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Do I have HOCD?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From a teen in the U.S. :So, recently, I’ve been having doubts about my sexuality. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t tell if I’m just obsessing over it or if I’m in denial. I’m 19 years old, and I have a beautiful girlfriend who I love very much. The thoughts started about a month ago, and it hasn’t gotten any better. It’s like my mind just keeps repeating the words “am I gay?” Over and over. The thing is, I know deep down that I’m straight, but my mind just keeps making me think I’m not.

HOCD stands for Homosexual Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is not an official DSM diagnosis. It is simply a label used to describe when someone has repeated unwanted, intrusive questions about whether or not he or she is gay. Like you, people with HOCD know deep down they are heterosexual but they are haunted by the question. That’s the “obsessional” part. As with other forms of OCD, they spend a lot of time analyzing their sexuality and worrying about it.

Compulsions are ways that people try to handle the obsessions. Covert compulsions are things that other people can’t see or know. Some people with HOCD constantly think about things that happened while growing up that point to being gay. They might examine every encounter they’ve ever had with the other sex or engage with fantasies about sexual encounters with the same sex to reassure themselves of how they feel sexually.

Overt compulsions are what other people might see — like googling symptoms, or watching porn to check out their reactions, or going to a gay bar to see if they are attracted to anyone there.

Untreated, HOCD can become so intense that it starts to interfere with social, emotional, and even occupational (school) functioning.

Exploring one’s sexuality is a normal part of the teen years. These days, I think it can be challenging for teens to comfortably settle into a sexual orientation. Sexual fluidity and acceptance of a wide variety of behaviors for sexual expression have become part of the social conversation. More choices for sexual identity offers more room for real choice. However, more options can also lead to more confusion during what is already a confusing life stage.

HOCD is a thought disorder. It is thoughts and worries that are troubling to you, not who you are attracted to. Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) is often helpful. CBT is a type of talk therapy that usually short term and practical. The goal is to change patterns of thinking that is making it difficult for a person to solve problems or maintain relationships. In sessions you will learn how to stop negative thoughts and how to reshape your thinking.

I encourage you to look for a CBT therapist and make an appointment now. You deserve to have peace of mind about your sexuality and to enjoy the love of your beautiful girlfriend.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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