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Repressed Lesbian? HOCD? Who knows...

Hi there.

Alright, I'm not going to go into specifics since this is probably going to mirror just about everyone elses' story on here.

But the sparknotes version: had obsessive tendencies all my life, was a tomboy all through childhood, first boy crush was 'Joe' from Wishbone (wrote it in a diary when I was 4!), always fantasized about men, had an obsessive fear about being a lesbian in 7th grade, didn't know what it was but it eventually went away, had gigantic crushes on all male teachers throughout childhood, had occasional random gay thoughts but they never bothered me, always into guys, had several relationships, one very long-term serious one with a man, fantasized about men, always slightly uncomfortable with physical closeness to females. The works.

This obsession started about two months ago, and I have had absolutely no success in shaking it. Every time I went online for reassurance, it gave my brain one more angle to take on the thoughts the following day. It is a 24/7 question. Everything I see lends itself to my sexuality debate.

I feel like this H-OCD accelerated exponentially fast in my opinion, which is why I'm concerned it's more than a disorder. But, I've heard that is the very nature of OCD.Some people have this for years. What if my being struck with it so quickly is actually evidence of a sexuality crisis and not OCD?

It's to the point where I'm accepting the thoughts, which I've heard is an important step in recovering. I don't get anxiety as much anymore, only when I think about having to actually act on these thoughts, desires or 'come out' to people. I just don't have any idea what I am anymore. My attraction to men is absolutely gone- every time I look at an attractive guy, my mind says 'You'd never be happy because you know you want to be with a woman.' Or 'You'd never be able to truly focus on him, you'd always be questioning...'. The thoughts of being with a woman don't even freak me out anymore. I can't tell if I actually desire them or my brain is just becoming used to them. I miss being so close with my girlfriends and not having to question every action I took, I miss everything about my old confident self. I'm to the point where I feel like no matter what I do from here, I will be living a lie. If I pursue men from here, it will be repression. If I pursue women, it will go against everything I've ever known about myself. Could I be happy and gay? I suppose! Do I want to be? No!

I am absolutely at my wit's end with this disorder. I feel distant from my family, who is incredibly important to me. From friends, from everything. My moments of peace are few and far between.

I started seeing a grad student therapist, and he believes I have OCD. But every time I leave our session, I fear that I haven't been completely honest with him or myself, and am actually hiding my true lesbian self.

I hate looking in the mirror and not recognizing the face I see.

Someone, please help me. Give me some step to take, some CBT to do, I'll do anything to rid myself of this monster.

Hi GreatWhite, Everything

Hi GreatWhite,

Everything you've described sounds like HOCD - including the "sudden" onset. Your brain is playing all sorts of tricks on you, and as is typical of HOCD, you question everything. The anxiety is the most likely cause for your diminished attraction to men.

I am glad you are seeing a therapist; however, I caution you to find someone who has a lot more experience than a grad student, because OCD is a very challenging disorder to treat and many (if not most) therapists - even those who are very skilled at treating other disorders - do not have the skills to treat this disorder - or they try to treat it using an ineffective approach.

Unfortunately, I am not able to "give you some CBT to do" - learning to manage this disorder and reduce the symptoms (and, best case scenario, overcome it) is going to take time and work on your part - preferably with an experienced therapist who uses CBT.

There are therapists listed on this site who claim to specialize in treating OCD - I know nothing about their experience, approach, or credentials - but working with one of them may be an option if you are unable to find someone locally who is qualified.

There are a couple books that might be helpful as well, although working directly with a therapist is much better. A entitled "Brain Lock: Free Yourself From Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior" is one that might be worth looking at (I have not read this book but heard about it recently, so I don't know what the author's approach is, but some praise it

One book - "The New Mood Therapy" by Dr. David Burns - is a good self-help book that utilizes CBT - however, it is not geared specifically to OCD and may be lacking there. It is, however, excellent for other types of anxiety and for depression. There are other books available as well that you might consider.

Your statements, "Every time I went online for reassurance, it gave my brain one more angle to take on the thoughts the following day. It is a 24/7 question. Everything I see lends itself to my sexuality debate." are classic for someone with HOCD - and that is why working with a very skilled therapist is best.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best!

Dr. Lane

Hi Dr. Lane, Thank you so

Hi Dr. Lane,

Thank you so much for your reply, I really appreciate it.

After writing to you, I finally took a big step and reached out to my parents and asked for help. We are currently in the process of finding a therapist in the Philadelphia area that specializes in OCD treatment. I am hoping to find someone at University of Pennsylvania, as I have heard great things about their treatment programs.

I do have one question for you- in your experience, how do patients best deal with 'the backdoor spike'? For example, after some self-exposure therapy, the thoughts don't give me much anxiety anymore. But they are still present constantly. Of course, with an OCD mind, that leads me to ask 'Oh my gosh, am I actually accepting it?!' How do patients best deal with this? Is this a step on the road to recovery?

I apologize for bothering you again, but I don't know when I'll be able to finally get in with a new OCD-trained therapist, so I was curious as to your methods of dealing with the obsessive thinking aspect of HOCD. It seems to be in two big parts; the anxiety, and the thoughts. I've pretty much killed the anxiety, but the thoughts are still as persistent as ever. Any advice?

Thank you kindly,

~ Allison

Hi Allison, I wish I could

Hi Allison,

I wish I could give you a quick and easy answer for dealing with the "backdoor spike". It's very typical for people who suffer from OCD. For now, the hardest thing (but best thing) you can do (and it may seem impossible) is to somehow accept the uncertainty you are feeling (that is manifesting in in your thoughts).

With OCD, your mind is essentially constantly playing tricks on you. The more questions you get answered, the more you have - it becomes a vicious cycle. Just because the anxiety has relented, the obsessive thoughts don't necessarily go away. Dealing with those is part of the treatment process - and far beyond the scope of what I can provide here, unfortunately.

Hopefully it will help (at least a little) to know that they are a normal part of OCD, rather than an indicator that, "now that I'm not anxious, I must be gay after all or I must be accepting that I am". Does that make sense?

In a grossly over-simplified nutshell, the less you fight the thoughts, the less persistent they will be - over time. The catch22 with all anxiety disorders is that the natural inclination is to fight and resist the anxiety provoking thoughts - which is just like shadow boxing - you'll never win because you're shadow will keep going just as long as you do.

I hope that helps a little. And please don't feel that you were bothering me - you're always free to ask questions here.

Dr. Lane

Hi Dr. Lane, I just wanted to

Hi Dr. Lane,

I just wanted to come back here and thank you so much for your advice. I have made huge strides in the month since I've written to you on here, and am continuing to move forward with each day!

I guess I just wanted to get your take on some things, and see if this is another phase of the recovery process.

One of the greatest things that has helped me get through this is beginning the process of acceptance. At first, I tried to accept that I am gay. Which really didn't go so well, haha. But I began to understand that'acceptance', in this context, is more in relation to accepting the presence of thoughts, and understanding that they don't have to be consistent with my inner reality if I don't want them to be.

Another thing that was incredibly helpful for me was talking to my roommates about my problem, and finding out that many straight women have curiosities, and on occasion, even fantasies about other women. Hence, I realized that any pleasure or arousal that I derived from such thoughts need not be feared and is a completely normal, and often embraced part of being a sexually confident woman.

I suppose my greatest hurdle is that my attraction for men has not returned as full-force as it once was. It's like every time I am attracted to a guy, my mind says 'You're in denial, you're just trying to run away from true feelings, you'll never be as happy, etc.' Which of course, kills any arousal before it even started. Yet I know that, somewhere in there, my passion for men has to be there. Like whenever I'm near my very handsome math professor, no matter how much my mind screams at me, I can't resist smiling and wanting to be around him. When he asked me to be his TA next semester, I was thrilled! Yet still the thoughts persisted.

Have you seen this manifested in people with HOCD? Has their natural attraction returned?

I have one more question for you. My obsessive tendencies began magnifying themselves at the start of this year, and I've had particularly bad experiences with Relationship substantiation OCD (which unfortunately ended an otherwise fantastic relationship with a wonderful guy) some other short-lived obsessions, and now this. My first obsession began about three weeks after switching to a stronger dosage birth control pill, and has been jumping around to different themes ever since. Can birth control have any effect on the severity of OCD?

Thank you again for your willingness to help, I look forward to hearing back from you.

Hi Allison, Great to hear

Hi Allison,

Great to hear that you are doing so much better! As for your two questions:

It sounds like your anxiety is still impacting your attraction to men. This isn't uncommon - anxiety can definitely suppress arousal. That being said, "arousal" and "attraction" aren't really the same thing. I do think your natural attraction to men will gradually return as the obsessive thoughts about being in denial become less frequent and intense.

As for birth control affecting the severity of your OCD - that could be. Birth control impacts specific hormones, and hormones are believed to play a role in OCD, so there may be a connection. You may want to talk to your gynecologist regarding this (a consult with a psychiatrist would be a good idea as well, if possible). I don't know if going off your birth control pill for a period of time is an option for you, but if so, then you could see what happens to your OCD symptoms (e.g. do they decrease or not).

Keep up the great work and again, so glad to hear how well you are doing!

Dr. Lane


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