Advice for Dating Someone With OCD (2022)

Although any intimate relationship has its ups and downs, dating someone affected by a chronic mental illness such as OCD can present additional challenges—and growth opportunities.

It is important to remember that an illness is what a person has, not who they are. Try these strategies for creating and maintaining a healthy relationship.

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Advice for Dating Someone With OCD (1)

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What to Expect When Dating Someone With OCD

Knowing what to expect if you are dating someone with OCD or if you think your partner might have the condition is essential. By understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatments of the condition, you'll be better able to help your partner and maintain a successful relationship.

Obsessions and Compulsions

Obsessions and compulsions are the primary symptoms of OCD. Obsessions are unwanted, persistent thoughts, images, or urges that create feelings of distress and anxiety.

People with the condition often engage in compulsions to deal with the distress created by obsessions. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that people feel compelled to engage in to minimize anxiety or prevent adverse events from occurring.

Common Symptoms of OCD

  • Obsessive, intrusive, unwanted thoughts
  • Fear of dirt or contamination
  • Needing things to be symmetrical or in order
  • Frightening thoughts centered on harming the self or others
  • Compulsive, repetitive actions to reduce anxiety caused by obsessions

Stress and Anxiety


In addition to dealing with stress caused by the symptoms of their condition, people with OCD may also experience added stress from worrying about how their condition might affect their relationships. If they have had past partners who were not understanding or rejecting, they may fear that you will respond similarly.

Being empathetic and understanding can help your partner feel supported and understood.

Anxiety can often be a symptom of OCD, creating additional challenges in your relationship. You can help by becoming aware of the situations that trigger your partner's symptoms of anxiety and OCD and then helping them find ways to cope or manage those situations.

Sexual Functioning


OCD can also affect sexual functioning in several different ways. For individuals with obsessions centered on contamination or hygiene, having sexual relationships can be complicated. Some medications used to treat OCD can have sexual side effects, including symptoms that affect libido or performance.

Is OCD Negatively Affecting Your Intimate Relationships?

(Video) Tips for Dating With OCD

How to Keep Your Relationships Healthy

If you are dating someone with OCD, one of the best things you can do is learn more about the condition. Being more aware of what your partner may be experiencing can help you better recognize the signs of problems and allow you to offer support when you see they are struggling.

Remember that the condition affects each person differently. Not everyone will have the same symptoms or experience them the same way.

Build Trust

It is not uncommon for people with OCD to hide the nature or severity of their symptoms from others—especially those they may be engaged with romantically—for fear of embarrassment and rejection. If you are committed to working on the relationship, make it clear to your partner that OCD is something you are willing to talk about and want to understand more about.

When your partner chooses to disclose particular obsessions or compulsions they are troubled with, make sure you acknowledge how hard it must have been to tell you about them. Empathy and acceptance can go a long way toward building trust and intimacy.

Respect Your Partner’s Privacy

While your partner might be comfortable disclosing the nature and severity of their symptoms to you, they may not be as comfortable discussing these issues with family, friends, or co-workers. Never assume that other people in your partner’s life know they have OCD.

A seemingly harmless comment to a friend or family member of your partner could end up being very hurtful or embarrassing. It could undermine trust in the relationship or have other unintended consequences.

Be Honest

While symptoms of chronic illness can often be managed quite effectively, they may never be cured. If you have concerns or are feeling overwhelmed by your partner's symptoms, discuss this with your partner openly and honestly. This is especially important if you suspect or know that your partner's obsessions and/or compulsions relate to you and/or matters of sexual intimacy.

A little communication can go a long way in avoiding misunderstandings that could ultimately lead to conflict or even break up the relationship. If you do not feel you can discuss such issues with your partner, bounce your thoughts off a trusted friend to try to get a different perspective. Remember, any relationship—not just with someone with OCD—is about balancing your personal needs with the relationship's needs.

Ways You Can Support Your Partner

While having OCD can sometimes introduce challenges in a relationship, there are things you can do to help support your partner. People with OCD are sometimes reluctant to talk about their condition for fear of judgment or rejection, so it’s important to be understanding and supportive. Listen to what they say and try to be as patient as possible.

Educate Yourself

Being in an intimate or even just a dating relationship with someone with any chronic illness, including OCD, means you must be up to speed on symptoms and treatments. On the surface, many of the obsessions and compulsionsaccompanying OCD can seem strange, illogical, or even scary.

Understanding what the symptoms of OCD are and where they come from can go a long way in helping you cope with them and bring down the overall stress level in your relationship. It is also important to realize that many people with OCD experience other forms of anxiety disorders or depression that can complicate the symptoms they experience.

Support Their Treatment

Partners can often be very helpful in helping to pinpoint the true nature and severity of symptoms. They can also help reinforce compliance with medical and psychological treatment regimens.

If you and your partner are up for it, there are numerous opportunities to help with exposure exercises or stay on top of medication regimens. Becoming partners in treatment can help build a stronger bond.

Treatments for OCD

Caring for Your Own Needs

It is also important to make sure that you are caring for yourself. Chronic health conditions like OCD can take a toll on the individual and their partners, so it is vital to ensure that you care for your own needs. Schedule time for yourself, do things you enjoy and reach out to your friends and family for support.

Practice Self-Care


Carve out time to attend to your needs. This can be difficult when taking care of someone else, but it is important to ensure that you care for yourself physically and emotionally. Consider scheduling regular appointments for yourself, such as a massage or a pedicure.

It can be easy to become isolated when you are in a relationship with someone with OCD. Schedule time for your friends and family, even if it is a quick coffee date or a regular girls’ or guys’ night out.

You might also want to consider joining a support group. It can be helpful to talk to others who are in similar situations. There are many online and in-person support groups available.

(Video) Dating Someone with Relationship OCD

Establish Boundaries

While you are offering support, you must have boundaries in your relationship. Boundaries are what you are willing to accept in your relationship with another person. A boundary with a partner with OCD might involve telling them that you will not participate in your partner's compulsions. For example, you would not wash your hands every time they wash their hands. Establishing boundaries early on can help prevent conflict later on.

A Word From Verywell

Managing OCD isn't always easy, but supporting your partner can help them get the treatment they need and find ways to cope with their symptoms effectively. There will be ups and downs along the way, which is why patience is important. With empathy, acceptance, and understanding, you can ensure that you are your partner have a healthy and successful relationship.

How to Cope If You're Overwhelmed by a Family Member's OCD

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What's it like dating someone with OCD?

    People with OCD often have very specific routines and rituals that they adhere to rigidly. This can make social situations and everyday activities more challenging at times. It can also contribute to feeling of shame and guilt. It's important to remember that every person with OCD is unique. Understanding your partner's symptoms, responding with kindness, and finding ways to support them and their treatment can help you both weather the ups and downs that come with dating someone with OCD.

  • How do you handle dating someone with relationship OCD?

    Relationship OCD can be challenging because obsessions and compulsions are focused on the relationship itself. In this case, patience is key. It can be challenging to understand why your partner feels the need to perform certain rituals or behaviors, but communicating openly can help.

    Learn More:What Is Relationship OCD?

  • What should you do if you think your partner has OCD?

    If you think your partner may have OCD, the best thing to do is to talk to them about it. Recognize that they may be reluctant to open up at first. However, it's important to let them know you're there for them. Offer to accompany them to the doctor or therapist for an evaluation. If they are diagnosed with OCD, there are several treatments available that can help.

    (Video) How To Help Someone With OCD

5 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.

  1. 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

  2. Castle D, Bosanac P, Rossell S. Treating OCD: What to do when first-line therapies fail. Australas Psychiatry. 2015 Aug;23(4):350-3. doi:10.1177/1039856215590027

  3. National Institute of Mental Health. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

  4. Brady CF. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and common comorbidities. J Clin Psychiatry. 2014;75(1):e02. doi:10.4088/JCP.13023tx1c

  5. Hezel DM, Simpson HB. Exposure and response prevention for obsessive-compulsive disorder: a review and new direction. Indian J Psychiatry. 2019;61(Suppl 1):S85-S92. doi:10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_516_18

By Owen Kelly, PhD
Owen Kelly, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, professor, and author in Ontario, ON, who specializes in anxiety and mood disorders.

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(Video) Relationship OCD and Dating

FAQs

Can someone with OCD be in a relationship? ›

If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), you know that your symptoms can often get in the way of establishing and maintaining romantic relationships. Indeed, many individuals with OCD are single, and those who are in a relationship often report a significant amount of relationship stress.

What it's like to date someone with relationship OCD? ›

Relationship OCD, also known as Relationship Substantiation or ROCD, is a subset of OCD in which sufferers are consumed with doubts about their relationship. They question their love for their partner, their attraction to their partner, their compatibility with their partner, and their partner's love for them.

Is it hard to date with OCD? ›

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.

How can I help my OCD boyfriend? ›

Quick Links
  1. A Partner's Mental Illness Brings Challenges for You as Well.
  2. Educate Yourself on the Disorder as Much as Possible.
  3. Accept Your Partner's OCD Diagnosis with Compassion.
  4. Carefully Monitor Your Own Well-Being.
  5. Seek out Support and Maintain a Healthy Self-Care Routine.
11 Nov 2016

What does OCD look like in a relationship? ›

If you have relationship OCD you may obsess over those urges even if you don't want to act on them. You might doubt your own commitment to your partner if you experience these urges at all. Comparing a partner or relationship to others. You may often compare your partner's qualities to those of another person.

Do people with OCD struggle with intimacy? ›

Fears about contamination, germs, and cleanliness are very common with OCD, which may lead to problems with physical closeness, being touched and overall affection. That said, those with OCD are prone to intimacy issues.

Do people with OCD have trust issues? ›

People with higher obsessive-compulsive symptoms may place less trust in their past experience, leading to increased uncertainty, indecisiveness, and exploratory behaviors, according to new research.

What triggers relationship OCD? ›

If you have ROCD, situations that may trigger intrusive thoughts about your relationship include: stressful events or transitions. being sexually intimate with your partner. being with or without your partner in social situations.

What do you say to someone who is in a relationship with OCD? ›

Be honest and communicate. Open communication, that's honest and based on a foundation of trust, is important in any relationship. It's downright essential in a relationship that's dealing with OCD. It's important for your partner to understand what you're thinking and feeling.

How do you reassure someone with OCD? ›

Here are some things you could try:
  1. Agree on an approach that feels right for you both. ...
  2. Encourage them to challenge compulsions where appropriate. ...
  3. Offer a hug or other emotional support instead of helping with a compulsion.
  4. Seek advice.

How do you not enable someone with OCD? ›

In my opinion, the best way to help and not enable is to learn everything we can about the disorder and the proper way to respond to it. We also need to remember that it's okay to feel angry, annoyed, frustrated, and overwhelmed, as long as these feelings are directed toward the OCD and not the person we care about.

Is OCD curable? ›

OCD doesn't go away on its own, and it has no cure. You can't ignore it or think your way out of the repetitive thoughts and behaviors that control your life. What you can control is your decision to get treatment.

Do people with OCD get married? ›

The decision to get married is one of life's major transitions and often OCD will manifest itself around needing certainty about the relationship. Regarding the decision to get married, OCD demands that there be no doubt in a person's mind whether he/she has chosen the right person to marry.

How can I help my wife with OCD? ›

Living With Someone Who Has OCD. Guidelines for Family Members
  1. (From Learning to Live with OCD) ...
  2. Recognize Signals. ...
  3. Modify Expectations. ...
  4. Remember That People Get Better at Different Rates. ...
  5. Avoid Day-To-Day Comparisons. ...
  6. Recognize “Small” Improvements. ...
  7. Create a Supportive Environment.

What should you not say to someone with OCD? ›

What Not to Say to Someone With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • "Don't worry, I'm kind of OCD sometimes, too."
  • "You don't look like you have OCD."
  • "Want to come over and clean my house?"
  • "You're being irrational."
  • "Why can't you just stop?"
  • "It's all in your head."
  • "It's just a quirk/tic. It isn't serious."
  • "Just relax."
21 May 2015

Can OCD cause jealousy? ›

Retroactive Jealousy & OCD

Relationships can be the focus of a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The anxiety they are experiencing can manifest as jealousy retroactive or current.

What are the 4 types of OCD? ›

OCD can manifest in four main ways: contamination/washing, doubt/checking, ordering/arranging, and unacceptable/taboo thoughts. Obsessions and compulsions that revolve about contamination and germs are the most common type of OCD, but OCD can cover a wide range of topics.

What can cause OCD to get worse? ›

The types of obsessions and compulsions you experience can also change over time. Symptoms generally worsen when you experience greater stress. OCD , usually considered a lifelong disorder, can have mild to moderate symptoms or be so severe and time-consuming that it becomes disabling.

Can a breakup trigger OCD? ›

Your OCD symptoms may be triggered by situations that feel out of your control, and breakups can easily throw your life into a tailspin. On top of dealing with the hurt that comes with ending a relationship, you may also be dealing with serious anxiety about what your future holds.

What is false memory OCD? ›

False Memory OCD refers to a cluster of OCD presentations wherein the sufferer becomes concerned about a thought that appears to relate to a past event. The event can be something that actually happened (but over which there is some confusion) or it can be something completely fabricated by the mind.

What is cheating OCD? ›

According to Psychotherapist and Counselling Directory member Beverley Blackman: "Cheating OCD is the belief or concern that you may cheat (or have already cheated) on your partner. There are many levels of this and they come about in many ways."

What does OCD latch onto? ›

Often OCD latches on to what is most important to the sufferer: staying healthy, not hurting others, maintaining relationships and the list goes on. While sufferers struggle with obsessions, compulsions, and certainty in these targeted areas, they often easily live with uncertainty in many other ways.

What are some OCD behaviors? ›

Common types of compulsive behaviour in people with OCD include:
  • cleaning and hand washing.
  • checking – such as checking doors are locked or that the gas is off.
  • counting.
  • ordering and arranging.
  • hoarding.
  • asking for reassurance.
  • repeating words in their head.
  • thinking "neutralising" thoughts to counter the obsessive thoughts.

How does OCD affect communication? ›

Researchers know that OCD is triggered by communication problems between the brain's deeper structures and the front part of the brain. These parts of the brain primarily use serotonin to communicate. This is why increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain can help to alleviate OCD symptoms.

Can OCD cause promiscuity? ›

Additionally, hypersexuality is usually classified as an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and can be a symptom of OCD, as well as being a symptom of drug abuse, bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder.

Can a relationship survive ROCD? ›

Living and being in a relationship with ROCD is possible and can be very fulfilling. If you're struggling with ROCD, find a therapist trained in exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy that can help you to live life according to your values and not feel like you're subject to the whims of what OCD wants.

Is OCD genetic? ›

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a serious psychiatric disorder that affects approximately 2% of the populations of children and adults. Family aggregation studies have demonstrated that OCD is familial, and results from twin studies demonstrate that the familiality is due in part to genetic factors.

Is OCD jealousy retroactive? ›

Retroactive jealousy OCD is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that involves becoming overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts of a partner's past relationships, both romantic and sexual. It goes much further than just a fleeting pang of jealousy.

Is OCD an anxiety disorder? ›

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD, is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

How does OCD affect the brain? ›

Brain structure and function

Studies show that OCD patients have excess activity in frontal regions of the brain, including the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which could explain their intrusive thoughts and high levels of anxiety, respectively.

How do you break the OCD cycle? ›

For people with an anxiety disorder, however, breaking the cycle of obsessive thinking can be especially difficult.
...
Distract yourself: Try distracting yourself by breaking the thought cycle:
  1. Read a book.
  2. Call a friend or family member.
  3. Draw a picture.
  4. Talk a walk around your neighborhood.
  5. Do household chores.
13 Jul 2021

Does OCD run in families? ›

Researchers have laid to rest the myth that another mental disorder stems from “bad parenting.” A new study from Johns Hopkins has shown that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, tends to run in families and has a strong genetic basis.

Is Googling a form of OCD? ›

It's only natural to start by searching on the internet when you have no idea what's happening, and it's tempting to keep going back whenever your anxiety really flares up (this is why OCD specialists tend to view Googling as a compulsion).

What is it like living with someone with OCD? ›

It can be difficult, demanding and exhausting to live with a person who has OCD. Family members and friends may become deeply involved in the person's rituals and may have to assume responsibility and care for many daily activities that the person with OCD is unable to undertake.

What does severe OCD look like? ›

Signs include: excessive hand washing, even if your skin is already raw. arranging objects in a precise way, even when it's not necessary or you should be doing something else. repeatedly checking doors, the stove, or other things to make sure they're off, even if it means you can't leave the house.

Who is a famous person with OCD? ›

A longtime entertainer, host, and comedian, Howie Mandel is one of the most famous people with OCD and he has been incredibly open over the years about his struggle with the disorder.

Can OCD lead to schizophrenia? ›

OCD is a common comorbid condition in those with schizophrenia and BD. There is some evidence that a diagnosis of OCD may be associated with a higher risk for later development of both schizophrenia and BD, but the nature of the relationship with these disorders is still unclear.

What happens if OCD is left untreated? ›

OCD can severely impact a person's life in multifaceted ways. Left untreated, OCD can lead to other severe mental health conditions, such as anxiety and panic attacks, and depression. Untreated mental health conditions are also a significant source of drug and alcohol addiction.

What are 3 ways to treat OCD? ›

Treatments for OCD
  1. Exposure Therapy. The psychotherapy of choice for the treatment of OCD is exposure and response prevention (ERP), which is a form of CBT. ...
  2. Imaginal Exposure. ...
  3. Habit Reversal Training. ...
  4. Cognitive Therapy.
21 Sept 2016

Can I marry a man with OCD? ›

Being married to someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be hard. In some instances, the partner of the person with OCD simply denies that the disorder exists, but in most cases, spouses report that their loved one's OCD greatly affects them.

What are the 2 types of OCD? ›

Are There Types of OCD?
  • Obsessions. These symptoms involve unwanted thoughts or ideas that disrupt your life and make it hard for you to focus on other things.
  • Compulsions. These symptoms involve things you feel you have to do in a specific way in response to the obsessions.
5 Sept 2019

What it's like to be married to someone with OCD? ›

The studies describe increased marital distress, less satisfaction with their partner and couples experiencing less intimacy. The communication style of people suffering from OCD often shows a tendency to control others extensively, which is probably related to their exaggerated need for safety.

How do I deal with my OCD husband? ›

How to Cope with a Spouse with OCD
  1. Accept Your Partner's Diagnosis with Compassion. Your spouse's upsetting and sometimes erratic behaviors and thoughts can begin to weigh heavily on you, potentially causing resentment in your relationship. ...
  2. Avoid Accommodation. ...
  3. Challenge False Perceptions. ...
  4. Maintain Your Own Self-Care.

How do you date someone with severe anxiety? ›

The following are 17 tips for dating someone with anxiety:
  1. Become Knowledgeable About Anxiety. ...
  2. Know What Triggers Your Partner's Anxiety. ...
  3. Be An Active Listener. ...
  4. Consider Couples Therapy. ...
  5. Practice Self-Care, Too. ...
  6. Prepare for a Panic Attack. ...
  7. Validate Them When They're Insecure.
9 Mar 2022

How do you reassure someone with OCD? ›

Here are some things you could try:
  1. Agree on an approach that feels right for you both. ...
  2. Encourage them to challenge compulsions where appropriate. ...
  3. Offer a hug or other emotional support instead of helping with a compulsion.
  4. Seek advice.

What is someone with OCD like? ›

Doubting and having difficulty tolerating uncertainty. Needing things orderly and symmetrical. Aggressive or horrific thoughts about losing control and harming yourself or others. Unwanted thoughts, including aggression, or sexual or religious subjects.

Can severe OCD be treated? ›

Obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment may not result in a cure, but it can help bring symptoms under control so that they don't rule your daily life. Depending on the severity of OCD , some people may need long-term, ongoing or more intensive treatment.

How do you deal with an Overthinker dating? ›

5 Things To Keep In Mind When Dating Someone Who Overthinks Everything
  1. Get Better At Communication.
  2. Reassuring Doesnt Hurt.
  3. Dont Say Anything You Didnt Mean.
  4. Stop Asking Them To Not Overthink.
  5. Actions Speak Louder Than Words.
24 Aug 2021

Is it difficult dating someone with anxiety? ›

Dating someone with an anxiety disorder can be difficult, and you may find yourself having intense reactions to what is going on with your partner. This is normal and understandable. Taking some moments to practice some self-care and empathy for yourself is vital.

What should you not say to someone with OCD? ›

What Not to Say to Someone With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • "Don't worry, I'm kind of OCD sometimes, too."
  • "You don't look like you have OCD."
  • "Want to come over and clean my house?"
  • "You're being irrational."
  • "Why can't you just stop?"
  • "It's all in your head."
  • "It's just a quirk/tic. It isn't serious."
  • "Just relax."
21 May 2015

What causes OCD to flare up? ›

They can be triggered by a personal crisis, abuse, or something negative that affects you a lot, like the death of a loved one. It's more likely if people in your family have OCD or another mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety. OCD symptoms include obsessions, compulsions, or both.

What is the root cause of OCD? ›

Experts aren't sure of the exact cause of OCD. Genetics, brain abnormalities, and the environment are thought to play a role. It often starts in the teens or early adulthood. But, it can also start in childhood.

What are the 7 types of OCD? ›

Common Types of OCD
  • Aggressive or sexual thoughts. ...
  • Harm to loved ones. ...
  • Germs and contamination. ...
  • Doubt and incompleteness. ...
  • Sin, religion, and morality. ...
  • Order and symmetry. ...
  • Self-control.

What are the 4 types of OCD? ›

OCD can manifest in four main ways: contamination/washing, doubt/checking, ordering/arranging, and unacceptable/taboo thoughts. Obsessions and compulsions that revolve about contamination and germs are the most common type of OCD, but OCD can cover a wide range of topics.

What are 5 of the main symptoms of OCD? ›

Common types of compulsive behaviour in people with OCD include:
  • cleaning and hand washing.
  • checking – such as checking doors are locked or that the gas is off.
  • counting.
  • ordering and arranging.
  • hoarding.
  • asking for reassurance.
  • repeating words in their head.
  • thinking "neutralising" thoughts to counter the obsessive thoughts.

What does extreme OCD look like? ›

At its most severe, however, OCD can impact someone's ability to work, go to school, run errands, or even care for themselves. People with severe OCD have obsessions with cleanliness and germs — washing their hands, taking showers, or cleaning their homes for hours a day.

What foods help with OCD? ›

Go for: Nuts and seeds, which are packed with healthy nutrients. Protein like eggs, beans, and meat, which fuel you up slowly to keep you in better balance. Complex carbs like fruits, veggies, and whole grains, which help keep your blood sugar levels steady.

What happens if OCD is left untreated? ›

OCD can severely impact a person's life in multifaceted ways. Left untreated, OCD can lead to other severe mental health conditions, such as anxiety and panic attacks, and depression. Untreated mental health conditions are also a significant source of drug and alcohol addiction.

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4. Winston Smith - Help! My Spouse has OCD and I can't stand It!
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