I am a 21-year-old female who is just moving out. At the end of last summer, I suffered from a UTI. With only female coworkers and insecurity about having a relationship, I jumped to the conclusion that the feeling was due to attraction to my coworkers. I was eventually treated for the UTI, and the constant pressure went away, however, the paranoia of being gay remained. This is not the first time my anxiety had fixated on a specific topic like this.
I have only been attracted to males in the past, and within the past year that hasn’t changed. I still only feel attracted to males. I typically am very envious of people in relationships, however, the past year I have felt uncharacteristically apathetic towards relationships. I am constantly bombarded with “What if”thoughts about being gay, to which I feel as if I need to disprove.
To disprove these thoughts I spend my time going back and analyzing my past, as well as my current actions and mannerisms. If I find anything that could be seen as remotely ‘gay’, I am typically sent into a panic and have to resort to looking at pictures of old crushes online, as well as taking (truthfully fake) “Are You Gay” quizzes. Along with this, I have sexual intrusive thoughts about everyone (including friends and family). I know I’m not attracted to these people, and these thoughts make me want to isolate myself, for the fear that I am a bad person for having them.
Recently my google search history has led to an increased amount of LGBT content being advertised to me on Instagram and Snapchat due to web tracking. As a result, I have deleted my social media because I feel so panicked whenever I see anything of the sort. I can no longer watch shows I once enjoyed. I know my actions seem absurd. I just feel so defeated. Being gay would ruin nearly all of the life plans I have laid out for myself, I have looked forward to having a boyfriend for as long as I can remember. I feel like I am at an age where I should be looking at finding a husband and settling down, but I feel like this is preventing me from doing so.
I just don’t feel like myself anymore and I don’t know what to do. (From the USA)
Thank you for having the courage to speak about this identity and anxiety concern. There is a history in psychology of classification of this type of anxiety. It is no longer part of the diagnostic and statistical manual (the diagnostic reference tool for clinicians published by the American Psychiatric Association), but had once been referred to as a homosexual panic, or as Kempf’s disease. It also had some impact on the legal profession which is also no longer used.
I only mention the history for a reference point that people have struggled with the anxiety over their sexual identity for a long time. Your focus on the internal struggle is where I would put your effort. Thinking you are a bad person for having these thoughts, or being unable to manage sexually intrusive thoughts, is where the anxiety can best be managed. For this, I would recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Here is some information put out by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. Therapists who work in this modality are able to help you with strategies for challenging these intrusive thoughts.
Wishing you patience and peace,