Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD

What Is Compulsive Staring?

4 min read
Patrick McGrath, PhD

While obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is commonly portrayed in the media through stereotypes like checking OCD or contamination OCD, there are countless OCD subtypes that each manifest in different ways. Most people with OCD follow the same obsession-compulsion pattern, but between individuals, symptoms can manifest in completely different ways. 

compulsive staring and OCD

Compulsive staring is a particularly under-represented form of OCD, but it’s just as valid as other types and is defined by the same pattern of excessive intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that can cause repetitive, and sometimes irrational, behaviors (compulsions). Below is some information about compulsive staring and how it fits in with what we know about OCD.

Is compulsive staring a form of OCD?

Absolutely! Compulsive staring is a type of OCD characterized by the persistent need to stare at genitals or breasts, regardless of whether or not someone wants to stare at them. Like many forms of OCD, compulsive staring starts with an intrusive thought, or obsession, that leads to excessive stress, anxiety or physical discomfort followed by taking an action, or compulsion, in order to ease those negative thoughts or feelings.

There are typically two types of compulsive staring people experience: those who find themselves staring even when they don’t want to, and those who aren’t staring but can’t stop thinking about it. 

Regardless of which category you find yourself in, your experience with compulsive staring is completely valid. These obsessive thoughts or compulsive actions can cause a lot of discomfort both internally and externally, and — regardless of how someone experiences compulsive staring — the stress and anxiety surrounding the obsession can cause very real disruptions to a person’s daily life.

What causes compulsive staring? 

While researchers haven’t identified a single cause for OCD and its subtypes, we do know that OCD is typically caused by a combination of psychological, environmental and biological factors.

Even though we don’t know what causes OCD, we do understand how OCD works, which can help make treatment for OCD much easier. For people experiencing compulsive staring or another form of OCD, it all starts with a trigger. This can be internal or external, and it typically involves experiencing something that leads to an intrusive thought — like thinking you might be staring at someone’s genitals — that leads to continued obsession.

In the case of compulsive staring, this obsession over whether or not you are staring at someone’s genitals can cause immense distress. As a result of this negative feeling, you might find yourself taking an action, also known as a compulsion, to ease the stress or anxiety you might be feeling.

Can compulsive staring be treated?

Thankfully, OCD and its subtypes — including compulsive staring — are more treatable than ever before using a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) known as exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. Known as the gold standard in treating OCD, ERP works by placing people with OCD in various situations in order to provoke their obsessions in a safe environment with the guidance of a licensed therapist. Over time, the goal of ERP is to teach people how to prevent their compulsive responses, allowing them freedom from the seemingly endless cycle of obsessions and compulsions, so they can live a life free of OCD. While this process might seem intense, it’s also proven to be the most effective form of treatment for OCD and its subtypes, meaning it’s definitely worth the work.

How do I find treatment for compulsive staring?

If you’re ready to seek treatment for compulsive staring, we recommend looking for a licensed therapist with experience in treating OCD using ERP. You can start by looking for an ERP-certified therapist in your area, or you can opt for virtual therapy using services like NOCD. 

With a nationwide network of highly qualified licensed therapists, NOCD is one of the most affordable and accessible options for ERP therapy available. Therapy is conducted via one-on-one calls or video sessions, and all NOCD therapists have experience treating various forms of OCD with ERP therapy, meaning you’re only a phone call away from finding the right care provider for you. Schedule a free call today and learn more about how you can treat your compulsive staring and find freedom from the endless cycle of obsessions and compulsions once and for all.

Patrick McGrath, PhD

Dr. McGrath is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the Chief Clinical Officer at NOCD. He is a member of the Scientific and Clinical Advisory Boards of the International OCD Foundation, a Fellow of the Association for Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies, and the author of "The OCD Answer Book" and "Don't Try Harder, Try Different."

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Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
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Taylor Newendorp

Taylor Newendorp

Network Clinical Training Director

I started as a therapist over 14 years ago, working in different mental health environments. Many people with OCD that weren't being treated for it crossed my path and weren't getting better. I decided that I wanted to help people with OCD, so I became an OCD therapist, and eventually, a clinical supervisor. I treated people using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and saw people get better day in and day out. I continue to use ERP because nothing is more effective in treating OCD.

Madina Alam

Madina Alam

Director of Therapist Engagement

When I started treating OCD, I quickly realized how much this type of work means to me because I had to learn how to be okay with discomfort and uncertainty myself. I’ve been practicing as a licensed therapist since 2016. My graduate work is in mental health counseling, and I use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy because it’s the gold standard of OCD treatment.

Andrew Moeller

Andrew Moeller

Licensed Therapy, LMHC

I've been a licensed counselor since 2013, having run my private practice with a steady influx of OCD cases for several years. Out of all the approaches to OCD treatment that I've used, I find Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy to be the most effective. ERP goes beyond other methods and tackles the problem head-on. By using ERP in our sessions, you can look forward to better days ahead.

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