When Sexual Identity Becomes A Symptom of OCD


Symptoms of OCD such as intrusive, obsessive thoughts are a source of suffering and diminished functioning that erode an individual’s enjoyment of life.

When those thoughts are doubts about sexual identity, they also disturb that person’s sense of self and may trigger intense feelings of shame.

Heterosexuals with OCD may have persistent, unwanted thoughts that they are homosexual, even if they have never experienced being aroused by a person of the same gender. They persistently worry, however, that they will be attracted to their own sex.

Having these obsessive thoughts concerning sexual attraction is called homosexual OCD, or HOCD. This is not an official diagnosis listed in the Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual but has become an informal way for people to distinguish OCD that is characterized by sexual identity issues.

Thought Variations

Not all people with OCD and sexual orientation issues are heterosexual. Some homosexuals obsess that they may actually be straight. Plus, there are variations of this problem that can occur with straight or gay individuals. For instance, some sufferers worry that they have already acted on their suspicions or feel certain that they will.

There are individuals who fear they will never know their true sexual orientation, and that is the point their intrusive thoughts turn on. Anxieties are intensified for those who think others are always watching them and talking about their behavior.

Related Compulsive Behaviors

People having obsessive thoughts about sexual orientation may show their anxiety in compulsive behaviors or activities, such as:

  1. Having intercourse or masturbating repeatedly in order to gauge their own response to it.
  2. Repeatedly analyzing or rethinking past experiences with men or women to determine if the other person acted straight or gay.
  3. Compulsively searching out and reading material on the Internet about how a person can be certain of his or her sexual orientation.
  4. Continuously looking for reassurance from others about their sexuality.
  5. Frequently looking at at attractive individuals, reading sexually explicit material, or imagining intimate relations to determine what arouses them.
  6. Constantly watching their own behaviors, dress, and mannerisms to determine their orientation.
  7. Compulsively observing others to determine if people are watching them, giving them peculiar looks, or talking about their behavior.
  8. Frequently reading about individuals who have “come-out” to see if they can relate to the other person’s experience.

Intrusive Thoughts Are the Problem

Many individuals question their sexual orientation at some point during their lifetime, especially during adolescence and young adulthood. However, if sexuality is a nagging, anxiety-provoking question that you cannot let go of even though you have a history of attraction to males or females, you may be experiencing symptoms of OCD.

If you have OCD, the problem necessary to address is having relentless, intrusive, repetitive thoughts. For some with OCD these thoughts revolve around germs, for others the focus is sexual orientation. You are not alone, and there is professional help available.

Source: International OCD Foundation

Image: "Confusion" by Adi Ron (2005)

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