“How Do I Know I’m Straight? /Gay”
Sexual Identity / Orientation OCD
At The Center For Anxiety & OCD at GroundWork Counseling in Orlando our counselors specialize in the treatment of OCD & Anxiety disorders, providing empirically based treatment to our clients. Sexual Identity OCD (also known as Homosexual OCD) is a sub-type of OCD that consists of extreme distress about one’s sexual orientation. Sexual Identity OCD involves the obsession of possibly having same-sex desires, even though you want to be heterosexual and consider yourself straight. Homosexual OCD is actually a misnomer as this type of OCD also affects homosexual individuals who have obsessions that they might be straight. This, by no means should imply that there is anything wrong with being homosexual (or straight), the issue with this type of OCD is the unacceptability of the thought to the suffer. About 10% of individuals with OCD have unwanted sexual orientation obsessions, making Sexual Orientation OCD quite common.
Obsessions About Sexual Orientation
It is important to understand that obsessions about sexual orientation in OCD are very different from the fears and thoughts a person may experience due to same-sex orientation and the anxiety one may experience due to the possible repercussions of coming out. It is also important to note that people with Sexual Orientation OCD are not homophobic. As with all people, individuals with Sexual Orientation OCD have a wide range of opinions and feelings about homosexuality.
Unfortunately Sexual Orientation OCD is very often misdiagnosed and well meaning therapists who lack training in recognizing the symptoms of OCD and do not have training that is specific to OCD, instead engage in counseling for a sexual orientation crisis or identity issue and works with the individual to accept something that doesn’t really exist instead of providing the proper treatment for the mental obsessions of OCD. Unfortunately, the Sexual Identity OCD sufferer often receives a great deal of misinformation and receives the wrong type of treatment.
The primary distinguishing feature that can help determine the difference between a genuine sexual identity conflict or sexual orientation confusion and an OCD sufferer’s distress is the need for the sufferer to obtain a definite, immediate, and absolute answer to the question “Am I gay (or straight)”. OCD suffers are often crippled by obsessive thoughts about their sexual identity and they search endlessly a concrete, definite answer to the point of being in complete despair. Because these thoughts are constant and sufferers are misunderstood, their ongoing misery often leads to depression and for some, thoughts of suicide. Individuals who suffer from Sexual Identity OCD have difficulties that are more severe than those experienced by people with different sub-types of OCD. They tend to spend more time obsessing and their OCD symptoms interfere more in their life.
Symptoms of Sexual Identity OCD include:
- Attempting to absolutely, definitively convince yourself of your sexuality
- “Checking” your body for signs of sexual arousal when near same sex individuals
- Fear of loosing control and acting out sexually if around same sex individuals
- Fearing that others will think you’re gay, trying very hard to “act straight”
- Asking yourself “Am I disgusted enough by this” when seeing same sex couples
- Neutralizing “gay thoughts” with “straight thoughts”
- Asking other people for reassurance about your sexuality
- Avoiding gay men, lesbians and bisexual people
- Engaging in same-sex acts to figure out the meaning of these experiences, but finding these experiences distressing and unwanted
We Can Help
At The Center For Anxiety & OCD at GroundWork Counseling in Orlando our counselors specialize in the treatment of OCD and Sexual Orientation OCD (Homosexual OCD). Many people seeking treatment for OCD are not aware of the many different viewpoints, theoretical approaches and levels of training that influence a therapist’s treatment method. Many individuals who suffer with OCD become frustrated because despite many hours of therapy, their OCD is not improving. Not every therapist who claims to treat OCD actually knows how to treat it. OCD treatment requires a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that consists of a specialized procedure called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). For example, any medical doctor can listen to your heart with a stethoscope, but only a few can perform cardiac surgery. Likewise, just about any therapist can help someone who is feeling a little bit depressed, but only a few can effectively treat OCD. At The Center for Anxiety and OCD at GroundWork Counseling, several of our therapists have received highly specialized training for the treatment of OCD from the International OCD Foundation’s renowned Behavior Therapy Training Institute (BTTI), a level of training for the treatment in OCD that is obtained by less than 1% of practicing mental health providers, which includes psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health counselors, and therapists.
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