Well, folks, she’s back … the lovely Ms. Hannah, a former HOCD sufferer who has been featured on my blog in four previous interviews. I recommend you read them first so that you can be properly introduced to her and her story.
I keep an anonymous survey open year-round for people to submit HOCD questions, and when a number have gathered, I do another interview. The first question, however, was an anonymous comment on a blog post about Mae, another HOCD sufferer, who wrote, “I went to the gym a lot and if I thought a woman’s butt was hot, I was supposed to just appreciate her beauty and not doing anything else with the thought.”
Anonymous asks: What did she mean when she said that she appreciated women for their beauty? Did she mean sexually or just like “Oh they’re really pretty I want to be them”? I’m trying to do self ERP so I just want to make sure.
Hannah: I can’t speak for Mae, but for me, the exposure of “just appreciating a woman’s beauty” would not be the equivalent of “I want to be them.” It would be just what it says and nothing more– “That woman is beautiful. I like beauty.” There might be sexual feelings or arousal there as well, but that’s part of ERP too. The important thing is to let the thought just be a thought.
Anonymous asks: I’m a girl and I think I have HOCD, is it normal to picture having a husband and being calm about it then starting to picture having a wife and suddenly get anxiety over it? Thank you
Hannah: It’s normal if you have untreated HOCD! Now, after ERP, that thought wouldn’t give me anxiety. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have that thought anymore. It would be more likely for me to find myself physically attracted to a woman, but I don’t think in terms of “Oh, I wonder if I’m actually gay” anymore. ERP wiped that out of my brain– paradoxically, it did this by making me okay with the thoughts I hated and the uncertainty. Once I let uncertainty have its own way, it quit bothering me. I wasn’t a slave to it anymore; bored with me, it moved on.
Anonymous asks: Is it normal to feel LESS anxious about the intrusive thoughts after months?
Hannah: Three different answers to this question, Anon.
1) If you are not treating the HOCD with exposure therapy: yes, sure. The anxiety often advances and retreated for me in all my OCD themes, not just HOCD. But until I did ERP, things would just come back later– and worse.
2) If you are treating HOCD with exposure therapy: yes, that’s the goal. For me it took about three months of daily exposures before the anxiety went away.
3) If you not treating the HOCD and you’re less anxious about your intrusive thoughts but you’re actually sort of worried about that (i.e. you think you might just be growing accustomed to your “new” orientation*+), that’s also pretty common for people with HOCD. They sometimes start losing attraction to the gender they are typically attracted to. Problem here is … you’re probably not actually less anxious here. The fact that you asked the question at all reveals that there is still anxiety around the subject for you.
*I used apostrophes around “new” because although I definitely acknowledge gender fluidity, I don’t think the situation around HOCD means the same thing.
+Remember that HOCD afflicts both straight and gay people. OCD doesn’t discriminate.
Anonymous asks: why?
Hannah: I don’t know, honey. Depends on your worldview how you answer this one. I like to think that pain has a purpose and that those of us who suffer from mental illnesses will one day understand what the purpose was. Even if we don’t ever find out, I still believe that.
Anonymous asks: When you imagined “same-sex scenarios” in your head, did you actually think you enjoyed them?
Hannah: Yes and no. I mean, clearly, my response was tremendous anxiety, so no. But the anxiety came because I … thought? … I enjoyed them. OCD is a fucker.
Anonymous asks: I’m really young to have HOCD and I don’t want to tell anyone. I feel like I’m straight and I have always been attracted to the opposite gender. But now I’m scared what if I stop liking them?
Hannah: You poor dear! I was also young when HOCD first attacked me– 8th grade. What is that, 14? Everything that you write in your short three sentences indicates HOCD though. Jackie wrote a post that young people (or really anyone) with HOCD can share with their parents or loved ones so that the responsibility of explaining the disorder and what they need to treat it doesn’t rest on the sufferer. She’ll probably link it. [Jackie interjects: here it is!]
Anonymous asks: Hi, I read your articles and found myself in every word.After getting to know about HOCD I had a more peaceful like very peaceful week, but now the feeling are coming back and they start seeming so real. Could it be more than HOCD?
Hannah: Thanks for reading my other interviews! It’s so nice to know they are helping people! As I said in an answer above, OCD themes come and go, and the intensity comes and goes too, at least for me. I can’t tell you how many times (especially when I was younger) I thought I had “solved” my problems. Unfortunately, what would happen is that the problem would rear its ugly head a few weeks or a month later. OR a new– usually worse– issue or theme would begin. But when I did ERP therapy, that cycle stopped.
Anonymous asks: I feel very uncomfortable around lesbians and hay people because of my hocd. And part of me thinks that they are trying to make me one of them, a lesbian, by saying things like “you could go good with a girl” and it freaks me out! How do you control something like that? I hate my hocd and I’m %100 sure I have it. It doesn’t control me as much as when I first got it but I still get those nasty thoughts. These people are also a bad influence, how do I keep myself away from them?
Hannah: So, a couple thoughts here. I’m not sure if you meant that gay and lesbian people are a bad influence or if you just meant that the people you’re surrounded by are a bad influence. I hope the latter. Homosexual people are usually pretty awesome. Sure, there might be a bad apple in the bunch, but that’s going to happen with straight people too. That said, if the group of people you’re hanging around with are really, truly a bad influence on you, you need to speak up or duck out. The reason that I think you might mean that is that you said that they say things that freak you out and that you can’t control. Take the person aside and politely tell them, “It bothers me when you say X.” If you can’t say that to them, they are not very good friends. If you do have HOCD and one of your compulsions is avoidance of gay friends, then your exposure is to make sure you spend time with them. In general, the phrase “how do I keep myself away from X?” is not helpful in treating OCD of any stripe. In exposure therapy, you … well, expose yourself to X.
Anonymous asks: hey hannah im a fourteen year old girl whos been constantly worrying about her sexuality for about a year and a half now. one thing i can’t get over and i always revert back to is how when i was younger about 10 i would have lesbian fantasies before i would go to sleep. i dont think i ever wanted to do that with a girl however i would enjoy the fantasies. i cant seem to get over this and it doesnt seem to be a similar trait amongst straight people. could you please help
Hannah: Hi dearie! Oh how I can relate to being fourteen and dealing with HOCD! My heart goes out to you. Here is my honest-to-goodness thought: you wrote, “it doesnt seem to be a similar trait amongst straight people”; in reality, I think it’s probably pretty common and just not widely talked about. There is a scale that shows a person more about their sexual orientation, and it takes into account so many factors– past, present, future, as well as sexual attraction, sexual behavior, and sexual fantasies, those three being very different, and others. In other words, homosexual fantasies do not equal homosexual orientation. I thought the scale was fascinating. THAT SAID, I DO NOT RECOMMEND THAT PEOPLE SUFFERING FROM HOCD GO TAKE THIS. YOU HAVE A DISORDER THAT CAN SKEW THE RESULTS OF THIS QUIZ AND WHICH WILL MAKE TAKING THE QUIZ MISERABLE. Please do not Google it. If you Google it, baby puppies will die. And angels will not get their wings. Instead, do exposure and response prevention therapy. It can change your life. It changed mine.
Anonymous asks: More than a month ago, I suffered from HOCD. Then my mom showed me a website that talked about HOCD, which matched my condition. At first, I thought I was in denial! That website relieved me for a month and a half, until now. Well, two weeks ago, HOCD came back again. It comes and goes. I don’t know why. Sometimes, I feel totally heterosexual, while other times, I have doubts. It’s strange. Is this actually HOCD? Thanks!
Hannah: Neither Jackie nor I can diagnose you– you need to see a professional for that– but everything you are describing (including the “it comes and goes” and “I have doubts” and the fact that you were “relieved”) sounds like HOCD. Read up about HOCD and try ERP. Since you have already talked to your mom about this, it sounds like you two have a good, safe, close relationship. Explain to her about ERP therapy (and if you don’t know about it, go to http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD
and read, read, read!) and ask her to help you meet with an ERP specialist.
Anonymous asks: I always have the impulse to look at girls butts and boobs and check if I’m “turned on”,did you have that problem when you had HOCD?
Hannah: Absolutely. I think this is probably THE most common compulsion for those of us with HOCD. In exposure therapy, you will need to stop the checking. It might sound impossible on the front end, but so many people suffering from HOCD and other types of OCD have done this successfully and now lead happy lives.
Anymous asks: Hey, your probably not gonna answer since this was a long time, but I have liked boys my whole entire life. I was always and happy and confindent with my sexuality. Im scared for my future especially since I am young and I want a husband and kids one day. I constantly look at people blogs, forums, support group pages because I feel relief im not alone and helps calm me down. I dont hang out with my friends or go outside anymore. I know deeply im gay. This fear all started when I was watching tv and saw 2 of the same-sex kissing and then the thought “am I gay” and started to panic. I cry almost everyday because i just dont want tl be gay ever. Anyways I did have intrusive thoughts like “your gay” every single day but I just let it be there. I don’t have intrusive thoughts anymore but it’s like im still scared to be gay. Im not bothered by the thoughts anymore which scare me. I still don’t want to talk to my friends or go outside, because when I went to instagram and saw a girl that was pretty and I had this feeling in my chest I don’t know what it is but I started to have a pabic attack. Then I would constantly ask myself ” wouldn’t I have liked girls when i was younger” or ” All my life I never liked girls and I only liked boys so why am I so worried. I don’t wanna be gay. But. Anyways I’ll start asking my questions. Is it possible to just become gay by a thought? …
… Does it mean im gay because my intrusive thoughts are almost gone but im still worried to be gay? …
… I used to like this boy but now I don’t feel as attracted to him like before. I feel like my attraction for boys is gone. Does that mean I turning gay. …
… Thank you if you do answer and btw I am 15 years old and a girl. Sorry if I have grammar mistakes. I just don’t want to be who I was before hocd. I don’t want to be scared to go outside or go on some social media because I might see a girl. Please help.
Hannah: The best help for HOCD is exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. Every OCD expert will tell you the same (note: I am not an OCD expert, but I still agree!). Take deep breaths and learn as much as you can about ERP. Then either find an ERP therapist or get a book written by an OCD expert that will guide you through doing ERP on your own. Jackie will link resources below.
Thanks, everyone! Great questions! Keep ’em coming!
Hey guys. Jackie here again. I want to thank all of you who posted such good questions, and I especially want to thank Hannah for generously taking the time to answer them all. As Hannah mentioned, resources follow. The very last link two links are for alternative ways to do ERP without meeting with a therapist.