Before my diagnosis and, hence, before I’d done a lot of personal research on obsessive compulsive disorder, I thought of OCD as “that disorder where you wash your hands a lot” or “the one where people tap the doorknobs” or “when you’re a really big neat freak.” In some ways, my diagnosis was a surprise to me because I didn’t do any of those things. But on the other hand, just the term obsessive sounded so much like my situation that I was willing to listen.
Maybe a year or so into my original search for medication (I ended up taking a year-long hiatus from the search after Luvox stole all my energy), I suddenly started worrying (or maybe even obsessing) that what I had wasn’t really OCD. I seem to talk to a fair amount of obsessive-compulsives who also reach this point, worrying that maybe someone has plastered a name on them that is incorrect. The interesting thing about this is that the OC usually feels guilty about it– as if they are receiving compassion and medical advice and help from friends and family for nothing, or what they are worried is nothing.
Interestingly, such a huge worry and incredible guilt only point to OCD all the more.
The more I have learned about OCD, the easier it is for me to see it in others. Though I am by no means a doctor, I now believe that OCD is pretty easy to diagnose.
It’s all in the name.
1) Do you have obsessions? Basically, do you have intrusive thoughts that you find ugly or disturbing but that you can’t seem to stop thinking about? Common themes center around questioning your sexual orientation or if you really love your significant other, thoughts about harming yourself or others (even children), blasphemous or sinful thoughts, worries that you or people you love are going to die, sexual obsessions, intense fears about contracting a disease. Ask yourself, do I have intrusive thoughts that cause me serious anxiety?
2) Do you have compulsions? The answer to this question might not come as easily, but what it is really asking is this: when I have those intrusive, anxiety-causing thoughts, what do I do to attempt to relieve that anxiety? Maybe your fears about germs cause you to wash your hands, making you temporarily feel a bit of relief about that possibility. Maybe your fear about harming a child means that you won’t allow yourself to hold your baby girl. Maybe it even means that you avoid driving down the street where a lot of children play. If you have blasphemous thoughts, perhaps you repeatedly ask God for forgiveness or you’ll ask other people if you think that means you are now going to hell. Sometimes compulsions seem a little “magical” too– for example, you relieve the anxiety caused by your intrusive thought by tapping your foot a certain number of times or by avoiding stepping on cracks. Even if it doesn’t logically make sense, it’s still something providing you some temporary relief. Seeking reassurance is a huge compulsion for a lot of different kinds of obsessions: we glimpse relief when friends reassure us, No, you’re not gay. No, you’re not going to get sick. No, you would never hurt a child. No, you’re not going to hell for that.
There is a third question to ask too, although this one may or may not be reached immediately, which is
3) Have your compulsions gotten out of control?
Most obsessive-compulsives reach a stage where the compulsions (that began as an anxiety-reliever) become too much and begin to add to the anxiety: you can’t stop washing your hands, you ask for reassurance so constantly that your friends are annoyed, you are driving a long way out of your way to avoid the street with children, you are tapping doorknobs and counting and repeating phrases in your head to the point that you’re starting to look a little silly.
Like I said, I’m no doctor, but when I talk to someone who wonders if they have OCD, these are the three simple questions I ask. If you can answer yes to the first two, then you have OCD.
So, what next?
1. Get an official diagnosis from someone who went to school for it. 🙂
2. Skip the talk therapy and go right for cognitive-behavioral therapy. This is treatable.
Jackie, EXCELLENT post!! I nodded my head through the whole thing 🙂
Terrific post, and not often mentioned!
I struggle off and on with the “Do I really have OCD?” question. You’re spot on about the guilt that comes with it – I sometimes feel that I’m just a lazy, bad person who’s wasting my family and friends’ time with a cop-out diagnosis I don’t really have. Hmm, guilt plus doubt? The usual suspect. 🙂
I can relate to that! When it all started 5 months ago, i was feeling so much anxiety! It really came to me after a panic attack about a terrible event that happened 6 month before and that became an obsession (the event)! When I found out about hocd, it was kind of a relief, I could finally put a name on all these gay thoughts and feeling that were making me feel so bad, axious, guilty, etc. But now i’m going through these: ”yeah but what if it’s not ocd and you actually is just gay and never knew and now you’re in denial?” I know it makes absolutly no sens that i 5 months you ”become” gay but it feel so real! I started erp therapy 2 months ago and stoped after 3 session because of money issues! But the therapist gave me a sheet with the phrase ”Could I let go of my need to know?” Now I just started again therapy but with Steven philippson Clinic via skype! But I have to say that I’m feeling horrible these days since it’s christmad and that I remember how I always felt so good on that day the years before and how I would think about girls all the time lol
Hang in there, Phil, and merry Christmas. HOCD is so real, and it CAN be put under control. I’m glad you’re doing ERP– that’s the very best treatment!!
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Hey Jackie, excellent post it is what everyone with OCD is willing to read, i just have a question, i have been fighting with this for a year, this always cause me a lot of anxiety but now the anxiety is gone but the thoughts are still there, i have compulsions to stop those intrusive thoughts but now I’m worry about anxiety is gone and intrusive thoughts about sexual orientation are there, will be great if you could answer this to me, thanks!
Hi friend. Are you thinking you might be facing HOCD? In any case, go to http://www.jackieleasommers.com/ocd-help and read the whole thing, ok?
Hi jackie. I was wondering if you could help me! I’m a 16 year old female, and I’m really not sure if I have HOCD. It started two months ago, I woke up one morning and these intrusive thoughts were there, I have no idea why and it really scared me! I thought I was attracted to every girl I saw and then thought about kissing them. I didn’t want to look a girl in the eyes or go meet my friends. I was so disgusted by the thoughts and I thought I was a lesbian! I kept telling my self over and over again “I’m straight, I’m not a lesbian”. I had never questioned my sexuality before, but I once did question why I didn’t find guys as attractive as my friends, but I think personality more counts for me! I have always know I was straight, but I do recall something happening to me like this before. It was a year or so ago, I woke up and this thought was in my head that I was a lesbian, I was so terrified and I didn’t even want to look at girls, but that thankfully passed after a few days or so and I had forgotten all about it until now. I have never had a boyfriend but I’ve liked 4 guys before but now I’m not sure if I did and I’ve always thought about guys and made up scenarios in my Head. Now the intrusive thoughts have kind of gone, but when they are there, I think I like them! Some days I try think about being with a girl and I can imagine myself with one, but I don’t want to be with a girl! They really upset me! I want to be straight and go back to normal! Some days I feel straight, others I think I’m a lesbian, sometimes I think I like the thoughts, other days I’m disgusted by them! Sometimes I actually find myself fantising about being a lesbian and I feel so guilty and upset! I’m jealous of straight girls, and ever since I was young I have always wanted a husband and kids and I’m scared I’m not going to get it! Some days I get really upset and cry a lot! But I wake up every day with this thought in my head just saying I’m a lesbian! I want to go back to normal, I have no disire to be a lesbian, but sometimes I think I want to be! I’m really worried if I do get a boyfriend, I’ll end up being gay, or if I get married I will be in the future! Sometimes I’m worried other times I’m not! I hope it is HOCD, I can’t seem to enjoy anything anymore! Do you think this is HOCD or me just repressing my feelings? I would appreciate any help, I’m so glad I came across your blog, and I’m truly sorry for the long post!
Hi Ronni! You have all the hallmark traits of someone with HOCD. HOCD is really, really difficult, but it’s easily treated with exposure and response prevention therapy. You can even do ERP therapy from your own home, if you don’t want to talk to your parents about seeing a therapist. Go to http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD-help and read the whole page. Then read all the posts about HOCD at http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD. Then track down a book I list at jackieleasommers.com/2014/10/05/self-directed-erp-therapy/ from the library!
Blessings! You can beat this!
Thank you so much for taking time out of your day and replying so fast! I felt very relieved when you replied! You are definitely a big help! I will definitely look at the recommend posts! But I’m still so confused. When this first happened, it seemed obvious that it was HOCD when I researched it and I kept telling myself “I was straight and not a lesbian”. But now I don’t tell myself that as often as I did and I’m scared this means I am a lesbian. I don’t look at as many women as before (when this first started) but I still think I’m attracted to some of them when I look them in the eye (or my brain is making me think I’m attracted to them). I worry quite a bit, but sometimes I don’t! I don’t know if I like the thoughts but I want my normal life back and to be straight. Does this mean I’m just repressing my feelings or that it is HOCD! Again thank you for all your help and sorry for asking more questions!
All of it– ALL OF IT– sounds like HOCD. Seek out ERP!
I cannot thank you enough for all your help and for being so lovely and enlightening and making me feel welcome in your blog. I will work hard to beat this and look at the recommends links! Thank you!
Jackie,I’m suffering from what I think js Hocd. This all started one day when i was watching a movie,they showed two girls kissing. To my suprise this made me feel like I was turned on. Since that day I asked myself the same question,could this mean I am lesbian,I have been through hell. I cant feel anything feeling except for this anxiety. I have been reading umyour articles. I read about ERP,I TRIED exposing myself to naked women bodies and this turned me on,what’s going on am I a kesbian. I have a boyfriend of 5years I don’t want to loose him. The stress is too much my sex drive is so bad, after seeing the pictures I felt like I guess I have been a lesbian all along I just didn’t know it. Please advice me
Hi friend! Sounds like you need professional guidance for ERP– either with a therapist or with a book. Exposure alone isn’t the point. There’s also the Response Prevention. A book or a therapist can walk you through how to do this. If you go to https://jackieleasommers.com/2015/07/05/self-directed-erp-therapy-2/ there is a list of books that can help!
P.S. The anxiety? That’s HOCD. If you were actually a lesbian, this wouldn’t be putting you through hell. 🙂 Carry on! Get professional ERP help!
Thank you. I’m in south Africa I just know if there’s a good ERP therapist. You know this has affected me so much,I recently lost both my brother and Mother but I feel like i don’t feel anything,my mind is occupied the anxiety.ð¡. I just want to be my old self
Is it normal to be turned on by two girls kissing? Cause before all these I was a normal girl,i never imagined myself being with another woman. And i had watched movies where they showed girls kissing before,i was never turned on,i don’t know what happened that day. It just changed my life,I’d find myself checking other girls to see if I’m turned on by them. And i don’t see myself being married to a girl. I love my boyfriend and i just want to have a future with him. The idea of becoming a lesbian freaks me out,i have been stressing for almost 3 years now. This is heavy
I’m not a therapist, so all I can say is that ERP works! I hope you’ll check out one of those books!
Thanks ill check them out
I am so happy to have found your website and articles about HOCD! For the past few months I have been going insane and depressed from feeling like my sexual orientation has suddenly changed. Just like many HOCD sufferers, I have never questioned my sexuality at all up until this point, and admittedly was “boy-crazy”. My HOCD actually stemmed from ROCD, or relationship OCD. When I got into a relationship with a man that I am currently in as of the moment, it was one of the happiest time of my life. But after a year, a few friends have suggested that relationships involving young people don’t last that long, that set me off. While I know that many relationships don’t last long, there was no problems within mine that it would suggest it would end any time soon. Nonetheless I would constantly question whether I still loved him or not and when I showed affection to him, I would mentally check to see if I felt anything. When I did, it would be happy for a while, but then when I felt like I didn’t love him, I had to see him again to see if I still have feelings, even though deep down I know I do, but you can’t reason with OCD. HOCD hit when I remember reading about women who for many years were married to a man, but figured out later in life they were actually lesbian and I feared all of this questioning was really because of my orientation 😦 And like this article says, now I wonder whether I do have OCD. I have tried going to a therapist before, but when I do say that I do not feel attracted to women at all, but continually check myself whether or not I am attracted to a woman I encounter, he questions whether or not I am not am I hiding any information or denying anything. He mentioned “latent homosexuality” which scared me even more. It is true, talk therapy does not help at all! Now that I know about ERP, I’ll now try to look for an OCD specialist. Thank you so much Jackie about your information on this distressing disorder!
Hi Adriana! Oh I’m so glad you found my website! Yes, ERP therapy is the frontline treatment for OCD/HOCD/ROCD! Blessings on you, friend!
Jackie, hi! My name is Ashleigh and I am certain I have HOCD! It all started about a week before Christmas when I started thinking I was a lesbian! But just the weekend before, I went out to a club and was ALL ABOUT MEN! It just didn’t feel right! I got to the point where I was crying, having panic attacks and anxiety! I was throwing up and sweating! I couldn’t take it anymore so I went to my doctor and she prescribed me medication to help with the OCD and anxiety! It helped for a while but then it came back! I’m still struggling with it still now! I just want this to go away so I can back to how I was! I always wanted to marry a man and have children! I’m constantly wondering “Maybe you don’t really have HOCD…..you’re just in denial or having a hard to accepting…” But the funny thing is that I don’t feel like that is the case at all!
Amber, I’m gonna email you!
Your page has helped me a lot. Just wondering, if someone suffers from OCD from something happened in the past that made them obsess but never got it treated, BUT they did stop thinking about it 24/7 without treatment, could that fear still be there and causing them a lot of issues even though they didn’t recognize it? That is sort of my issue! Ha! But then one day something big hit me and it caused the fear again and it’s worse than ever. Thanks so much!!!
I need to add that sometimes the fear has resurfaced but it seems like I don’t get the oh no thought until after the thing that causes me fear has happened??? But I think the OCD is still the cause of whatever because I’m just used to thinking “oh no fear” and I don’t realize it? Not sure if that makes sense at all.
Hi friend! I think what matters is your quality of life. Are you happy? Then enjoy it! If you’re plagued by anxiety though, then it’s time for treating it!
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I have intruaive thoughts often but are controllable and i dont fear on them, worry but i do want to forget about and focus on other things without looking back on those thoughts?
I get intrusive thoughts more than usual now, but no anxiety came out of it, worry, fear and a image in my head has been stuck for a month now, it created stress for a week, i want to be able to focus on other and not looking back on this
Hi friend, are you asking a question here?
And what is your question? It’s not clear.
Can a news story be enough to trigger a sign of ocd
Hi Jackie, i’m wondering if you will see this, but i think i have OCD. When i was in kindergarten i used to be obsessed about my eyesight and i would “test” my eyes like, every five minutes by closing one eye and checking if i could still see the words on the wall. I’m not christian but i would pray all the time hoping that i would never need to wear glasses (i know this is really weird and offensive toward people who wear glasses) but i ended up being short sighted in one eye while the other was fine. Somehow, i managed to link this to the problem i’m having now, because one day i was chatting with my friend and she said she wondered if she was straight or not because we’re just teenagers and she hasn’t really liked anyone. This set me off because i remember thinking the exact same thing when i was like seven, but would also subconsciously test myself by looking at what people claimed to be “hot women”. From then on i just worried a lot every minute of every day and i couldn’t even look at a girl without feeling attracted to her, and its making me think i have a crush on my female friend now even though i don’t think so?? The worst part is that i’m not even sure if i’ve ever liked any of the boys i thought i did because i never got butterflies or anything and every minute i feel like i’m going to have a panic attack.(please help im crumbling inside)
Anyway i’m sorry if i’m being a bother to you for writing in, jackie. i just needed to let go a little.
Hi Kate, sounds like you have some of the hallmark traits and themes of OCD. I would contijnue to research OCD and exposure therapy but in a measured way. Maybe thirty minutes a day only or it can become a compulsion. If you need help talking to a parent about this, I have a letter that explains it. Let me grab the link.