What is OCD related to fear of being straight?
|Sexual Orientation OCD can impact anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. What people call “Straight OCD” involves thoughts, worries, or doubts along the lines of “What if I am actually heterosexual/straight?” |
In this subtype, anyone who doesn’t identify as heterosexual can experience intrusive thoughts around individuals of the opposite gender. These intrusive thoughts cause distress because they do not conform with one’s identity. Fear of living a lie and never knowing your true sexual orientation may cause great anxiety and distress. You may fear that you have been living a life that is not genuine, or that you have been deceiving yourself and others.
People with this subtype may fear they will make relationship choices or commitments and become trapped in a life that is not congruent with their values or true identity. One may begin to wonder how anyone truly knows if they are straight or not. One may feel a need to know exactly where one falls on a spectrum of sexual orientation. “How do I find out if I am actually straight?” becomes an overwhelming concern.
People with fear of being straight may feel like they cannot carry on with their lives without knowing their identity for certain, and the idea of questioning one’s identity or living with a fluid identity feels distressing or impossible. The concern feels urgent and one may begin to feel like their thoughts and worries need to be solved as soon as possible. Beliefs that one should know what their sexual orientation is intuitively may lead to frustration.
Straight OCD – Common obsessions
- Worrying there has been a change in your sexual orientation
- Worrying that you are not attracted to members of the same gender
- Worrying that you are attracted to members of the opposite gender
- Fear you are in denial of being straight
- Fear of losing your sexual identity
- Fear you may have been straight for your entire life and have not been living authentically
- Fear that you will hurt or betray your partner due to loss of attraction or change in identity
People who have intrusive thoughts involving possibly being heterosexual may become uncomfortable in romantic situations. They may frequently “check” their feelings of attraction when with individuals of the same gender to seek reassurance. In addition, you may find yourself noticing individuals of the opposite gender more and checking your response to them. This can make dating and interacting with others feel unbearable due to mental exhaustion.
Triggers for people with fear of being straight OCD include:
- Sexual encounters
- Seeing attractive individuals of the opposite gender
- Seeing a heterosexual couple be intimate
- Hearing about other people’s sexual orientation
Compulsions performed mentally or physically by people with Straight OCD fears include:
- Avoiding dating
- Asking for reassurance from others who know your identity
- Reassuring yourself of your sexual orientation
- Mentally reviewing past sexual experiences
- Engaging in mental checking: “Did I find that person attractive?”
- Researching online about sexual orientation
- Checking for a groinal response when around those of other genders
- Avoiding things you may associate with being straight
- Playing storylines in your head to decide if you would enjoy being straight
- Avoiding making eye contact with individuals of the opposite gender
- Staring at members of the same gender to check for attraction
How can I know if it’s OCD and I’m not just in denial?
|It’s normal to feel confused and question your sexual orientation. |
Sexuality is complex. You can question at any age what your sexual orientation might be. It can also be normal to experience some distress from not feeling certain about where you fit on the sexuality spectrum. However, there is a difference between questioning if you are straight and experiencing Straight OCD.
When experiencing Straight OCD these thoughts are intrusive and unwanted. You may notice difficulty focusing and completing simple tasks due to being stuck trying to figure out your sexual orientation. The thought can feel sticky and unmanageable. You may feel overwhelmed, not knowing how you can continue to live your life if you are potentially living a lie. You may be spending excessive time ruminating about your sexual orientation.
In addition, there is a difference between denial and Straight OCD. Fear of being Straight OCD is about doubting your sexual orientation. When someone is in denial, they avoid thinking about a problem, try to justify their behavior, or deny the presence of a problem. Conversely, people experiencing Straight OCD will find it extremely difficult to avoid thinking about and trying to resolve their obsessions.
How to treat fear of being straight
Straight OCD can be debilitating for people who struggle with it, but it is highly treatable. By doing exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy with an OCD specialist, you can learn to change the way you respond to these intrusive thoughts and doubts, and live with confidence in your identity.
Throughout ERP treatment, you will slowly expose yourself to the things that trigger your doubt and anxiety. By practicing these exposures without engaging in compulsive behaviors to reduce your anxiety, you will become more confident in tolerating anxiety, and your relationship with anxiety will gradually change. The treatment will help you build back your self trust and feel confident that you are living a life that aligns with your values instead of your intrusive fears.
While talking about sexual thoughts can feel uncomfortable, your therapist will never judge you. You are not your thoughts. Your therapist will help you identify your obsessions, compulsions, and triggers in order to build an effective treatment plan. Effective ERP done collaboratively with a highly trained therapist can be immensely beneficial for this and all other subtypes of OCD.