Are You Really OCD?

Written by Dr. Andrea Potthoff, Ph.D., L.P.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is one of the most misused labels for psychological symptoms. Most of us have heard someone (or even ourselves) refer to their behavior as “OCD” when talking about things like excessive cleaning, a preference for symmetry, or a quirky desire for order. These behaviors may in fact be part of OCD, but on their own they do not constitute a diagnosis. And unfortunately, misusing this diagnostic label contributes to the misinformation about OCD and undermines the experience of those truly struggling with OCD. Knowing more about the diagnosis can help illuminate whether your symptoms are actually OCD.
A diagnosis of OCD includes the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions, some of which may look like excessive cleaning and organizing, while others may not. An obsession is a thought that pops up repeatedly, is distressing, and feels as if you are not in control of it. Some examples are, “I will get sick if I don’t wash my hands,” “I cannot be sure that the door is locked,” and “Maybe I hit someone with my car as I drove to work today.” Although it is not often talked about, some people experience obsessions as intrusive images they see in their mind’s eye. These are often gruesome, violent, sexual, or inappropriate in nature.
A compulsion is then a behavior or mental ritual that you use to temporarily relieve the obsession. For the examples above, this might mean washing your hands repeatedly, going back to check that the door is locked several times, or getting back in your car and retracing your drive to work to make sure no one was injured. Some people, especially adults, begin to use mental compulsions that are not overtly noticeable. This may include things like saying a certain word in your head or repeating things a certain number of times to yourself. The problem with compulsions is that they help in the moment, but tend to increase the power of the obsession or anxiety in the future.
There are several effective treatments for OCD. Certain medications are used to treatment OCD and a specific therapy, known as Exposure and Response Prevention (EXP or EX-RP), has also demonstrated a high degree of effectiveness in treating OCD.
Misusing the term “OCD” creates several problems. First, we undermine the experience of those people actually struggling with OCD. Second, we contribute to the misinformation about the disorder which may cause a delay in diagnosis and treatment. When you are tempted to misuse the term “OCD,” consider other ways to describe your behavior. That might sound something like, “my preference for things to be just so,” “it bothers me when things are messy or disorganized,” or “I can be kind of rigid.” The people in your life with OCD will certainly appreciate this change.
If you would like more information on this topic or to speak to a psychologist about OCD, please call us at 612-470-4099 or email us at

How Cheating Changes A Relationship

Infidelity is common in romantic relationships, with researchers estimating the infidelity occurs in at least a quarter of all marriages. Despite its prevalence, 90% of people categorize it as an immoral act and more than half of people view it as unforgivable. Not surprisingly, infidelity is also associated with an increased rate of divorce. Infidelity is associated with a number of other negative outcomes, including family disruption, conflict, violence, and psychological distress.
Types of Infidelity
As psychologists, we usually distinguish between two types of infidelity: emotional and physical. They can occur at the same time or separately. Women are often more distressed by a partner’s emotional infidelity, whereas men are usually more upset by a partner’s physical infidelity. The definition of infidelity can vary greatly between couples and sometimes even partners are not on the same page in regards to what constitutes cheating. Making sure these boundaries are clear is an important part of navigating a romantic relationship.
Infidelity may also include varying degrees of secrecy. This can have a large impact on how infidelity changes a relationship. For some couples, this is more troublesome than the actual act of infidelity itself.
Effects of Infidelity on Children
Children should be protected from knowledge of parental infidelity in almost all cases. However, this is not always possible and research shows that many children who have been exposed to parental infidelity show trauma and grief-like symptoms. Family or individual therapy may be needed in cases in which children are impacted by parental infidelity. Similarly, as adults, these children show changes in their attitudes toward love and relationships and this may need to be addressed.
Infidelity is a breach of trust in the relationship. In order to move forward, trust has to be rebuilt. This takes time and an openness from each partner. Fortunately, infidelity can be overcome and relationships do survive it. The nature, duration, and intensity of the infidelity is also relevant in treatment planning.
Treatment for infidelity often involves three phrases. The first priority is to repair the relationship after infidelity. Next, treatment focuses on understanding how the events surrounding the infidelity came about. And the final phase includes looking at ways to prevent future relationship problems. This may mean increasing emotional and/or physical intimacy between partners, addressing sexual concerns, or teaching each partner how to prioritize the relationship. A treatment plan that is customized to your individual relationship is important for helping your relationship move forward from infidelity.
In some situations, couples may decide to terminate the relationship due to infidelity. One partner may want to continue in an extramarital relationship or they may conclude they would both be happier ending the relationship. Couples therapy can help couples make this decision and better negotiate the ending of the relationship.
If you would like more information on how infidelity affects relationships or are interested in speaking to a psychologist about scheduling an appointment, please call us at 612-470-4099 or email us at

For Richer or Poorer? Four Ways to Manage Money in Your Relationship

With arguments about finances being one of the strongest predictors of divorce, how are you and your partner when it comes to talking about money?
Money and finances are considered one of the most private subjects in today’s culture. You rarely, if ever, ask other people are how they manage their money and it can be seen as rude to comment on someone else’s spending. However, when you’re sharing a bank account with someone, not talking about money may be costing you big time. Research suggests that the more couples talk about money, the fewer financial arguments they tend to have. But talking about money with your partner can lead to a lot of difficult questions. Are you spending more than me? I make more, so I can spend more, right? You bought that?!
Very few of us realize that there are different approaches to managing money with your partner. What works for one partner may not work for another and each couple can tailor the following plans to fit their needs and budget. Here a four of the most common ways couples manage their finances together:
1. Head in the Sand – No Plan Approach
This approach tends to be surprisingly common despite its drastic disadvantages. Many couples avoid talking about money altogether and have no explicit agreement about spending or financial goals. This tends to be a more popular strategy at the beginning of a committed relationship, but often catches up with couples in the end. Debt, lack of retirement savings, and hidden credit cards are just a few of the problems that can arise when couples refuse to discuss their finances. In fact, avoiding early discussions about money can easily lead to full-blown arguments later, weakening both the trust in your relationship and your investment portfolio. For these reasons and more, this plan, or lack thereof, is not recommended.
2. Finders keepers – Separate and Not Necessarily Equal
A large amount of couples find that they want to be in control of their finances, but manage money in a completely different way from their partners. These couples may decided to retain separate bank accounts in which their incomes are directly deposited. The advantage of this approach is that each partner can maintain their pre-relationship spending habits and make decisions about their money without having to compromise. However, this approach gets awfully complicated when partners are making drastically different amounts of money. Similarly, kids, mortgages, and retirement can be difficult to navigate when using separate accounts. Do you pay a percentage of the utility bill based on your income or do you and your partner split it 50/50? This is just one of the questions couples who use this approach have to answer. It can certainly work for many couples, but definitely will not work for single-earner households.
3. Better Together – Combine Everything
This strategy for managing money is more traditional and tends to be what most couples expect will happen once they get married. But for couples who may never tie the knot, it can be tricky to decide when to combine incomes. In this approach, each partner’s paycheck is deposited into a single account and living expenses are paid via this account. Personal spending also comes out of this account and this is where conflict is most likely to arise. Does each partner have a set allowance? How much can you spend without needing to consult your partner first? Are you okay if your partner is more of a spender and you are more of a saver? If partners can get on the same page regarding these questions, this approach has a lot of advantages – mainly partners may perceive a greater commitment to one another and can work more easily toward shared financial goals.
4. Yours, Mine, and Ours – Combined with Separation for Personal Spending
I find that this plan tends to offer the most freedom compared to the other three. In this approach, couples’ paychecks are still deposited into a single account from which combined expenses (mortgage, bills, insurance, etc.) are paid, but then a chuck of money is taken out and divided into two separate accounts, one for each parter. This money can then be used for personal spending (e.g., shopping, independent travel, dining out without your partner). In some ways this is the equivalent to having separate allowances, but gives the option for one partner to save for large purchases and the other partner to frequent Starbucks guilt-free. It reduces the need to explain purchases to your partner or hide the credit card bill each month. This plan does require trust that your partner is spending within the allotted amount. In addition, each partner’s spending account doesn’t have to be equal. If one partner is earning more and working much longer hours, it’s not unreasonable that they could have a higher percentage to spend- given, of course, that their partner agrees with this division.
Overall, money is a sticky subject that couples can’t afford to avoid. For the sake of your partnership and bank accounts, consider with your partner what plan might work best for the both of you. Plus, choosing a plan doesn’t mean you can’t change your approach in the future as life together, and your financial picture, changes. And if the negotiations with your partner are getting you nowhere, consider meeting with a couples therapist who can help facilitate a plan.