Sexual Orientation or SO-OCD

SO-OCD stands for Sexual Orientation Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s also known as Gay OCD or Homosexual OCD (HOCD). SO-OCD is a sub-category of OCD where a person has frequent and reoccurring intrusive thoughts that call into question their sexual orientation.

Here, a straight cisgender man may experience unwanted intrusive thoughts that he is attracted to other men. Likewise, a straight cisgender woman may fear she is a lesbian. Gay men and women can also have fears that they might be straight.

People with SO-OCD often:

  • Spend a lot of time being hyper-vigilant about any “groinal” movements when in the presence of, or even sometimes when they think about the same sex.
  • Worry that they have been living in some type of denial about their true orientation.
  • Fear that they are somehow gay simply because they had a thought about sexual identity. They often think: “If I were really straight I wouldn’t have had that question pop in my head.”
  • Fear that being around a gay person will trigger them and cause them to act out sexually.
  • Equate any difficulty in their sexual performance as a sign of homosexuality.
  • Worry that they are somehow losing their previous straight-identity.
  • Scan their mannerisms for signs of “gay-ness” when in the presence of others.
  • Worry that they can somehow randomly “turn gay.”

It is pointless to try to determine the cause of why a person is having these intrusive thoughts about their sexuality. Many inexperienced therapists are tempted to try and answer this question. In some unfortunate cases, therapists have misdiagnosed people with SO-OCD as having ‘sexual identity confusion’. But this is inaccurate as they might actually have OCD which is very treatable. Much harm is done when SO-OCD is misdiagnosed in this fashion which is why it is so important to find a therapist who is familiar with OCD and the SO-OCD subtype.

SO-OCD is a very highly stigmatized subgroup of OCD. This fact lessens the likelihood that people with SO-OCD seek treatment which prolongs their suffering. Often, when people with SO-OCD do attempt to seek treatment, they wind up meeting with a therapist who is not adequately familiar with SO-OCD or OCD, which leads to further isolation and stigma.

Like all OCD subgroups, SO-OCD has its set of unique avoidance compulsions. Some common ones are checking to see if they have a groinal (groin) arousal response when in the presence of the same sex, mental compulsions such as “I know I’m not gay…I love my wife’s body!”, checking to see if they “really enjoy” their sexual encounters with the opposite sex, internet searching, and many others. All of these compulsions offer only temporary relief for the person with SO-OCD. Relief from compulsions is always fleeting and leads to more obsessive worry.

All of our therapists at OCD Spectrum are experts at assessing and treating SO-OCD.

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