Homosexual Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (HOCD) is categorized by intrusive thoughts revolving around one’s sexual orientation. People with HOCD suffer through uncontrollable and unwanted intrusive thoughts and images that leave them in a state of fear and anxiety about whether they are truly straight.
A person suffering from this sub-type of OCD constantly doubts their sexual orientation:
- A straight person worries whether they might actually be gay even though they haven’t doubted their sexual orientation in the past
- They might worry that homosexuality is “catching”
- They may think that talking with a gay person will make them act out by triggering their own latent homosexual tendencies
People with HOCD can be affected enough by their intrusive thoughts that they quit jobs, make dramatic life changes, or end relationships in order to avoid triggering their symptoms. Sometimes, HOCD sufferers are so sure they are gay that they actually “out” themselves and begin homosexual relationships. Where a truly gay person obtains happiness and relief in the act of revealing their homosexual orientation, HOCD people who “come out” continue to doubt their sexuality.
As with traditional OCD, people who are affected by this internalized homophobia engage in rituals to help them alleviate their anxiety and prove to themselves that they are truly straight. When around lesbians or gay men, they might check their bodies for arousal or question if they are attracted to the person. People with HOCD may also keep up a running mental dialogue or obsess over past sexual encounters in an effort to convince themselves that they are straight. They might also perform washing rituals if they are around a gay person, may act overtly to assure themselves of their sexual orientation, or may even blatantly act out against gay people in order to prove they are straight. Additionally, HOCD sufferers might avoid physical contact or being alone with gay people and may even carry this behavior into shunning same-sex public restrooms or not eating in public in case the food was prepared by a gay person.
Treatment for HOCD Symptoms
As with other Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (which asks the patient to face the situations that trigger their obsessions) can help with HOCD. During therapy sessions the patient faces the situations that trigger their obsessions in order to learn how to deal with their internalized homophobia and reduce their fixation. In addition, certain medications are helpful in reducing the symptoms of OCD and HOCD.
Additionally, since HOCD is rather new, there is little research literature that specifically applies to this sub-disorder of OCD. Therefore, it is imperative that the mental health professional an HOCD sufferer consults with recognizes HOCD as a true anxiety disorder. If they don’t, they may counsel the person to help them accept their homosexuality which will only aggravate the person’s HOCD symptoms.
If HOCD has left you struggling with relentless questions about your sexual identity, HOCD: Everything You Didn’t Know – A Primer for Understanding & Overcoming Homosexual Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a book by Dr. Rosen, Founder and Clinical Director of The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders will be an indispensable and compassionate guide that will demystify the disorder and offer hope.