful links etc then I'll try to post them later.
posted by amerrydance at 4:23 PM on October 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

I think insisting on therapy is a good idea. I know of a couple who had one partner insist on the other seeking treatment for his OCD and it made a world of difference. He is no longer spinning in circles in paces or in thought and his life is considerably easier.
Also both anxiety and OCD can be treated with exposure therapy with amazing results, as well as with some medications, but it sounds like she should have her medications attended to by a psychiatrist anyway. Treatment with therapy will be up to 18 weeks or more so there is no quick cure, you realize. There can even be some worsening at the start.
I think it's worth making this condition because you should not have to put up with this consistent state of affairs and while she seems willing, she should make the step of actually doing it, for herself and the relationship. If she doesn't do it, you have a clear answer for yourself. Yes, she has to do it for herself, help herself, but she can choose to start therapy for all kinds of reasons, it just depends on what gets her through the door.
It doesn't hurt to help people along the way and it sounds like you really care for her, enough so you want her better even if her antics make you leave the relationship. If she gives it a shot, I think there is a good chance she will get better if she can stick with it.
posted by provoliminal at 4:37 PM on October 19, 2010

Regarding medication, I find that 20mg Fluoxetine is useful to keep me coping with things if I'm going through a particularly hard time with the OCD/anxiety, and to get me to the point where I can actually function enough to get involved in therapy.

I'm not a fan of some of the side effects I experience though (no orgasms?? booo...) and so generally try to get off them when I've been feeling better for a while. I've recently just come off them again actually, which has caused a bit of a dip in my progress, but I'm confident that I actually have the tools to help myself now. If not then it wouldn't be the end of the world to go back on the meds, I'd rather take pills and be happy than refuse to and be miserable.

Also seconding New England Cultist's support of meditation, I've done a couple of mindfulness courses and found them really helpful in seeing the obsessive thoughts for what they are and not getting so caught up in them. However, you do really need to be dedicated enough to practise on a regular basis (daily ideally) to see any real results, and that's where I've always been a bit lacking...
posted by amerrydance at 4:46 PM on October 19, 2010

Just to clarify, and agree with provoliminal, exposure and response prevention (ERP) is the current standard therapy for OCD.

For contamination OCD, this would involve, for example, touching a toilet seat (exposure), and then not performing your usual compulsive ritual of repetitive hand-washing (response prevention), but instead sitting with the anxiety that comes up.

For pure OCD, this would involve exposing yourself to the obsessive thought (by writing it on an index card and reviewing it over the day, or recording it on a loop tape and listening to this), and then not performing the usual rituals of seeking reassurance/ruminating etc.

ERP can cause you to feel worse at first, because you can't perform the compulsive actions you normally would to reduce anxiety, but then you learn how to deal with this anxiety in a different way and realise that it won't kill you to have it there, and can get on with being more involved in your actual life.

Now I shall stop commenting and go to bed, it's late over here in the UK and lack of sleep does not a happy OCD sufferer make.
posted by amerrydance at 5:24 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you want to be a resource for your girlfriend -- whether or not you stay together -- check out this thread on choosing a therapist. Lots of food for thought in there, especially this consumer's-eye-view article, recommended by madamjujujive.
posted by virago at 6:10 PM on October 19, 2010

Poor girl. How awful for her (and for you).

I'm a special ed teacher who works at a private special needs school. About half of the students at my school have varying degrees of OCD. Our principal just forwarded us this documentary on the plasticity of the brain yesterday. As I read your question, it immediately came to mind. It talks about how purposefully changing one's thoughts can break the loops of OCD and eventually rewire the brain so that it doesn't loop anymore. It's worth a look. Perhaps this is something she can look into.

Best of luck to both of you!
posted by heffalump at 7:27 PM on October 19, 2010

posted by heffalump at 7:27 PM on October 19, 2010

Wow, by coincidence I spent my therapy session this morning discussing exactly these thoughts. Like, that could be me down to the wording she uses, although I'm agonizing over whether to begin a relationship, not one I'm already in. According to my therapist, this kind of thing isn't that unusual (also see everyone above), and is definitely something that can be treated and improved with CBT.

I don't know how you should deal with it: in my case I have erred a long way towards just not telling people what I'm thinking, which causes a different set of relationship problems.

Am I dealing with this okay? Yes, sounds like it. Not unreasonable at all

What can I do to help her? How can I show her that doubts and concerns about our relationship are OK? Is this something that a therapist could help her with? Yes, this is something a therapist could help her with. You can help by getting her to see one. You should not feel like you can work it out with/for her yourself.

I was thinking maybe she has a friend that she could talk all this out with instead of you, but that should in no way replace getting a real therapist: a friend will get just as burnt out as you are now.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:59 PM on October 19, 2010

I have been like your girlfriend in previous relationships, although never as severe. I too have struggled over various times in my life with general anxiety and very compulsive thought patterns that can only be helped with the assistance of therapy. I think you are absolutely right on with what you wrote, and to me, you don't sound like a mean, unsupportive boyfriend. You sound like you've tried your best to do what you can, but your girlfriend isn't doing her part, and therefore you can't deal with the current situation. That's totally normal, and okay.

At this point, she needs a third-party to help her develop tools to deal with her anxiety, which is why she needs a therapist. You alone cannot help her with this issue. Her past refusal about getting therapy even when you've made it clear that this is a problem in your relationship sadly speaks volumes. And even though she may be seeking therapy now, she ultimately needs to seek therapy for herself, and not necessarily because of her relationship with you.

I could go into some rather similar anecdotes from my own relationships, but would prefer not to dole it all out now, so MeMail me if you want to talk more.
posted by mostly vowels at 10:18 AM on October 20, 2010

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