Sexual Orientation OCD (SO-OCD)
Sexual Orientation Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (SO-OCD) is a sub-type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). When OCD is mentioned, most people think of excessive hand-washing due to fear of germs and counting prior to completing an action to prevent a dreadful situation (usually irrational). However, OCD does not discriminate; it latches onto anything the individual values. Women are slightly more affected than men in their adult years, but men are more affected in their childhood years. OCD consists of unwanted intrusive thoughts. urges and/or images that cause significant distress, and/or repetitive behavior (including mental acts) that the individual feels the need perform to ease the anxiety and/or prevent their obsession from occurring. This is only a temporary relief and the compulsions are excessive in nature.
SO obsessions may include: “what if I am actually not gay?”, “Does this mean I hate the LGBTQIA2S+ community?”, “Telling people I am bisexual just doesn’t feel ‘right’”, “I don’t care what I am I just want to know for sure”, “I’m gonna go to hell for being aroused by a gay character in a TV show”, “My family will shun me if they suspect me being trans”, “Am I even queer enough to be queer?”, “Why don’t I like this as other people do?”, “They told me they were non-binary, does this mean I’m pansexual and not bisexual and I’ve been lying to people?”, “Oh my god, what if they think I am not gay because I am currently with the opposite gender?”
SO compulsions may include: avoidance of the thoughts/urges/images, scenarios, and people; checking their physical sensations (such as arousal); compulsive dating to prove their orientation; mental review by replaying moments in detail (such as their attraction/arousal towards others or lack thereof); reassurance seeking by asking others, praying for forgiveness and clarity, and overall reassurance; and repetitive statements such as, “I am not gay, you like women, I am not gay, you like women, I am not gay, you like women.”
Special Note From Meg:
I want to note that SO-OCD is completely different from questioning! Many people experience a sense of shame with OCD, and/or being a part of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. This can prevent them from being honest with themselves and others, and it only fuels the shame. Regardless if you have SO-OCD and/or you are in the LGBTQIA2S+ community, there is nothing to be ashamed of! Everyone experiences intrusive thoughts; we just need to readjust the significance placed on them and allow the uncertainty so we can grow.
In terms of treatment, please consult with a trained therapist to first and foremost determine if it is SO-OCD because if it is, the most effective treatment is Exposure Response Prevention (ERP)-which luckily for anyone reading this, I wrote an article on this about 6 months ago for your reference https://chicagocounselingcenter.com/exposure-response-prevention/. It can be scary and daunting at first, however, it is worth it in the long run.
More OCD resources: