HOCD: 4 Steps to Freedom

Every month, the majority of questions I am asked are related to HOCD, and many of the questions come from teens. Below, I want to show you the list of HOCD-related questions I received this month; I am hopeful that these question-askers can read through this list and understand that there are so, so many others going through the same experience right now.

Because I have said just about everything I think I can say about HOCD– and had several guest bloggers add their thoughts about HOCD– I am going to answer all of these questions in one response at the very end. I hope it will help.

I wanted to know if you can get aroused by the same sex and not be gay. I do this but the thought of being with the same sex repulses me. also I recently got a crush on someone of the opposite crush and I had a good feeling.   I get anxiety when thinking of being with the same sex for society reasons and just the fact of being gay. Sometime I feel gay, frustrated and not right.
I feel so scared. I don’t know for sure if I have HOCD or not, and I’ve been doing so much research on the topic that I’ve become bored of reading everything. But now I’m scared that this means I’d rather be gay, and that if I looked for treatment I’d just turn out to be gay. I don’t want to be, I’m even starting to doubt that, too and it’s scaring me so much. I don’t know what to do, anymore.
I’m a 14 yr old female and I was recently reading fanfiction smut aka sexual description and it was boy x girl, I was comfortable with it and then got a compulsion to look up girl x girl to see how I reacted, I read it and felt a little aroused but mainly disgusted, I think the arousal was left over from the earlier stuff but I can’t get it out of my head! I’ve had HOCD for a while now, help?
Just an update on my earlier post (I was the 14 year old smut one) I attempted to read another girl x girl story without reading boy x girl before and I had no reaction just a bit of grossed out-ness (I don’t mean to offend anyone). I wanted to also say that I have had anxiety age 7 and talked to a therapist about HOCD, so this isn’t new, and I have never had doubts that I wasn’t hetero before
Hi Jackie. I’m a female with hocd, and I’ve had it for nearly 1.5 years. I know it’s common to be uncomfortable and scared around your friends, but I just can’t stop being so anxious and terrified around my best friend. We talk normal and everything but as soon as I’m alone I start seeing her face in my head or the way she dresses and I dread seeing her. I don’t want to like her is this my OCD?
Hello! I believe I’m suffering HOCD (I’m 14-16), and I’ve definitely had it more than once (I was unaware though). I feel absolutely numb, devastingly though, I can tell my anxiety is lurking in the background. Although I don’t feel it quite yet. I still notice I’m very subtlety panicking and checking, but without the intensity of before. Is this normal? (Well obviously not, but you get my point).
Im a 14 year old girl who has been diagnosed with HOCD, and every time I think it’s gone I see something that brings it back. For instance today I saw an article about someone who thought they was straight and fell in love with a girl and here it comes again. Any suggestions as to how I can stop this cycle?
I have been struggling with unwanted, intrusive thoughts for almost a month now. It just started out of nowhere when this weird sounding voice in my head said, “I’m gay.” It didn’t feel like me at all, but I have suddenly lost all interest in boys (I’m a girl). I had a massive panic attack about this, and my medicine was changed. I am talking to a boy right now, but the thoughts keep coming back!
Sometimes I admire other girls and really wish I was them, but I don’t want to be with them, I just want to be them . . . I have HOCD and it scares me that it might be a crush and I just don’t know it? Sometimes I just get intense feelings of admiration and having HOCD makes me terrified! Any suggestions?
I am 15 years old and really confused. Before this I never worried about it and didn’t question it at all, because I would never be gay. Now these unwanted gay thoughts and urges are driving me crazy. I don’t know if I have HOCD because I was never diagnosed with OCD but I have always been an anxious person. Can puberty make me gay or is this just HOCD? I want my old life back so bad.
Hello! I am an 18 year old girl and believe I am suffering from HOCD. For my whole life, I have had crushes on guys NEVER on a girl (I did watch lesbian porn in the past and it’s really bothering me that I did). I wake up worried that my past was a lie and that i am a lesbian and just repressed it. I just moved in to college and these thoughts of “you’re probably a lesbian” will not leave me alone
I have been struggling with HOCD for over a month now. I hate the intrusive thoughts that I have. I went on a date with a guy I like a few days ago, and I had an amazing time! But now the thoughts are flooding back again, and they feel way more real this time. Please help!
Hi there, I believe I have suffered with hocd for 8 months now and I still doubt whether I am gay or not, growing up I used to be very shy and didn’t really do anything with girls, recently I have been looking at my past to see if there are any gay expierences. Can it take 8 months to realise your gay or is it all just hocd
I’m 15 and my hocd is pretty bad. When I was young I was a part of some “experimental” play and this is the origin of all these thoughts. Anyways I at this point feel way less anxiety but these thoughts are still always here. Whenever I look at a girl and she is pretty I know that I want that but I get worried because I don’t have the same reaction I used to. Is that normal

Hi my dear ones, my dear, dear ones.

I am so sorry for the torment you’re going through. I really am. Can you see above how you are not alone? I’m sure you feel alone because OCD is not something most of us like to talk about, not even with the people we’re closest to.

So, here is my best advice:

1. Please read the following posts:

HOCD
A Closer Look at HOCD
Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
A Big Ol’ HOCD Post
Another Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
A Third Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
A Fourth Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
Q&A with Former HOCD Sufferer
HOCD Story: Meet Mae, Part One
HOCD Story: Meet Mae, Part Two

Also, please check out the question and dancer tag since most of those questions are about HOCD.

2. Read about treatment:

Gaining Certainty through Embracing Uncertainty
Resisting treatment?

What life was like before & after CBT
Obsessing vs. Brainstorming: before & after
A Detailed Post about ERP
ERP is the RIGHT Answer
Better than a Band-Aid
Embracing Uncertainty
What CBT was like for me
Will treatment change me?
Why You Need CBT/ERP
Have Reservations about ERP?
Preparing for CBT/ERP
ERP & Imaginal Exposures
Uncertainty is the Key
The Problem with Seeking Reassurance

3. Decide on your next step. Here are your options:

A) Do nothing. This is not recommended. OCD usually continues to switch to harder and harder obsessions and compulsions the longer it is untreated.

B) Continue to educate yourself. This is always recommended because one of the ways we fight OCD is with education and knowledge. You might find that you are only at this step and can do no more at this time. That’s okay. Keep learning about OCD and ERP so that you are ready for the next step when it comes.

C) Pursue ERP on your own. If you choose to do this on your own, you will still want a book or app to guide you. Here are my suggestions:

Self-Directed ERP with a Book
Self-Directed ERP with an App

D) Pursue ERP with the help of a parent/loved one and a therapist. It is always up to you which people you feel safe telling about your OCD and how much detail you want to share. It is fine to say, “I have been doing research on my own and I believe I have OCD. I’d like to see a specialist for a diagnosis.” If you want your parent or friend to know more about what you are dealing with, feel free to send them to the top link. The second link will give you ideas on how to find and interview an ERP therapist.

HOCD: A Letter to Loved Ones
Finding and Interviewing an ERP Therapist

E) Consider meeting with a psychiatrist to add medication to your treatment plan. Don’t neglect ERP therapy in lieu of medication. Medication is best when combined with ERP therapy.

Medication vs. Exposure Therapy

4. Take that next step toward freedom. 

a step

 

Question & Dancer: I Promise There is Hope

question-and-dancerI’m an artist not an expert, one who is learning to embrace questions more than answers.

These are some questions I got last month. Ask yours here.

Ok I am so confused lately. I am a 27 year old male and has had what I consider to be HOCD for at least 4 years now When I was younger people used to ask if I was gay, and that never bothered me until more recently since I started to have this OCD. More recently however I am starting to doubt myself because it is starting to feel realer and realer. Wanna do ERP but I am very anxious about it.
I was so anxious to do ERP too! In fact, I almost bailed partway through– right before everything ended up “clicking” for me. Read up about it beforehand so that you have an idea of what to expect. I always say that you will be ready for ERP when the hell of daily life with OCD is worse than the anxiety over ERP. I will say this: it was one of the greatest things I have ever done for myself. Twelve weeks of ERP vs. twenty years of OCD (with no end in sight)? There’s a clear winner there.
Can HOCD actually begin to feel real? At the start, it caused me loads of anxiety but now I’m starting to believe it and it scary 😦
Hello dear, yes, I think that most people with HOCD get to that point. I’m sorry for all your fear and anxiety. ERP can help.
Hi! I did the harder exposures for HOCD (I’m a girl by the way) and it really terrifies me to the point of tears while doing the exposure of looking at a androgynous female. It bothered me immensely but I stayed with it. However, I felt fearful and anxious at the same time because I actively avoid it because of the fear of attraction. Is that still HOCD?
If you are fearful that you are sexually attracted to females, it’s quite likely HOCD, yes. I remember crying while doing exposures too. Please don’t quit the exposures– but also, please do be kind to yourself. Give yourself a treat: ice cream, a nap, a new pair of shoes. What would you do for your best friend if he or she was going through all this? Treat yourself just as kindly. But don’t give up on the exposures.
Hi Jackie, I’ve had hocd for over a year now and it’s been rough. For the past three months I’ve been using this new medication and I believe I’ve gotten better. But, whenever I get my intrusive thoughts my brain doesn’t spike much of a reaction anymore and I’m not as scared. This is making me worried because I feel like my fear shows I’m not gay but now I’m not so sure. Can medicine do that?
I feel like this is such a nasty paradox with OCD! We get so much torturous anxiety– and we hate it– but then, if the anxiety lessens or goes away, we start to fear there’s a reason behind that. Please remember that the goal is to not have those extreme reactions when you have intrusive thoughts, so you are moving in the right direction! Thoughts are just thoughts. Everyone has weird thoughts, but most people can just let them go, whereas for those of us with OCD, we hold onto them and give them too much meaning and make ourselves sick ruminating. Let the thought just be a thought. It is good that the anxiety lessens in time.
Jackie, is this a compulsion? Every time I get worried about my hocd thoughts, my reaction is to go God and pray that I’m not gay. I know I don’t want to be gay. I just want to be a straight female and have a guy. But I feel like god is my only true hope for getting better although I’ve been doubting him a lot with all of this hocd stuff
Ritualistic prayer was also one of my compulsions. I would pray to “ward off” blasphemous thoughts and curse words that would pop into my head. But I also could tell a difference between my true, heartfelt prayers and the automatic ones that I was using as a compulsion. I kept doing the former, but the latter ones, I stopped. At first, because it was so automatic, it was very hard to stop, but I would actually interrupt myself and think No. I do not need to pray ritualistically. I didn’t think it would work– but it did!
How long did you personally have hocd for?
I had a brief bout with HOCD in junior high. My primary obsessions through the years were religious ones though.
Jackie I feel like my hocd gets MUCH worse when my period roles around. Could this be true? I just feel way more depressed and my intrusive thoughts get more frequent and intense.
I really do believe this can be true, even though I don’t know enough about the science behind it.  But on my period, my hormones are all out of whack, and everything seems more intense and stressful and emotional for me. I feel sadder and lonelier on my period, and sometimes I have bad cramps, so I’m in actual pain and cranky about it. I am definitely not my best on my period or in the days right before it, and I’ve had the same experiences with my OCD being worse then (I’m not sure if it’s worse– or if I’m weaker– during those days!).
Jackie I’ve had hocd for a while now. How did you stay strong? How did you not cave in and truly lose hope by believing you’re gay?
I spent 15 years with OCD before I was finally diagnosed, then another five before I began the exposure therapy that gave me back my life and freedom. How did I stay strong during that time? Honestly, I was not strong a lot of that time. I cried a lot, but I also surrounded myself with the most incredible people: family and friends and mentors and roommates who let me lean on them in my weakness. My Christian faith is also a ballast for me, although OCD went after that pretty hard, and I had to rely on the faith of my friends and family, if that makes any sense. Make sure that you have an incredible support system, one that won’t enable you but that will let you be honest about your struggles and will love you, even in your darkest, weakest, most hopeless moments.
I lived with my friend Desiree for seven years, and she saw me through some of the very worst times with my OCD. She wrote this post about it, in case you’re interested!
Jackie, my therapist and my mom both say I try and convince myself that I’m truly gay ( I have hocd). I just can’t help being very doubtful all the time. Even when I like a guy through all of this I still doubt if everything is fake. Advice?
This is what the doubting disease does– it poisons everything! The very best advice I have is to treat it with exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, which can be done with a specialist or on your own with the help of a book from the library. Be sure to check out my posts at http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD for more details and book suggestions!
Hi Jackie I’m a female and I have had hocd for nearly 13 months now. I stare at girls so much! In my head I constantly hear myself saying “wow she’s so pretty” and I can’t stop thinking that. It haunts me later in my day as I keep seeing any girl in my head from school. What should I do?
This is what OCD/HOCD will do until you either switch to another obsession or treat it. I recommend treating it with exposure therapy! Please check out my posts about HOCD and about ERP at http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD. It changed my entire life.
I’ve had hocd for a long time now and I know ERP is the right thing but I’m too scared to do it. I just don’t feel mentally mature or ready enough to do it. What do you think? Should I just face it head on?
This is such a good question. I didn’t feel ready for it for a while either. When I felt I had exhausted all my other options, I knew it was time. Most of the time, ERP is not done via “flooding” (which is what I think you mean by “face it head on”) but rather via a strategic hierarchy. You start with the things that make you least anxious and work up to the doozies later on. I think this is probably the best way to go after ERP; it builds confidence early on when you win a few smaller victories, plus your brain begins to change, giving you more tools for attacking the harder things later. I remember on my first day with my ERP therapist, he said we would work up to X, and I thought, “If you think that I will EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER do X, you’ve got another thing coming, mister.” And yet, about 12 weeks later, I was there. Terrified, yes. Anxious, yes. But it had gone from being utterly impossible to being possible-but-scary. And after that, my OCD snapped in half. I’ve had freedom for nine years now.
How do I know if my therapist is good? Upon graduating college, I have developed extreme anxiety and HOCD. I found a therapist who preaches ERP but does not have good reviews online. I met him for the initial consult and liked him but how do I know whether I should trust him.
Do the reviews say that they don’t like him personally or that he doesn’t know his practice? You don’t need to like an ERP therapist for ERP to work. In fact, at the time, I thought my ERP therapist was a monster. (Now he is my hero.) Our personalities did not jive and, of course, he was asking me to do things I didn’t want to do (this is the nature of ERP therapy!). Make sure that you have educated yourself on what ERP should look like, so that you will be able to recognize if he is guiding you correctly. As far as whether or not he’s likable … meh. Not what matters in this situation.
Read about my reunion with my ERP therapist, seven years after I last left his office.
I feel really sad. Some days my hocd is not that intense and I’m sure I’m straight but other days its bad.When I’m convinced I’m gay, I get very depressed. I withdraw and stop doing anything, and spend the majority of my time in bed. They tell you in therapy that if you hate the idea of being gay, that you don’t like the idea of being with the same sex then you’re not gay. Do you agree with this?
I hate to speak in too wide of generalities, but if I am interpreting your question correctly, I would say yes IN GENERAL. Again, I don’t know that it is helpful to speak in such wide-spreading generalities. I did ask some of my friends (both with HOCD and others who are gay) to answer a variety of questions so I could compare them. I thought the results were interesting. Friend, please consider exposure therapy to treat your HOCD. It is the #1 treatment for OCD recommended by all OCD experts, and it changed my life. I know those depressed days spent in bed all too well. You can move past this.
Is there really a light at the end of the tunnel? I feel hopeless. I have hocd and hate my life because I just feel depressed. I want to be better but I can’t bring myself to give effort. I get told, happiness is a choice. But I feel like this doesn’t apply to people who suffer from OCD?
Friend, I promise there is light. And hope. And freedom. Exposure therapy can help you get there.
Ahhh yes, the choose happiness thing. Blah. Let me say first that I agree with you.
Here is my post entitled I Don’t CHOOSE to be Unhappy. Later, post-ERP, I wrote a post where I talked about choosing to be happy. The very next day I posted again and this time included what I called a “thoughtful caveat”:
P.S. I want to clarify: this post is not in contradiction to this one. I still believe that many people with brain disorders do not have the capability to simply choose to be happy. But I am finding in my own life that medication and OCD treatment and talk therapy and prayer are tools that are making that more and more possible for me. I am one of the lucky ones who has had so many opportunities and resources. They are opening up new doors for me that were locked even just a year ago. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for all the questions, folks! If you have questions for me about anything (but especially faith, creativity, and mental illness), add yours here.

As I said, I’m an artist not an expert. I will leave you with these, some of my favorite questions in one of my favorite poems, “Questions about Angels.” Click here to hear Billy Collins himself read it. (P.S. It starts with questions, ends with a dancer.)