HOCD- FearCast Podcast Episode
HOCD is an Obsession With Many Names
Whether you call it HOCD, Homosexual OCD, Sexual Orientation OCD, SO-OCD, or Gay OCD, this subtype of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one of the most common ways people experience OCD. On this episode of the FearCast Podcast, I talk about HOCD and try to address its symptoms, various ways it impacts people beyond just the thoughts and feelings, and its treatment. This episode is special as well as it features a mindfulness-themed exposure!
Click here to listen to the FearCast Podcast episode on HOCD.
OCD, as many reading this already know, can take many forms and can switch themes in the course of the sufferer’s life. For those suffering with OCD, there is a one in four chance that they will experience HOCD related obsessions at some point in their life.
HOCD is ultimately no different than any other type of OCD when we view it in light of the OCD cycle. In the course of living our day, we see, think, feel, and hear innumerable things, and the vast majority of those things are out of our control. Some of those things may inevitably remind us of something we fear.
In this case, it may trigger and HOCD feared story surrounding “gay thoughts” or obsessions about sexuality. In the effort to make sure that story doesn’t happen, or that we at least stop feeling the overwhelming anxiety, we do something, say something, think something, look somewhere, stop looking elsewhere, or outright avoid things. Whew. We feel safe again. But the feared thought eventually comes back.
HOCD Treatment = Embracing Uncertainty
Entering therapy to confirm your heterosexuality will only leave you feeling disappointed and more uncertain.
Everyone with HOCD, and OCD in general, want to know that their fears won’t come true. In this case, that they are not actually gay and can continue being heterosexual. Often, the sufferer perceives that their happiness hinges on the answer. In some cases, it almost feels like life and death! The sufferer will sometimes come to therapy with the hopes that they will talk about their feared thoughts, their therapist will have them jump up and down a few times, maybe talk about their childhood a bit, then reveal that they were straight all along. Happily ever after, right?
Treatment for all forms of OCD requires the sufferer to accept that their fear could happen, however unlikely, all while they attempt to live their life as they ultimately want. Treatment for HOCD, like treatment for any form of OCD, is about learning to tolerate the presence of unwanted thought, feeling, mental image, or urge, and realizing that the sufferer can survive the anxiety without engaging in the endless bouts of reassurance seeking, testing, or mental review.
Face the Fear
HOCD treatment is about resisting the thought process, behavior, avoidance, or ritual that ultimately the sufferer does not want to do. This feels risky! If all those behaviors are intended to help the sufferer maintain their heterosexuality (i.e. “happiness,” according to their fear), then not doing them is leaving the sufferer vulnerable to attack, right?
Instead of fighting the content of the obsessions about sexuality, treatment for HOCD is about disengaging from the content and learning to tolerate, sit in, and ride through the anxiety. That unwanted feel will eventually pass. It always has and it always will.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure and Response Prevention, and Mindfulness training have been proven effective in helping people treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Facing the fear by allowing the thoughts to be present without fighting them often results in a gradual reduction of the anxiety associated with these thoughts. More importantly, through treatment, you can learn that you can handle the anxiety without it destroying who you are.
If you’re ready to stop the OCD cycle and get your life back, starting therapy for HOCD is a great place to start. For more information about HOCD and HOCD treatment online or in-person, please contact CalOCD by clicking here.