A Big Ol’ HOCD Post

I’ve posted several times on this blog about HOCD (homosexual OCD– when OCD causes someone to question his or her sexual identity), and the statistics don’t lie: it is one of the biggest reasons that people end up on my blog.

HOCD stats

Anecdotally, most of the emails I receive from my fellow OCD sufferers are from those who are battling HOCD.  I had an inkling that HOCD was far more common than most people would imagine, but ever since I started talking openly about it on my blog, I’m more convinced than ever.

Many of the people I talk with have a very similar story: they have never questioned their sexual orientation before X happened, now it is all they can think about, they are constantly “testing” themselves to see if their sexual attraction has now changed.  Many already have a history of OCD, though perhaps it’s never broached their sexuality before now.  Some– though never having had this problem before– cannot seem to generate any attraction to the gender they have always been drawn to, while they are suddenly feeling attraction (and even bodily responses) to the gender they have never entertained liking before.  They are scared, confused, exhausted.  Their minds are going wild.  Some are single and feeling grief that their futures “must” now look different than they’d always dreamed.  Some are dating or married and terrified to tell their partner about the fears and obsessing they’ve been experiencing.  Some of them say they would rather die or be alone forever than to be gay (if they are really straight) or straight (if they are really gay).  That’s intense, folks.

(Please note that I am avoiding using specific terms because HOCD affects both straight and gay people.  I’m trying to keep my post very generic so that I don’t write just to the straight crowd.)

But I get it.  Our sexuality and sexual preferences are so core to our identities, and when OCD causes us to question them, it is an intense experience.  It’s torture.  Hellish.  Exhausting.

I’m sorry.

The good news is that you’re not alone.  Not even close.  There are so many others who are struggling with this– and there are sufferers who have come out on the other side.

Here’s the truth:

* You have an illness.  It’s OCD and it will attack whatever is most important to you.
* You need to treat your illness.  The best treatment is exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.
* ERP therapy treats OCD, not just HOCD– this is important because, if you were to somehow get rid of your HOCD obsessions and compulsions, it is incredibly likely that OCD would just move on to a new theme– often a bigger, harder, scarier one.
* For some people with HOCD, the most intense anxiety is caused over not knowing their sexual orientation.  My friends who are gay tell me that their anxiety was not around not knowing, but more around logistics of coming out and how they’d be received. **I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this, gay, straight, bisexual, or HOCD sufferer.***
* Many do anything to avoid ERP because they are scared of what ERP will reveal about themselves.  Bad idea.  OCD is your cancer; don’t put off ERP, your chemo.  ERP is recognized worldwide as the best treatment for OCD.  In other words, I’m not just advocating some hokey, weird techniques.
* Are there other ways to treat HOCD? You can try medication (probably an SSRI) or hope for a miracle.  Your (much) better option is to proactively commit yourself to ERP therapy.
* I highly recommend finding an ERP specialist to guide you through your therapy.  If you meet with a therapist who does not mention “exposures” as a part of your therapy, find a new therapist.
* You can do ERP therapy on your own, if needed, but you should get a book to guide you through it, such as Stop Obsessing by Edna Foa or Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Jonathan Grayson.
* I am not an ERP therapist.  I cannot be your therapist.  I can be your cheerleader.

I’m sure you’re so ready to have your life back– to be in control of your own thoughts again.  Your path is clear!  I’m so excited for you!

For more about HOCD, OCD, and ERP, go to jackieleasommers.com/OCD.

35 thoughts on “A Big Ol’ HOCD Post

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  4. Ok so im 14 … and im pretty sure ive liked guys before . Had crushes on guys amd stuff …
    And i was reading this article on net about gay people … and suddenly this question popped into my head am i lesbian ? I laughed away the thought initially cause it sounded stupid ..
    But after a while it really started bothering me i had these wierd thoughts about women and stuff and they really start to scare me cause i dnt wanna be with women .. i have always imagined my life with a man and i have frequent depression episodes its all i can think about .. for a while i even stopped watching t.v cause i feared that cing smeone of the same sex whom i might find attractive . And also im constantly checking when i c good looking people ” do i find this person attractive ” ? For a while it actually died down and i almost went back to my old life but this stuff started creeping me out again ..
    Ive taken a lot of tests online to check out my sexuality .. they always say heterosexual it calms me down for a bit but the doubt always creeps back ..
    I figured when im busy these thots r less likely to intrupt me but also im in the midst of holidays so i have like a lot of free time on my hands .. i keep on telling myslef that this is a phase and il get over it .. but i also constantly worry if im trying to fool myself into believing that im straight .. and maybe im just a lesbian in denial .. and wenever these thots come into my mind i end up praying to god ..
    And i dont know i have never been diagnosed with OCD ..
    But i do remember a few episodes where i constantly checked if my house door was locked or of the electrical appliances were off .. i mean i checked them a lot of times and i also remember doing them in a particular oder or i wud find myself in distress ..
    But that phase just lasted for a few weeks i guess and they were not very severe so idk if it was OCD ..
    Idk if this piece of information will help but my i have a family history of schizophrenia from my dads side
    Help is this HOCD ?

    • Hi friend! It sure sounds a lot like OCD/HOCD. You should get a diagnosis from a professional … can you ask your parents to take you in to meet with a psychologist? If you’re embarrassed, you don’t even need to tell your parents exactly what’s been going on, but you can just tell them that you’ve done some online research and it seems to be OCD.

      • Thank you so much ..
        The thoughts are so disturbing they really put me off .
        Il try talking to my parents soon
        Im pretty sure i can admire a womans body but defenitely not lust for them ..
        Despite this realization i still doubt my sexuality and it throws me into depression
        And whenever i have these thoughts i have a tight clenching feeling in my stomach and feel pretty disgusted ..
        I mean im not homophobic i do respect gay people .
        Its just the thought of me bieng lesbian throws me into a frenzy
        Which is very confusing scince iam known to be the boy crazy girl at school
        I have read about ERP but it sounds like they want me to plunge right into my fears ..
        But i guess professional help sounds like the best option right now
        Im just scared that the therapist might tell me im a lesbian
        And help me embrace my sexuality and get out of the closet and i also live in india where umm homosexuality is a crime
        So i really dnt know
        Im just hoping for the best

  5. Thank you so much !! It felt so good venting out my feelings to someone ,
    Will talk to my parents soon and seek medical help

  6. Hi I’m sixteen and a similar thing that is happening to naina is happening to me. Even at the age of ten I would watch movies and pretty much fall in what I thought was love with the male leads: I would get nervous butterflies (but in a good way) when I thought about them and my heart would beat faster and I would imagine meeting them and marrying them. I always wanted to fall in love (although I have never felt this way for a real guy, just crushes. This is one of my thoughts: if you’ve never been in love with a guy, how can you know you are not a lesbian?) and get married and have kids with a guy. I always wanted my Prince Charming.
    Then about five months ago a couple of things happened. I was looking at necklaces online and I saw the woman’s cleavage and I thought it was beautiful. I have always loved women’s bodies and the way they move and look, and those thoughts never bothered me until recently. Then a friend of mine wore a really low cut top and I couldn’t stop staring. Finally two girls at my school came out as bi-sexual. I realised that it actually can happen And so the doubting began.
    I had never had wanted to be with a woman before in my life. I’m not homophobic, in fact I have gay god-fathers who are so lovely and the idea of homosexuality had never bothered me before. I thought it was sweet, and I was happy that they could find other people who felt like them. I even read books from the point of view of lesbians, but now I can barely look at the cover of the book without freaking out. Other triggers include reading, talking or thinking about gay people, (quite often my friends at school will joke around and act as though they are in relationships, e.g. ‘Obviously we only have eyes for each other!’ This quite often leaves me feeling shaky and anxious) and admiring a woman’s body. This usually leads to images of touching or kissing which quite honestly scare me. I dont think I want to do it, but then I wonder if I do? I don’t think I could ever have sex with a woman, but my biggest fear is that one day I will, or that I will fall in love with one.
    I often wonder how other people don’t freak out about this as much as I do. Learning that there was a think called HOCD made me very happy for a while, because it explained exactly what I was feeling. But then the doubts came back. I wonder if I actually would do the things I keep seeing. And if I see someone pretty I’m like ‘why do you think they are pretty? Do you want to be with them or like them? Friendly or sexually?’ Most of these questions are unanswered.
    Finally, and this is a bit awkward but apparently normal, I often get aroused around girls, but never around guys. I wonder if this is anxiety or my real feelings. I honestly don’t know what I want anymore.

    Sorry for all this. It would be great if you could help.

      • Thank you very much, your posts have been very helpful!
        I understand the idea behind ERP is that the thoughts stop bothering you, but to get there you need to stop the checking. This is what scares me. I wonder if when I stop telling myself that I am straight I will begin to believe the thoughts. I sometimes feel like the anxiety is actually a way of telling me I am not gay, so when I don’t feel any anxiety I get anxious… That sounds like I’m going in circles! I guess my biggest fears are that I actually do want to, or that I will in the future. Is it normal to feel so confused you feel like your head will burst?

      • Yep– normal for someone with OCD!

        And yes, that’s typically what everyone is scared of when they do ERP– no matter what theme they are, HOCD or not. We all worry that THIS exposure will be “the one that does it.” It takes a lot of courage to do ERP, but it’s not fair to expect things to get better without it. You’ll know when you’re ready!

  7. Ok I know I said I would talk to my parents, but I never did, I chicken out.. But it seemed to go away for a while before being replaced by another fear… What if I’m asexual? I’ve never even kissed a boy even though I want to and have plenty of crushes, and I’ve never really dreamed about having sex with someone, you know, subconsciously. I don’t really look at guys and go ‘I want to have sex with you’ but I imagine it and when I read about it it seems nice. I don’t masturbate (sorry about that but it seemed necessary for this comment) mostly because it seems weird and I can’t imagine myself doing it. I have before, and it was nice, but it’s a weird thing because instead of relaxing me it makes me anxious. So I stopped. Then one time I looked up why I don’t and it came up with an ‘are you asexual’ test, which obviously freaked me out. I want to want to have sex, and enjoy it but I’m worried that I won’t? When I think about it, I feel happiest when I’m not thinking or obsessing about sex, and just doing normal daily things. I think I am perhaps scared of sex, maybe I won’t enjoy it or I’ll never do it, and I’m also scared of growing up. I want to be a kid again! When I get these thoughts I freak out because I don’t want to be asexual but at the same time I don’t necessarily want sex? At the moment. I want to want it in the future. I am so confused and scared, I feel I relate more with people who are asexual than I ever did with lesbians when I read up on them and this makes me wonder if this is real. I am so scared?

    Ps I know your not a therapist but I feel I can talk to you without being judged, and you seem to understand how I feel. Please reply.

    • Hi dear Lilie! All of these intrusive, unwanted thoughts are the O part of OCD. If you focus on “solving” an issue, all that will happen is that another one will pop up to take its place. That’s why you have to go after the OCD instead of the individual issues. You have to rewire your brain to think in a different way. You do that through ERP therapy.

      Tell your parents that you’re embarrassed and don’t want to talk about specifics, but through your online research you think you have OCD and would like to meet with a therapist alone to get diagnosed. Would that work?

      • I think so, thanks. I was reading up more on it now and I nearly started crying, I am shaky and scared, I really just want to feel better. At first I could dismiss the thoughts but now it’s getting harder and harder because I feel like I’m trying to convince myself that I am asexual. I am so scared, I think I need help. Thank you.

      • You’re not a lesbian. You’re not asexual. If you were, you wouldn’t be feeling this much distress. But I totally GET IT. OCD is a very convincing liar.

        Trust me that there is so much hope out there. ERP is your solution!

        Thinking of you and sending virtual hugs, Lilie!

  8. Thank you so much, it makes me feel better to know that other people understand how this feels. It’s just very confusing, the way it seems to rewrite your past to fit with your obsession. I am building up the courage to talk to my parents. I am sure they will be very supportive, it’s just scary, but a good step forward. Thank you for being there, you have really help me understand what is going on with me.

    • I really, really, really do get it. Please know that there are LOTS of people going through the same struggles as you right now. OCD is telling others the same lies it tells you.

      • Thank you again, I spoke to them last night and they were very good, turns out both of them have suffered from some sort of anxiety in the past, so I know who I get it from! At least now they know I don’t feel so alone, and we can go from here in treating it.

  9. Dear Jackie

    i read many articles of your blog this summer. Here’s my story : right now i am dealing with HOCD and i am an 18 year old girl. This obsession started after i picked without really thinking an agenda with a girl on it and the cashier gave me a smirk like ” oh yeah i get it”. In the past , i questionned my sexuality but only for like 5 minutes and it was just because all my idols ( movie stars , favorite singers) are women and i wondered if it was “normal. Normal was an obsession when i was little( and even now) and i would often ask my mom to take me to the doctor to see if everything was fine with me. I was always anxious and stressed with a low self esteem because of bullying when in middle school ( i am always terrified of what people can think of me ).

    I don’t think i was ever sexually aroused by a woman and i know for sure that i never fantasized about them neither pictured myself in a relationship with them. Although, i had kissed girls when younger while playing truth or dare or “married friends”. I think i more enjoyed the feeling of lips on mine rather than who was giving a kiss to me.

    But even this never made me really questionned myself and i completely forgot about it. But my hocd is telling me that the kisses in middle school and the women i look up to are proofs that i am homo.This past year has been really rough , because hocd is not the only theme i delt with. Everything started after a nightmare during a stressfull week , the morning i was convinced i was a paedophile , then this fear was replaced by the fear of commiting suicide and then it changed to the fear of harming my family to now the fear of being homosexual(ps: At the age of 14 , i had religious ocd with crying and praying forgiveness because i thought i was loosing my faith and i was terrified by it but it went away ). I read that ocd attacks the things you value the most and i think that the reason i have hocd is because i am really concerned by the fact that i have never been kissed by a boy , neither had a boyfriend. Even though i am sure i wanted it because every time i daydreamed , i daydreamed of having a boyfriend that i will marry and have sex with ( i would always picture it like the couples i ship on the tv shows , ( yes i love love stories like Cinderella and prince charming ) ) i think i am afraid that i will never fall deeply in love or that no one will ever want me. I am usually really shy and uncomfortable with guys so i think this is why i never tooked the first step . I had a crush on a guy in high school and i realized it when he dated my friend , i felt even more insecure after that .

    A friend of mine camed out bisexual and she claimed that ” you never know it can happen to you too” and it made my anxiety even worse ; i am not a homophobic , i really support the gay community because they are really strong but i know that if it was true for me , if this was not hocd i would be devasted and won’t tell anybody.

    I know all the compulsions that comes along with every ocd theme: constant testing , checking, mind battles like “you want to do/ i don’t want to” or” i am/I am not”. When it all started with the first theme i was horrified and asked my mom to take me to a theraist before it gets worse but she refused , she thought i made this up and used it as an excuse for the fact that my grades were getting lower because i was not a hundred percent focused at school.

    What can i do Jackie about it ? i really want to be my true self again , without doubts and fear of my own shadow. I know seeing a therapist is the best thing to do but if i can’t right now because my parents will say no , are there exercices or books i can read ? It’s the first time in a year i am posting about it soi thank you in advance if you read me or answer me .

    • Hi dear Jenna!

      So proud of you for taking this step to ask for some guidance and help! Good for you! And you’re only 18? Love it– you’re gonna nip this in the bud while you’re still young.

      I’m going to direct you to one of my most recent posts, and it will have some links to some good books that will walk you through how to do ERP therapy on your own. Read the comments too; some of my blog readers have tossed in their two cents!

      SO EXCITED FOR YOU! This is a scary step, but it’s one of the best decisions you’ll EVER make.


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