Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is, as the name suggests, a condition that provokes anxiety-fueled obsessions and compulsions. It comes in several varieties. One subset, for example, is sexual orientation obsessive-compulsive disorder (SO-OCD). This is not the same as exploring and questioning your sexuality. SO-OCD involves intrusive thoughts that lead to chronic rituals — all related to one’s sexual orientation.

About 1 in 10 people with OCD have the SO-OCD subset. They experience unwanted thoughts about sex. This is not about pleasurable fantasies. Rather, SO-OCD leaves people to fixate on the possibility that they have a different sexual preference than what they originally believed.

SO-OCD Symptoms

The signs may not be obvious to others, but people with sexual orientation obsessive-compulsive disorder often dwell in a state of internal turmoil.

Common Obsessions

  • Worrying that you send out “signals” that confuse others about your sexual orientation
  • Thinking you are living a lie
  • Doubting yourself without any reason why
  • Ruminating that, for example, you’ve “suddenly turned gay”
  • Worrying that friends, family, or your partner will discover the “truth”
  • Replaying your own behaviors to find clues
  • Dreading that you will ruin your relationship
  • Fear of being exposed, ostracized, and punished
  • Thinking may actually be homophobic

man resting hands against head who looks stressedCommon Compulsions

  • Not dating at all in the name of avoiding the topic
  • Compulsive dating in the name of “proving” you have the “right” sexual orientation
  • Fantasizing about sex to “test” yourself and your response
  • Looking at photos or videos of people to see how you respond
  • Avoiding social scenarios that could “expose” your secret
  • Seeking reassurance from others about your sexual history and preferences
  • Chanting statements like “I am not gay” in a ritualistic manner
  • Relentless, obsessive praying to address your “sins”

Treatment for SO-OCD

As it is for other types of OCD, the treatment for SO-OCD is varied and depends on the individual case. Some common options are:

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

Therapy, in general, is essential when dealing with any kind of OCD. ERP is a variation of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that has been shown to be effective with SO-OCD. The basic concept, as the name implies, is to expose the person to whatever triggers their obsessions. From there, they work to not perform compulsive behaviors. As they develop more tolerance for distress, they can break the destructive cycle.

Support Groups

It can mean a lot to feel understood. In a support group, you’ll interact with others who can relate to your struggle. Therapy is your frontline treatment. But a support group can alleviate the loneliness and expose you to some hard-earned advice from others who are managing their condition.

A Commitment to Self-Care

SO-OCD can kick anxiety up to a hyper-drive level. Managing that anxiety goes a long way in managing your compulsions. The basics of daily self-care will not let you down:

  • Regular sleep patterns build your resilience
  • Healthy eating habits can enhance your mood and energy levels
  • Exercise and physical activity provide stress relief
  • Steady social interactions with trusted loved ones offer solace and peace
  • Mindfulness and stress management (e.g. breathing exercises, meditation, etc.) bring you into the present moment while productive solutions exist

Do You Think You May Have SO-OCD?

To recap, SO-OCD imposes intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors upon you. These realities are caused by a chronic questioning of your sexual orientation in an unhealthy manner. You may find yourself delegating an hour or much more per day to rumination and rituals.

If this scenario resonates with you or simply feels familiar, you can find much-needed relief under the guidance of an experienced professional. With that in mind, I invite you to reach out and learn more. Let’s connect for a free consultation for anxiety therapy.