Do you have HOCD or are you just denying that you're gay or bi?

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Probably the most common question asked by those likely to be suffering from homosexual obsessive compulsive disorder (HOCD, also called Sexual Orientation OCD or Gay OCD) is "Am I gay?"

The question is right at the heart of HOCD feelings, since this particular type of OCD focuses on an obsession with gay, lesbian, or bisexual activity and the patient's uncertainty about his or her own sexuality. The question of whether or not you're gay is literally at the center of the OCD you're suffering from.

First, background on HOCD

Gay OCD is not an official, clinical diagnosis, but is gaining acceptance as a subset of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Sufferers are most commonly male and in their mid- to late-teens or early twenties. While it can happen in older men and in women, it usually happens during the time when most young men are coming to grips with their own sexuality.

By the time young men and women are in their late teens, their sexual preference is defined. While this is happening, it coincides with many other "defining moments" in a young person's life and is one of the most confusing periods in our development as humans. Confusion about sexuality is not unusual at this age and those who are already suffering from or prone to deep anxiety and OCD can begin to exhibit HOCD.

It should be noted that HOCD is not exclusive to men, is not exclusive to heterosexuals, and is not just for teenagers. While the most common profile for a patient suffering from HOCD is a teenage male who's orientation is straight, that's only the "average," it's not the "only."

It's not a religious problem

Although religion often plays a role in how an HOCD patient views his or her sexuality, it's not the real problem. Most of the time, religious belief (if any) is only one more facet of the whole. The root cause of HOCD is rarely religious in nature.

So am I really just gay?

This question can't be answered without knowing your unique situation, of course, but in general, the person who's suffering from HOCD is likely to already have a set orientation. If you have been or have experiences from being straight and you fear that you're gay, it's very likely that you're straight and the "gay feeling" is just a symptom of your underlying OCD.

Rarely does the anxiety revolving around "being in the closet" manifest as HOCD. Instead, it more often manifests, if it does so as OCD at all, as another type of obsession unrelated to sexual orientation. Similarly, those who have HOCD are very likely to have few, if any, sexual problems in their history that cause this manifestation.

Most of the "gay" feelings you're having stem from your HOCD and are just exaggerations of feelings that are perfectly normal. It's not unusual for completely straight guys to not have a problem showering in a gym, not enjoying sports, liking art, or otherwise doing culturally "gay" things. Just because society labels men who enjoy these things as "gay" doesn't make them sexually gay.

In fact, even finding other men attractive doesn't necessarily mean you're gay. This is a faulty assumption. As humans, we "categorize" things subconsciously and often bring these labels forward consciously when describing them. Any man would agree that Brad Pitt is "handsome" or "good looking." People we see every day, men and women, fall into these categories. They are "pretty," "nice looking," "hot," etc. Even the straightest of straight men will occasionally have "gay" thoughts about another man. Sexual thoughts run the gamut and we often have little control over them. Just because you thought of another man in a sexual way does not mean you're gay or even bisexual. It means you're normal.

It's important to remember: attraction and sexual thoughts are not the same as desire and deeds. A gay man thinking about women is not suddenly "proving he's straight" and a straight man thinking about men is not "going gay."

In all likelihood, if you're reading this article and wondering about HOCD and whether or not you have it, there's a good chance that you do and you should seek counseling. You'll find, from your first session, that relief and understanding come quickly.

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