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Gay OCD / HOCD Treatment


The OCD Center of Los Angeles discusses treatment of Gay OCD, also known as HOCD, using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness.  Part two of a five-part series.

Treatment of Gay OCD / HOCD

Gay OCD / HOCD / Sexual Orientation OCD
Gay OCD (also known as HOCD) can be effectively treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness

As noted in our previous post, Gay OCD (also known as HOCD or Sexual Orientation OCD), is a condition in which an individual, straight or gay, obsessively doubts their sexual orientation.  Research has consistently found that the most effective treatment for this and all types of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), with a focus on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

Over the past ten years, many OCD specialists have also begun to integrate concepts from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MBCBT) into their treatment of OCD.  In MBCBT, the goal is to change one’s perspective toward one’s thoughts, as well as the behavioral responses these thoughts lead to.  Using mindfulness, it is possible to circumvent much of the OCD process and ultimately reverse it into remission.

Mindfulness is particularly helpful when treating the more obsessional variants of OCD, including HOCD.  When combining MBCBT with the traditional tools of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the following treatment techniques are used to address the unwanted thoughts and behaviors seen in Sexual Orientation OCD.

Mindfulness for Gay OCD / HOCD

Thoughts are just thoughts.  You have them because you have a brain.  The rest is just details.

Practicing mindfulness means actively observing your own tendency to over-attend, over-value, and over-respond to thoughts.  In Sexual Orientation OCD, the sufferer is over-attending to ego-dystonic thoughts related to sexual identity.  For most people, if they have a thought about a meteor hitting them today, they quickly shrug it off with a “whatever happens, happens” approach.  Anything is possible, and being wrong would mean certain death, but it hasn’t happened so far and life is too short not to go outside just because of the highly unlikely possibility of being struck by a meteor.  But if an individual with Sexual Orientation OCD has a thought of secretly or suddenly being gay, they feel an overwhelming need to investigate, neutralize, and suppress that thought.

When you over-attend to any thought, you automatically give it increased value.  It is no longer a thought that just popped up for no apparent reason; now it is an important thought you carefully monitored until it presented itself!  And now that it has been over-valued, you desperately want to respond to it.  Of course, any response in this situation will be an over-response, because the thought has no important value in the first place.  These unnecessary responses are essentially compulsive efforts to neutralize or eliminate a thought that was meaningless and not worth more than a moment’s attention.  Compulsive behavioral responses in Sexual Orientation OCD typically involve the following:

  • Avoidance of sexual orientation-related triggers (i.e. gay people, gay films and TV shows, gay neighborhoods);
  • Physical rituals designed to “prove” ones sexuality (i.e. checking ones genitals for signs of arousal, increased sexual activity in an effort to prove to one’s self that they are straight, compulsive masturbation to straight pornography);
  • Mental rituals aimed at forcing unwanted gay thoughts away (over-analysis of gay thoughts, trying to force straight thoughts into consciousness, mentally reviewing past sexual encounters, etc.).

Cognitive Restructuring for Gay OCD / HOCD

Everyone has distorted thinking at times.  And people with Sexual Orientation OCD have distorted thinking about their sexuality.  In Cognitive Restructuring, the objective is to learn to identify distorted thinking, and challenge it with rational, objective, evidence-base thinking.  Identifying distorted thinking means learning the language of OCD and knowing when to call yourself out on maladaptive cognitions.

This can be a slippery slope for the obsessive-compulsive who may feel inclined to use restructuring as a mental ritual.  The trick is to be straight (no pun intended) and to the point.  A triggering situation occurs, you think something about it, and then you have one shot to modify that thought for something more rational.  It is important to remember that this is not a debate between you and the OCD.  The OCD got its chance to call you gay.  Then you get your chance to challenge the idea.  Anything else is mental ritual.

It is important to understand that mental rituals are compulsions, and that they make your OCD worse.  By spending mental energy trying to prove your sexual orientation, you are only contributing to the brain’s misconception that the thought was important, and that there is some reason to doubt your orientation.  When simple cognitive restructuring is not doing the trick, it is always a wiser choice to return to mindfulness and to accept that many thoughts happen without those thoughts having to mean something important.  Don’t get conned into an OCD contest you can never win.

Cognitive distortions in Sexual Orientation OCD typically include the following:

  • All-or-nothing thinking – “If  I have even a single gay thought, that must certainly mean that I am gay.”
  • Catastrophizing – “Being gay would destroy my life.”
  • Discounting and minimizing the positive – “Despite having had these thoughts many times, I’ve always been straight, but this time is different.”
  • Comparison – “I’ll never be happy like that straight couple over there.”

This is, of course, just a sample of the trickery OCD uses with this issue.  Identifying your OCD’s thought traps and mastering the language of CBT for OCD is what you should expect in the early part of treatment.

Mindfulness Workbook for OCD

Exposure and Response Prevention for HOCD

The greatest change, in fact the only change, occurs when we change our behavior.  We would all like to feel better before actually taking the steps needed to get better.  But that’s putting the cart before the horse, and is not realistic.  We must first change behavior, and then learn patience while we wait for thoughts and feelings to catch up.  Learning to ride a bike requires exposure to the fear of falling, paired with prevention of the instinctual response of jumping off the bike to prevent falling.  Nobody with a fear of falling off a bike gets over that fear before getting on the bike.

Some OCD sufferers may be concerned that this means engaging in homosexual behavior to overcome their fear of being gay.  This is missing the mark.  The fear is not about having gay sex, but is instead about being stuck with thoughts that you think have the power to ruin your enjoyment of heterosexual sex and destroy your life.  So “testing” yourself by engaging in sexual contact outside of your historically-true sexual orientation as a means to overcome this fear will generally backfire.

Instead, a more effective approach would be exposure to thoughts of homosexuality and the fear that you are not who you thought you were.  Your OCD brain tells you that you must not think certain thoughts because they are dangerous to you.  But your rational brain has the power to stand up to this bully and burn out the OCD circuits by intentionally exposing yourself to unwanted thoughts about your sexual orientation. This often takes a combination of visual, situational, and imaginal exposure.

  • Visual exposure would typically involve looking at images or videos of things that trigger the unwanted thoughts while resisting mental rituals to explain or neutralize the thoughts.  To be done effectively, this form of exposure would start with something mildly triggering, such as a picture of an attractive same-sex celebrity.  Once this no longer elicits a fear response, the exposure would be heightened to repeatedly looking at pictures of a more sexual nature, and ultimately multiple viewings of explicit pornographic material.
  • Situational exposure would typically involve visiting gay neighborhoods, bars, nightclubs, listening to “gay” music, spending time with gay acquaintances, etc.
  • Imaginal exposure would typically involve writing out a short, but explicit story in which you describe yourself living a homosexual lifestyle, and the unwanted consequences that you envision would arise from this. To learn more about imaginal exposure, click here.

The objective of these exposures is to intentionally, but gradually, raise the anxiety caused by your unwanted thoughts, and to ultimately demonstrate to your brain that you can tolerate the presence of these thoughts.  Conversely, compulsions teach the opposite – that you cannot tolerate discomfort.  Exposure is the same mechanism employed any time you wish to gain strength.  You lift a weight, something heavier than you normally would lift in your everyday life.  Over time that weight becomes easier to lift.  But the weight stays constant.  What changes is your ability to accept the weight.

On the subject of consequences, it is important to remember that Sexual Orientation OCD causes suffering equal to that of other forms of OCD.  Culturally, the idea of someone worrying about being gay might trigger a sense of amusement in someone not afflicted with this form of OCD.  However, let’s not overlook what the person suffering from Sexual Orientation OCD is really afraid of:

  • “My entire history as a lie.”
  • “I will be rejected and abandoned by my family and friends.”
  • “I will be subject to public ridicule.”
  • “I will have to spend the rest of my life having sex that feels alien to who I am.”
  • “I will have a lifetime of self-hatred and self-disgust.”
  • “I will never truly connect to another person again.”

In short, dying alone in the dark.  Ask the right questions, and every obsessive fear arrives here.  But it’s important to point out that what the OCD sufferer fears is not accurate.  While being part of any cultural minority has unique challenges, I have never heard any genuinely gay clients describe their own homosexuality in the above terms.  Simply put, what the OCD is threatening is not true.

Sexual orientation is so wrapped up in identity that it’s an easy target for OCD.  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder spends its free time researching new and exciting ways to lock you into fear.  There really is no reason to ask why Sexual Orientation OCD happens.  The answer is obvious – because it works.

CBT and MBCBT are aimed at reversing a learned fear cycle.  HOCD says you must not have gay thoughts.  But gay thoughts exist.  People who say they’ve never had one are lying; not because they are secretly gay, but because it requires a gay thought to even know what the word means.  So if something necessarily exists and you are trying to prevent it from existing, this is not going to work out well.  If instead, you can accept the reality that a variety of sexual thoughts occur as a function of having a brain, then you can train yourself to treat those thoughts with whatever significance that you, not your OCD, deem appropriate.

To take our free confidential online HOCD test, click here

To read part one in our series of articles on HOCD, click here.

To read part three in our series of articles on HOCD, click here.

To read part four in our series of articles on HOCD, click here.

You can click here to read part five – “HOCD: 30 Things You Need To Know”.

The OCD Center of Los Angeles is a private, outpatient clinic specializing in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related anxiety based conditions.  In addition to individual therapy, the center offers six weekly therapy groups, as well as online therapy, telephone therapy, and intensive outpatient treatment.  To contact the OCD Center of Los Angeles, click here.




  • Thank you so much for posting about HOCD! As someone who suffers from this type of OCD, and lives in Canada, I have struggled to find effective treatment. It is always helpful to read credible information on how to fight this horrible disorder.

  • This is a very good post. I have HOCD. I was wondering if you could give us some examples of cognitive Restructuring techniques and examples for this particular kind of OCD? What are some rational thoughts to tell yourself if your HOCD is telling you “I’m gay” or “what if you gay?” I wana have an idea of what rational thought to think. I don’t wana make it worse by thinking something wrong. I would also like to know how to use Mindfulness for this type of OCD.

  • Hi Javier,

    Your attempt to identify the “right” thought to think should be looked at as part of your compulsive behavior. Cognitive Restructuring would be using non-distorted evidence-based statements that challenge the OCD’s assertions. Mindfulness would mean identifying thoughts of gayness as lacking intrinsic importance and not being evidence of anything.

    For a more in-depth look at Cognitive Restructuring and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I suggest checking out some of the books available on the subject.

    • I’m 18 now and really am scared about this whole thing I’ve had a homosexual experience as a child and it did feel good,but I didn’t really know what gay was back then and it makes me feel guilty now,yesterday I cried my eyes out and went for a drive listening to me and my girlfriends songs pretty much praying that I wasn’t gay because I didn’t want to lose her,my brain will tell me that I don’t love her,or that I’m with her as a cover up or for even guilt but when that happened I cried and cried and kept repeating the songs over and over,I really am petrified to be gay and my anxiety is the worst it’s ever been when I acknowledge these thoughts I mean I tell my self I don’t want to be gay and I honestly don’t it would really ruin my happiness right now,we just moved in together have everything anyone could ask for,and it all started because sometimes I get soft during sex,I also am diagnost with anxiety and always had performance anxiety help,I just really need advice I will do anything to stop thinking I’m gay when in my head it just feels wrong,besides that one experience as a child I’ve always cringed and been very sexual towards females It’s driving me insane

      • Luis,

        A few thoughts…

        Many straight people have had same-sex experiences when they were children. It is natural for children to experiment with their sexuality. Unfortunately, people often feel guilt and shame about these experiences, and these feelings are often even worse for those with HOCD.

        It is worth mentioning as a side-note that having had a same-sex experience as a child does not mean one is gay, nor does it make one become gay.

        Likewise, having sexual performance anxiety that leads to a getting soft during sex does not indicate that one is gay.

        It sounds like you truly love your girlfriend, and that you have always been attracted to women, which strongly suggests that you are straight.

        I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in the treatment of OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

        Take care.

  • Hi,

    can u help me pls, i have all the symptoms of HOCD n i felt very happy when i found all of this information about OCD because now i know that those thoughts are not of my own will and they are because my ocd, but now a new “what if” is messing with me.

    what if i really dont have ocd????

    I’ve never been diagnosed but i have all the symptoms, anxiety , rumination, stomach aches, depression, all of them.
    And also i remember that some years ago I felt exactly the same but for the fear of having a brain tumor, is like a Déjà vu because i feel exactly the same anxiety n fear.
    i remember 2 or 3 more situation like this one before but not for the fear of being homosexual.

    i have a very obsesive behavior with door locks n food

    what u think? help me pls 🙂

  • i remember when i had the fear of having a tumor, i did the same cycle.
    frist the thought “maybe i have a tumor” then the anxiety, the fear, the stomach aches, second the intense checking of my body feelings and my past looking for symptoms of a tumor and when something felt like a tumor in my brain, i froze and the anxiety filled me the fear destroyed my morale, i start to saw myself with a tumor it felt so real , i start to thinking in suicide(i dont know why), but no matter how deep in the fear i had been before, always something told me ” u r ok, relax is not a tumor”, i began to felt hope but in a very few seconds one thought ” maybe that headache is a tumor” “or maybe you always had one” and the cycle start again.

    now 5 or 6 years after that pain the cycle returns with a new thought
    “maybe ur gay” but i told myself “no way, i always been on girls” and the cycle start again, is like a deja vu but with feelings

    i have been fighting with this for a few weeks, and now i realized my main fear, i dont have fear of gay sex or gay people because that will never happen , i fear the fact of never be able to stop those thought and be myself again.

    sorry Mr. Hershfield, i have very bad english

    i hope u can help me.

    i m 23 years old

  • Hi Diego, thanks for your comment. The ironic obsession of fearing that one does not have OCD is actually more common than you might expect. But, people without OCD are unlikely to find themselves asking the question in the first place. You mention several common manifestations of the disorder in your post.

    But in the end, knowing for certain that you have OCD is not necessary in order for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to be effective. If the problem is that you have an unwanted thought that is intrusive and upsetting, and that this thought is paired with mental or physical rituals designed to avoid this discomfort, then CBT is what works for this problem.

    That being said, getting a proper evaluation and diagnosis may help guide you toward accessing the appropriate treatment, so that is probably in your best interest. I suggest you contact the International OCD Foundation for information on treatment specialists near you. They provide a searchable database of therapists specializing in the treatment of OCD and related conditions. Their website is

  • Great information – respect your work and committiment to this difficult and sinister condition.

    As a parent of an HOCD teenager I’m hoping to find help in developing a “non reassurance contract”. Specifically looking for a good response to the OCD need for facts and reasurance. Any templates or google topic is appreciated.

  • Thank you so much for this article. I believe I am suffering from HOCD and reading this when I start to panic brings great relief. Just knowing that other people have this issue helps me to control the thought that I must be a lesbian. I started working with a therapist today and hope that I’m able to overcome this debilitating thought cycle.

  • Hi Don, that’s great that you are working with your child to combat the OCD. Forming a contract that allows you to withhold reassurance and helps your child to understand that this is in their best interest can be very helpful. When you notice a reassurance-seeking question, you can acknowledge that they are struggling, and then remind them of the contract and why you created it together.

    The objective is learning to tolerate uncertainty, not to spend one’s life trying to prove what thoughts mean. You may want to read our article about reassurance seeking in OCD.

  • Hi Beth, I’m glad to hear the article has helped you to understand your symptoms, and that you are not alone with them. I hope you are getting therapy from someone who understands OCD and CBT so they will be able to give you the treatment that is needed. Non-CBT forms of therapy are not likely to be helpful for this particular disorder.

    Remember, attempts to control thoughts about being a lesbian are likely compulsions that fuel the problem. Rather than focusing on controlling your thoughts, focus on accepting that they are thoughts, not threats.

  • I think I have hocd but I’m nt 100%?!? Can hocd effect your sex drive?! And recently I look at blokes bums but I’m nt sure whether that’s my hocd tricking me into liking them?! I’m really confused and it’s gettin me down!? 🙁

  • I forgot to say I have been heterosexual all my life I’m a 23 yr old man and these thoughts started happening just after I split from my gf who I had been with for 5yrs! I’ve been like this now for nearly 8 months can hocd take away the attraction to the opposite sex?! :-/

  • Hi Lee,

    I think most people would find that their ability to enjoy the sexual experience becomes impaired when they devote a lot of time to monitoring that experience.

    Yes, depression and anxiety often cause chemical changes in libido. In OCD, over-attending to your thoughts is equally likely to have this effect. While insisting on knowing things with 100% certainty is problematic anyway, it does sound like you are describing a pattern of behavior that involves unwanted intrusive thoughts and mental rituals. While OCD doesn’t take away attraction to things, it can easily interfere in your ability to enjoy them.

    Having HOCD onset after the breakup of a long term relationship is not uncommon and may represent a way to create meaning and avoid the discomfort of accepting that what happened, happened. My recommendation is to seek treatment from a therapist who specializes in the treatment of HOCD with with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

  • Thank u for your comment, I have now got a new gf and sometimes the sex is enjoying and real but if I think bout these thoughts – “I’m gay?!?”

    It easily interupts things and I find it difficult to enjoy. I can admit I used drugs for a long period of time…weed and excstacy. maybe this has made things worse?! :-/

    this is a bit private to say but I need someone to talk to. during sex when I have foreplay I have no trouble maintaining an erection but as soon as we start I can feel it flopping?! I love her but coza these intrusive thoughts I’m having, I doubt myself sometimes?’ :-/ could i be gay and nt known about this and have only just realised?!

  • If you are doing battle with your thoughts instead of accepting them as they are, then this means you are not in the present moment, and this is going to affect your libido and sexual performance.

    Performance anxiety is very common with ocd and depression, but can be particularly troublesome for those with sexual obsessions. Practicing mindfulness helps. In some cases exposure can be used within the context of the sexual experience itself, such as purposefully telling yourself you are gay while having sex.

    Thoughts are thoughts. They don’t make you something you are not.

  • The picture you have on this site freaks me out!!! I can’t look at it for long, it’s to scary…. sounds pretty dumb to say that but it gives me alot of anxiety… wow i’m weird 🙁

  • i could really use some help. i’ve had anxiety and obsessions for as long as i can remember. when i was younger i had a constant fear of monsters because of a movie i watched and felt sick to my stomach for months and constantly needed reassurance from my parents. this phobia left but the fear of sleeping in my bed started…again i obsessed and thought about it for months.

    about ten years ago when i was 12 i was watching a special on a female musician that i was a fan of and she gave her younger fan a peck. i thought to myself “i wish that was me”. well that one thought sent me into a panic of me wondering that meant i was gay. i told my parents but they just thought i was panicking over nothing. they would love me and accept me no matter what. after a couple years of therapy i was advised that i was suffering from anxiety and eventually started feeling like myself again.

    i had a boyfriend for 3 years and these “what if” thoughts pretty much left and if i did get an anxious thought i would think “whatever its nothing”. however for the past 3 months these thoughts have started again. i found out a 30 year old women who we knew came out and it really shocked me and i thought; what if that happens to me?

    about a week later i was held up at a grocery store i work at and felt tremendous anxiety which only allowed my gay thoughts to take over me more. i cant even hear the word gay without feeling panicky. my mind will not stop obsessing because im trying to find an answer. i wake up and think about it until i fall currently on anti depressants.

    i am completely acceptbale of gay people so i do not know why i am letting it panic me. i feel like i do not know who i am anymore because im so depressed i feel no attraction to anyone anymore which only causes more anxiety about figuring out who i am. i have been happiest when i felt and believed i was straight but my mind is causing me to doubt everything. your opinions on this situation would help me so so much. thank you.

  • Hi Sarah, thanks for your post. I think it is important for you to work with an ocd specialist who uses CBT to treat your condition. Part of the problem I see occurring for you in your post is that you are looking at your sexual orientation as somehow dependent on what thoughts go through your head. With the focus being on trying to convince yourself that you are straight, you are only setting yuor brain up to believe that your sexual orientation is this fragile concept that’s totally open for debate. It isn’t true. If you stop trying to make yourself believe you are straight and instead understand that thoughts are just thoughts, your anxiety will decrease and your actual sexual orientation will be unphased.

    This woman who shocked you when she came out at age 30 – it would be interesting to know how shocked she was herself or if she was actually gay and finally decided at 30 to tell people about it. You ask “what if that happens to me” but since we don’t know what this person was actually going through and you are actually a different person, it’s only an ocd question to begin with!

    It also sounds to me like you recently had a pretty traumatic experience happen to you when you were held up and your ocd simply ties fear to this word “gay.” I see this with some frequency, particularly in depressed clients. The word “gay” doesn’t even have much to do with sexual orientation at that point, but is instead a form of internal bullying or name-calling. In any case, your strategy should be to accept that these thoughts happen, that they are not important, and that they do not need to be responded to with compulsive mental “straightening” out.

    You mentioned you are on anti-depressants and this may help (although it’s worth noting that this may also be affecting your libido). But it is important that you get treatment from someone who understands ocd so you can change the behaviors that are locking you into this obsession. The IOCDF has a good “find a therapist” tool.

  • Hi,

    I am almost 30 years old, and over the past 11 years I have secretly suffered about being or becoming gay. I can remember that the mere wore “homosexual” would rise lots of anxiety, and I would even avoid situations or conversations about the subject. Leave alone that I have had plenty of girlfriends and that I have actually been very happy and “obssesed” about them.

    Last year was different. A very powerful and horrifying fear of being gay hit me, to the point of desperation. For that, I had to look for help immediately. To my advantage, I was treated (through skype) by the founder and director of the CBT Foundation in New York. After two and a half months I started to feel much better and to understand the entire process that OCD makes in your brain.

    However, not too long ago, I started to have like a mild depression. I am in a new city, and although everything seemed perfect, I felt something is missing in my life. Right away, the thoughts that maybe “I want to be gay but I don’t have the emotional strenght to do it” came back”.

    Now, when I fantasize about “gay thoughts” as a part of the exposure techniques, I actually enjoy it and it makes me feel that my body is telling me something and my subconscious something else. Because of it, I create very vivid scenarios in my mind to actually prove that I am gay, and not straight! And the fact that I might get a positive answer of “yes, I am gay” gives me and raises back the anxiety.

    If this is OCD, then it has found a very smart way to present itself. I know feel like my brain is so used to these doubts, that if I don’t have them something is missing!

    I want to hear your thoughts.

  • Esteban,

    Why does thinking about gayness and liking it mean you are gay? If I think about murder and like it, does that mean I am going to kill someone? You can go ahead and be “gay” and continue enjoying your heterosexual lifestyle and I will continue to be a psycho and continue not killing anyone! Who will know and who will care? In other words, you are slipping away from cbt when you are focusing on why you have certain thoughts and the idea that they can be evidence.

    I have seen a few people dealing with this form of ocd for decades before getting treatment and in these cases it often seems to be connected to negative self-thoughts and depression. The word “gay” becomes more of an insult or a form of self abuse, rather than a statement about sexual orientation.

    It is often important to treat the depression first – that is, the negative beliefs about the self, the world, and the future, before effective work can be done on the ocd.

    The sentiment of “missing” obsessive thoughts is not uncommon. Engaging in compulsive analysis of your thought may cause a lot of pain, but pain may also be a comfort zone for you over time. Exposure then means allowing yourself to miss the thoughts without trying to make it understood.

  • Hi,

    I’ve never met you, but I’ve actually been getting treatment at the OCD Center of LA for about a year now, starting with individual treatment and now in a group. I just wanted to thank you so much for posting this blog on HOCD, my primary OCD. I think it is wonderful that you respond to each post with such great input. While I feel like my symptoms have been significantly reduced, it always helps reading more information on this specific type of OCD. Reading and relating to others on this thread really shows me that what I’ve been doing the past year with Cognitive Behavioral Treatment and Mindfulness Treatment has worked wonders, and I encourage everyone with this condition to seek help from a therapist who specializes in this. HOCD CAN BE TREATED EFFECTIVELY, and we must all think positively. To think I’d be in this position now after one year, looking at the picture on this page with little anxiety, is a true testament to the effectiveness of this therapy. I wish everyone who reads this blog the best-and to remember the fact that you are definitely not alone in this!

    Also, I wanted to write to Sarah, who posted on January 1st, because the story of your obsessions is so very similar to mine. I’m now 21, but have been obsessing over this issue on and off since I was about 12 (with 2 serious boyfriends in between, during which time the obsessions pretty much stopped). I too felt completely accepting of gay people and was confused by my anxiety. I even told my parents when I was 12 and got a very similar reaction. This alone shows that what we suffer from is HOCD. When I realized and accepted this fact, I was halfway there to being “cured.” (I put cured in quotations because we should not think of it as being cured, rather trained on how to manage our anxiety). I urge you to seek specific help on HOCD, because your anxiety and obsessions CAN be alleviated!

    All my best,

  • Hello, great articles. It made me feel a whole lot better. Ever since I was 14 I pretty much watched porn several times a day (19 now) and my sexuality has gone in strange directions over the years. Ever since I could remember I wanted a girlfriend. I remember having a crush on a girl in 1st grade. I remember high school when all I could think about was this girl nicky and how much I wanted to talk to her.

    I actually have proof that I could be gay or bisexual because I’ve masturbated and ejaculated to gay fantasies in the past. Also when I was 16 I had cyber sex with a “girl” (probably a guy) who convinced me that I would certainly LOVE gay sexual acts. It bothered me a lot at first but then sort of grew on me.

    My HOCD started when I met my first girlfriend online. We skyped everyday and I loved talking to her. One day she asked if I wanted a three sum with her and another girl. I immediately had a thought that I wouldn’t enjoy having sex with 2 girls at once. I thought i’d much rather have sex with 2 men instead. I freaked out. I’ve been drinking almost everyday. Ever since then I haven’t been the same and I’m scared to death. I know I like girls, but I’m still scared of my own sexual history.

  • Mike, thanks for your post. I think it’s important to recognize that “masturbating to fantasies” is not “proof” of anything. Generally speaking, people who engage in sexual fantasies (using pornography for example) are likely to enjoy things that they are less likely to end up doing in real life. This may include fantasies that deal with specific situations, role playing, or orientation. While the idea of walking into a room of beautiful naked women lying in wait may inspire the imagination, the real situation would make most straight guys extremely uncomfortable and disturbed. Fantasies that involve orientation experimentation are not unusual. In any case, fantasy doesn’t make your reality.

    You describe your HOCD starting when you experienced a “gay thought” while talking to a woman about straight sex. This is a problem of you over-attending to the meaning of your thoughts, not a problem of sexual orientation. People often think of opposites when considering various kinds of thoughts.

    You mentioned that you are drinking almost every day and it goes without saying that this is not going to help you. Separate from the fact that alcoholism is one more problem you don’t want, drinking as a form of reducing anxiety consistently backfires. When you drink, you don’t learn, so whatever anxiety alcohol suppresses, it will be there the next morning in full force. A better, healthier, more productive way to address your ocd is by getting treatment for it. A good place to start is at

  • Hey,

    I’m seventeen and I’ve been fighting this horrible thing for about six years. I’m the youngest person I’ve ever heard of with this disease — never heard of anyone else who experienced it at age eleven. Heh. I think your comments were pretty much right on, except the bit about looking at explicit pornography; I don’t think that’s a very good idea.

    This year I finally started getting therapy — I hadn’t had any before but I sort of self-identified this as HOCD last year and gave myself therapy in a way, which worked fairly well. I’m not “better” exactly, but I’m a lot better than I used to be — I can hug my female friends, I can actually talk to boys (when it started, when I was eleven, I thought hanging around boys too much would mean I was a lesbian), and I can actually go ahead and type the word lesbian without feeling horrible. HUGE improvement from the big cloud of depression that was most of my teenagerhood. I hid it quite well. I don’t think I should have.

    The tricky thing for me is that, since it started so young, I can’t be sure whether or not I’m gay in the first place, but I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that it doesn’t really matter and I’ll be fine just so long as I can get rid of my anxieties. That’s the real battle to be fought — so much more important than being gay or whatever I am! I’ve even managed to tell my friends about this whole thing, and not ONE of them has had a problem with it. They’ve all been really sweet.

    I’ve never dated anyone as of yet, but I hope to next year, when I go to college. Attraction to people, for me, is still a really difficult thing to identify, so I think the only thing to do is experience life as it comes and see what happens. I’m also thinking of telling people I’m probably bi and explaining the real situation as needed, because right now I don’t feel like I can genuinely say I’m straight, but lesbian definitely feels like the wrong label.

    I’m going to keep fighting this until I win.

  • Hi

    What an interesting article to stumble upon, and yet again I am experiencing a strange sense of relief and understanding.

    I suffer from dermatillomania, which is currently quite well controlled, but does at times fare up. Along with this I do relate to a variety of OCD behaviors and thought-patterns, though on a milder scale.

    What is fascinating to is that I have experienced sexuality-type obsessive thought for many years, never once relating it to a OCD thought pattern. In precious years, I obsessed over whether I was straight, lesbian or bisexual. I did experiment with all, but I now refuse to identify as anything other than pansexual, due to the stress relating to one sexual orientation causes me.

    Nowadays I obsess over whether I am sexual at all. I feel that I go through long periods of complete asexuality interspersed with periods of sexuality that confuse and shock me. Sometimes I do not feel that either sex is attractive to me, or that I am incapable of experiencing sexual pleasure, or feeling love, despite having had experiences to the contrary. I find it very difficult to put this out of my mind, have a lot of trouble enjoying sexual interactions, and am concerned that this could be sabotaging my current relationship.

    I wanted to ask if you see this form of OCD at all? An obsession with lack of sexuality…

    Thank you again, for such an insightful article.

  • Hi Bryony, thanks for your comments. Yes, many people think looking at explicit material is problematic, but the evidence speaks for itself. If it didn’t work, we wouldn’t advocate it. The important thing to remember about using pornographic material in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) for HOCD is that it comes after a gradual increase in the intensity of exposure and, most importantly, alongside very specific psychoeducation on how to process the material you are viewing.

    For many HOCD sufferers, the tendency is to watch same-sex pornography while trying to convince themselves that they are not gay. This does not work and typically makes things worse. Instead ERP needs to involve exposure to the triggering stimuli and resistance of the mental ritual to analyze what it means. That being said, if you are 17, it’s possible that viewing explicit sexual material of any kind may not be appropriate or healthy. So this technique may not be the best approach for you. In any case, it is something you would determine alongside your treatment provider.

    For many HOCD sufferers, the fear of being gay has less to do with sex and more to do with ideas about lifestyle, so exposure often focuses more on that aspect than on the sexual aspects.

    Regarding your age of onset, the time shortly before puberty is a pretty common time for an OCD sufferer to develop sexual obsessions. The reason you don’t hear about it as much is most likely because people your age feel they do not have the strength to discuss their symptoms with others. Your strategy of focusing on addressing the anxiety and the “need-to-know” compulsions is a smart one. You can tell people you are bi if you wish, but this sounds a little compulsive, like it may cause you discomfort to say you are straight if it may not be 100% honest because you have fears about being gay. My vote is you just tell people you’re a person.

  • Thanks for your question, Lethe. Yes, many people over-attend to their sexuality, and obsessing about sexual orientation is just one of the ways they do this. Other areas of obsessing may be with amount, frequency, or style of sexual feelings and expression. For some people there may be a medical condition affecting their libido, but if the driving force is OCD, then treatment would involve mindfulness work (thoughts about being asexual do not make you asexual) and perhaps imaginal exposure to the idea that something is sexually wrong with you and you are incapable of enjoying sex.

    Aside from the OCD, I think there are a lot of people who experience a fair amount of shame regarding the idea that they may not be living up to self-imposed expectations of how sexual they should be. This is one area where more traditional talk therapy may be a good collateral resource alongside the CBT for OCD.

    • I am dealing with this. I read that Asexuals don’t really like or understand sex but I don’t feel this way. I am a virgin as I am abstaining for religious reasons but I do masturbate and I fantasize, usually to sex with characters I am (these characters are me) never to real life people even though I feel sexual attraction to guys. This is causing me distress and I really don’t want to be asexual but I feel like it’s inevitable or I’m just denying it. I have no sexual experience outside of my own (never kissed/been kissed) (no dating) but only because I am very modest. I read that asexual people fantasize about fictional characters a lot and I’m afraid that’s me. I am also a writer so this is screwing up how I see my characters! I need some relief from this intrusive thought! (Oh never had a boyfriend, wanted one) also diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and OCD

      • Kida,

        Being asexual is not the same as being a virgin for religious reasons. You say you don’t want to be asexual. OK, then don’t be asexual. That means having sexual relations with other people. You say you are sexually attracted to males, so that indicates you are straight. As for fantasizing about fictional characters, people fantasize about all sorts of things.

        The bottom line is that you don’t need a label for yourself, and you don’t need to fit into a category. How about you are “sexual”, without any modifiers.

  • I find this article particularly interesting due to the fact of the amount of people who have suffered from this sub-type of OCD (including myself).

    I find particularly confusing the fact that a lot of therapists, websites, and even sex therapists believe that when a person is finding his/her sexual orientation and preferences, anxiety is always and experienced factor. In fact, in the course of the “coming out” process, some gay people find their thoughts and impulses “unacceptable”.

    How can one be defined as an anxiety disorder or as an psychological-orientation issue?


  • Thanks for the question, Alberto. One of the major challenges in getting appropriate psychotherapy is that different treatment providers may view your symptoms through the lens of their educational background only. A psychoanalyst who may not be trained in CBT for OCD is likely to approach the subject from the angle of your thoughts being secret messages about your sexuality. This is not going to help (and typically makes things worse) when the person they are treating has OCD.

    I’m not sure the definitive answer is available other than to say that the anxiety a person may have while “coming out” stems from the beliefs about what consequences will arise when people learn that they are gay. In contrast, the anxiety experienced by an OCD sufferer stems from a fear that the unwanted intrusive thoughts about homosexuality will result in becoming something they do not genuinely identify with.

  • Thanks for your answer. I have another question. If sexual orientation is something unchangeable, why a lot of men “find out” they are gay after years of marriage and happy family life? There is literature supporting the fact that they were really in love with women previously and all the sudden they discover their true inner desires.
    In other words, at what age does a person normally discovers his or hers orientation?

    Interestingly, u mentioned here that “gay feelings” are ego syntonic. You don’t
    Think hence that a gay individual might have ego dystonic sentiments toward his/her sexuality? This finally ties up to the fact if sexual orientation is not define by what once “likes” (gay feelings or killing birds), having an “heterosexual previous life” should not serve as basis to believe that heterosexuality is the orientation in course, right?

    Finally, are these questions a symptom of OCD according to your perspective?
    Thanks very much for this blog.

  • Hi Alberto, I will attempt to answer your questions as best I can in brief:

    You ask – why a lot of men “find out” they are gay after years of marriage and happy family life?

    —I don’t know. My sense is this is extremely rare but sensationalized in the media. Mostly what we call “coming out” involes people who suffer in denial trying to fit the role they think they are “supposed” to in the society they live in and ultimatelty decide they cannot tolerate this, so they reveal their true feelings publically. This does not mean they do not love their wives.

    you ask – at what age does a person normally discovers his or hers orientation?

    —I have no idea. I saw an interesting video on youtube once of a guy asking strangers when they “knew” they were straight. I’m not sure we have a good working definition of the term “knowing” to say that people “know” their sexual orientation at some specific age.

    you ask – Think hence that a gay individual might have ego dystonic sentiments toward his/her sexuality?

    —To the contrary, many homosexual people with ocd obsess that they may be secretly straight and living the wrong way.

    you ask – having an “heterosexual previous life” should not serve as basis to believe that heterosexuality is the orientation in course, right?

    —I think when people are using evidence-based logic to address distorted thinking, they may note that their previous experiences have been heterosexual. While this may be useful, I agree that it is not definitive. However, certainty should not be the objective. Rather, the person with ocd needs to develop a greater tolerance for UNcertainty.

    you ask – are these questions a symptom of OCD according to your perspective?

    —It does appear that you are over-attending to details that may prove or disprove theories about sexual orientation. This sounds like ocd to me.

  • First I want to thank you for helping so many people with informing about this form of OCD and answering questions that are so terrifying for many people.

    I do not know how to start. Actually I would like to write down my whole story but this would be to much. I am 23 years old and I am from Germany. I am studying psychology. This makes it even harder for me to accept that I have psychological problems. I think I am suffering from this form of OCD (well now and then I ask myself if this is true, if I am not really homosexual, but for now I think I am suffering of OCD).

    The first time it started was when I was 14, when someone from my class told me that there was a rumor in my class about me being gay. They said that it appears that I am not interested in boys. Actually I was interested in boys but I was really shy. But from then on I asked myself if I might be gay. I looked at the girls in my class and elsewhere and asked myself if I find them attractive. And I thought I did. There was even a time when I could not look at my mother without getting the feeling that I could find her attractive. It was horrible.

    But this did not last long. A few months or so. From then on I fell in love with some boys. But I was still quite shy and I thought of myself being ugly and fat so I had no boyfriend, though I had some dates. I wanted to have a boyfriend so much. I sometimes had a thought of being gay, but I did not busy myself with it much. When I was 18 I got to know my first boyfriend. We still are in an relationship since that. I experienced that as the most wonderful time of my whole life. I felt I was really happy for the first time of my life.

    A few months ago I watched a TV series and there was a relationship between two women. Suddenly the thoughts came back. In the Tv series one of the women realized that she was actually interested in women though she had a boyfriend before and enjoyed it. I thought what if it is true for me too? I remembered pretty well that I had the thoughts before and I became terrified by it. I engaged in constantly checking if I would find people on the street and on the campus of my university attractive – both men and women. And I could not answer the question. I could not enjoy being together with my boyfriend anymore, though it nearly killed me that I might need to give up the relationship, because of me being gay. I was so sad and so anxious that I hardly managed to eat and to sleep. I was so afraid of losing the person that means everything to me. It was extremely hard for me to concentrate on university stuff, though it is extremely important to me to get good results because I want to go to same university my boyfriend goes for doing my master degree. I will need good results on my Bachelor degree to do that.

    It was getting worse though fluctuating from day to day. On one day I had an exam and I could not prepare for it because of constantly having these thoughts. Afterwards I felt I had totally failed. I felt so miserable that I decided to call my mother and tell her about my fears. She helped me a lot and told me that my thought sounded more like obsessions than reality. That day I started some research on the internet. I could find very little about it on German websites. But somewhere I found a commend about the American name ‘HOCD’. And I found a lot. It really helped because for the first time I realized that what was torturing me was not me being homosexual, but might be sexual orientation OCD.

    I know you cannot diagnose me having OCD without seeing me and talking to me. I actually would like to do a therapy. But I am afraid of getting to the wrong person and that he or she would enhance my feeling that I might be homosexual. As what I see from the presence in the internet it appears to me that little is known about sexual orientation OCD in Germany. I do not know who is able to help me and still I am afraid of doing therapy since it might turn out that I am really gay. I do not know if you can advise me something or if you know something about how things are in Germany regarding knowledge and therapy for sexual orientation OCD.

    Sorry, I realize I have written quite a lot of my whole story. I hope you do not mind. And sorry for the grammatical mistakes I might have made.

  • I developed HOCD when I was 22 years old after a traumatic breakup with a girl. Its been 35 years since then, I have married and had children, but these fears still plague me from time to time.

    What I find now is when depressed I get stuck in the OCD and the thoughts or fear of the thoughts that are the theme of my HOCD become problematic. I am working with mindfulness and ERP through self help books. In the 90’s I did have several years of therapy that focused on most of these issues. But I still have difficulties dealing with the fact that I have made this theme a problem for my life and enjoyment.

    Do you have any suggestions on how I may work to counter this aspect of having HOCD? Why me, what about me caused this to be the obsessive theme? And how does this reflect on who I am? Thanks much. I really found both your articles very helpful.

  • Thank you so much for such an insightful piece on such a complicated issue. I have found it incredibly helpful, particularly you’re willingness to respond to questions.

    About me: Although I am yet to be diagnosed, I am sure I suffer from this. I have many symptoms concurrent with HOCD, but I wont waste time detailing those as they are consistent with many posters. While I do feel it is subsiding as I try to adopt a “it’s OCD, relax” or “so what” mentality, I do have moments/hours where I sit and ruminate over things I’ve done, thought, thought I’ve felt but in an intrusive way that always comes back to “so based on that, what if a female was to kiss me etc”, would I like it?

    Interestingly, when I am happy/content the thoughts don’t cross my mind at all, or very, very scarcely. Sadly, this is usually only true when I have a male interest or a boyfriend and when I am in a relationship lull, the thoughts return. I know I should not rely on this to make me happy. When people feel happy, is it more likely their thoughts are what they actually enjoy or can it still be the case that they are only happy because they are feeling “normal” by their thoughts, or whatever society deems as so? I must say, in my experience with men, and in particular my ex, nothing felt more perfect than lying together in bed intimately and privately and at these times the thoughts seem irrelevant.

    I have never been with a woman and when I fantasise I can’t continue if I think of women. Instead I panic. BUT I do feel a gronial “twang” – or muscle tightening perhaps? – when I see women I think are pretty in life or on TV, that makes me wonder if I am attracted to them or if it’s just an OCD symptom because of a fear to someone I am intimidated by. Do you think intimidation can onset nerves and when the HOCD equation comes into play it induces feelings of anxiety etc?

    When I say twang, it is different to the sexual urge I feel when I think of men and other straight sexual experiences. That feeling makes me want to throw my arms around a man and kiss him! But at times, my OCD (if it is that) says that’s because that’s what I want it to mean.

    Another problem plaguing me at present is how much importance should we place on childhood fantasies? Part of this ruminating has led me to ask myself what I fantasised about as a child. Up until I was maybe 10, I think all fantasies were men and women together (male crushes from TV with their leading lady and even boys I fancied at school with other random – and faceless – girls) but strangely I was never in the picture. I have two trains of thought, one, does this mean I have a secret desire to be with a woman and therefore I discreetly introduced them to my fantasies or was I ashamed of putting myself in a sexual situation because I thought I was too young. I should add that while my parents are fantastic, from a young age sex was always considered taboo and in many ways still is (even though they know I am sexually active with men, they don’t think it’s ideal outside of marriage or long term commitment). As an adult, when I fantasise it’s only me with men. What do you think this means?

    I guess my big problem I think is I when I try to let the thoughts go by retraining my brain to acknowledge “who cares, maybe I would like it if I was with a woman (there’s nothing terrible about a kiss is there, it’s not like a punch), but I am pretty sure I wouldn’t go there and would never want a relationship, but who knows unless I’m in that situation” I freak out and think that by that admission what if I’m just setting myself up for accepting a relationship with a woman which is what I secretly want because I’m in denial? And the cycle continues…

    Finally, I worry, like many others, that when I am in a long term relationship or marriage and everything is seemingly wonderful that I realise my HOCD was in fact denial all along. Does this fear stem from the fact that a relationship with a man is what I ultimately desire and because I want it more than anything else in my life (I am a terrible romantic) I also significantly fear whatever COULD stand in its way? Or again, am I making excuses?

    I worry that because I have no answer to these questions and that there is a possibility that I’m really not who I thought I was, that I am in effect lying to myself. I’ve always been a very open, honest person about everything with my friends and family (except this) and that’s why I struggle with the unknown.

    Sorry for the long post but I hope you can impart some of the wisdom you’ve shared with others, with me. Also, I hope some posters can get something out of my analysis and by your answers. Good luck everyone.

    Thank you.

  • Ron, thanks for sharing your experience. Part of working with mindfulness entails accepting thoughts about your life being affected by a variety of experiences. Some of these experiences are unpleasant, such as struggling with anxiety over an obsession. Some of those experiences are positive, such as having a spouse and children. Mindfulness asks that we do not attend to the negative any more than we might attend to the neutral or the positive because it is not fundamentally more important. In other words, Ron is a guy who married and had children and also has ocd with unwanted thoughts about his sexual orientation. Ron sounds pretty normal to me.

    As for the HOCD thoughts worsening during depression, this is very common. The important lesson to learn from this is that when you are depressed the SYMPTOMS of your OCD often worsen and when you come out of depression, they often lighten. This means the issue is not about sexual orientation itself but instead about the waxing and waning of ocd symptoms. So when you are particularly concerned about the unwanted thoughts, this does not mean the thoughts are more true – it means your ocd is in high gear and your thinking is being distorted by this.

  • Hi Hannah, thank you for your post. I often hear clients with this form of OCD tell me that they are particularly triggered by stories of people who spontaneously discover that they are gay after a lifetime of being heterosexual. Generally I think this is confused with “coming out” which is the phenomenon of knowing you are gay and choosing to keep it a secret until you are prepared to reveal it. If it is the case that someone somehow does not know they are gay and then suddenly discovers it one day, my guess is this is about as common as someone who does not know they are a serial killer until one day they kill someone and discover it really suits them. It seems rare enough not to worry about it.

    But the important thing to recognize here from an OCD perspective is that you are engaging in a cognitive distortion called “comparison.” A comparison distortion is happening when you are considering another person and taking THEIR experience as having some significance to your own experience. For example, “THIS person suddenly discovered they were gay, so it’s POSSIBLE, so it’s PROBABLY going to happen to ME.” Less distorted thinking would be, “This is another person whose experience is independent and its relevance to me is not knowable or important.”

    I agree it is difficult to find a good therapist trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD in many places. Fortunately there are some who do psychotherapy online. Our therapists here at the OCD Center of Los Angeles offer online therapy to clients in California, as well as in many other states and countries. Feel free to contact us via our website at if this is an option for you.

  • I have and am currently being treated for HOCD. I have felt and experience everything from waking up from dreams dealing with HOCD, to the questioning of my sexuality when I see an attractive member of the same sex, and ALWAYS from sun up to sun down reassuring myself that I’m not gay. That lasted for four years before I finally went in and got help with my college councilor who happened to be the shit! I’m now suffering WAY less and I hope whoever reads this and has HOCD can see that it does get better (There were times I didn’t believe that). Dealing with HOCD has made me a stronger person… It might sound a little weird but I kind of like thinking about how crazy my brain works. Its like all of us who have HOCD are in some kind of club! I want to form one… I live in the Midwest and I’m not driving far so it’s going to have to be centered nearby, lets say Iowa.

    Thanks for the article! If only I had found it before my councilor… You’re a good guy. Sorry for my informality but people with OCD can have fun too.

    Peace Love,

  • Hello there. This article went along way to make me feel a little better right now.

    I know Il be adding to a vast wall of text, but if I could tresspass upon your kindness you’d be doing me a great help.

    Basically around three and a half years ago after years of happy, undoubting straight relationships I had begun getting fears about being gay. These thoughts made me sick to the very pit of my stomach, I couldn’t function as a person, stopped seeing friends, couldn’t work and would run off for weeks at a time just driving around the country in a bid to outrun my thoughts (which probably made this worse.)

    Eventually I saw a professional who diagnosed this as OCD and was prescribed drugs (which I never took) and was put on a waiting list for CBT (which eventually I told them I never needed as I started getting better.)

    Well I did get better, and for all of last year I felt amazing, I only ever got the fears fleetingly and was able to dismiss them quickly. I’ve been with my long term girlfriend and was just so happy with how things had turned out. So convinced was I that I was OK now that I returned to an internet forum to help others. For some reason whilst reading other peoples problems it has re-triggered me, and now Im back to square one.

    A problem for me is that there alot less anxiety this time around as logically I know that I got better the first time, so I can better again. I know that what Im going through now is exactly the same as what I went through before, the problem is with the fact that my memory is fragmented at the time of the OCD last time, probably due to the amount of stress so in some ways this feels like something new (even though I know its not.)

    The biggest issue Im having to get around is what constitutes attraction. It feels as though every man I see is attractive, old or young, big or small – its ridiculous I know, but Im just struggling to apply a logical frame of mind on this. Again, I’ve been through all this before. I keep telling myself, ‘whatever, Im not going to worry until these gay thoughts arouse me’ (in which case it would no longer need be a worry) but even this is not acceptable to the endless nagging in my head. I can’t even sleep, I somehow manage to ruminate and carry on these thoughts in dreams.

    In the past year I’ve realised that Im actually a very obsessive person generally. I get hooked on one subject for a few weeks and then it will usually move on. Fears about health, or irrational fears of ‘what if theres a war’ etc. Last year on a holiday I convinced myself I had breathing and chest problems and so the whole holiday I actually created the symptoms in pure stress.

    Essentially im 99% sure that this is OCD. The stress involved, the never ending thoughts, the fact they appear in dreams, the fact that I’ve gotten over it once already… but then Im answering my own question aren’t I, because only someone with OCD would be worried about that 1%…

    I don’t want to have to keep going through the same thing over and over and over again. I spent one year last year as sure I was straight and I was happy. Thats how Id like to be all the time. I

    Im just wondering if you would think I could benefit from the use of a SSRI. I took Setraline first time around but stopped after it began playing havoc with my guts. Also, do you think its time I got some proper CBT? I got better by myself before – but obviously it wasn’t well enough to prevent it coming back.

  • Hey can u tell me if i have HOCD because im freaking out – even now im shaking!

    I have had OCD as a child however i thought i grew out of it. Since i started college ive feared of getting raped, parents dying, boyfriend dying and cheating and i cry so much i never have happy thoughts in my head for about 9 months now! However couple months i heard a girl say she’s a lesbain it freaked me out now i keep questioning myself its making me feel sick i shake so much i can’t eat or sleep i cry because im scared i turn oout like that and ruin my life!

    The worse thing about it is when i was 10 i wanted to go out with my girl cousin i use to act like a boy and pretend she was my girlfriend is this OCD that made me think i loved her? I even had a few sexual thoughts but not lesbian sex i never knew what that was! Anyway its freaking me out before i didn’t care i thought it was nothing i liked boys ever since and even before i liked boys just that one time but it stopped because she got a boyfriend. And i always think what if she didn’t would i still like her. So scared.

  • Hi Sarah

    Sorry for the delayed response! Here are my responses to your questions:

    >>>When people feel happy, is it more likely their thoughts are what they actually enjoy or can it still be the case that they are only happy because they are feeling “normal” by their thoughts, or whatever society deems as so?

    —If I understand the question, then it is not answerable. What does happy mean? I can say that generally speaking people tend to gravitate toward thoughts that are more congruent with their feelings. So if you are feeling depressed, you might notice your brain presenting you with more thoughts of a distorted and catastrophic quality. Trying to lock down the difference between an intrusive thought that runs contrary to who you want to be, and a regular thought that appears normal enough to make the grade, is actually compulsive an unnecessary. A better approach would be to accept that you have all kinds of thoughts and that you merely choose to apply some of them to behaviors sometimes based on what you feel at that moment in time.

    >>>Do you think intimidation can onset nerves and when the HOCD equation comes into play it induces feelings of anxiety etc?

    —Groinal responses are common in HOCD and have three main sources – they happen because you are checking your groin and this causes a physical response, they happen because ALL sexual thoughts (including ego dystonic ones) cause sexual responses, and they happen for no reason because the human body is inexact and unpredictable.

    >>>Another problem plaguing me at present is how much importance should we place on childhood fantasies?

    —Let me translate your question into something easier to respond to. “How much importance should we place on thoughts that we had in the past?” None.

    >>>Part of this ruminating has led me to ask myself what I fantasized about as a child. Up until I was maybe 10, I think all fantasies were men and women together (male crushes from TV with their leading lady and even boys I fancied at school with other random – and faceless – girls) but strangely I was never in the picture. I have two trains of thought, one, does this mean I have a secret desire to be with a woman and therefore I discreetly introduced them to my fantasies or was I ashamed of putting myself in a sexual situation because I thought I was too young. I should add that while my parents are fantastic, from a young age sex was always considered taboo and in many ways still is (even though they know I am sexually active with men, they don’t think it’s ideal outside of marriage or long term commitment). As an adult, when I fantasise it’s only me with men. What do you think this means?

    —In my experience, people who are raised with the notion that sexual thoughts and feelings are taboo tend to have the most exhilarating fantasies. Their meaning is irrelevant. They are thoughts and you are entitled to them no matter what their content is.

    >>>I guess my big problem I think is I when I try to let the thoughts go by retraining my brain to acknowledge “who cares, maybe I would like it if I was with a woman (there’s nothing terrible about a kiss is there, it’s not like a punch), but I am pretty sure I wouldn’t go there and would never want a relationship, but who knows unless I’m in that situation” I freak out and think that by that admission what if I’m just setting myself up for accepting a relationship with a woman which is what I secretly want because I’m in denial? And the cycle continues…

    —Part of the reason this strategy doesn’t work for you is because it is rife with compulsive mental ritual. The objective in exposure is to accept the thought, not argue and debate over why it would be ok or not. The discomfort comes from considering what might happen as a result of accepting the thoughts. The goal is to learn to tolerate that discomfort WITHOUT compulsively analyzing it.

    >>>Finally, I worry, like many others, that when I am in a long term relationship or marriage and everything is seemingly wonderful that I realise my HOCD was in fact denial all along. Does this fear stem from the fact that a relationship with a man is what I ultimately desire and because I want it more than anything else in my life (I am a terrible romantic) I also significantly fear whatever COULD stand in its way? Or again, am I making excuses?

    —All manifestations of ocd tend to deal with losing something of great value. HOCD sufferers tend to be very concerned about losing their heterosexuality or the love of a partner. Compulsive handwashers spend a lot of time thinking about losing their sense of responsibility. As long as you continue to focus your energy on identifying your “true desire” as something attainable and concrete, you will be in a state of intolerance for uncertainty. This is what keeps the ocd alive.

    >>>I worry that because I have no answer to these questions and that there is a possibility that I’m really not who I thought I was, that I am in effect lying to myself. I’ve always been a very open, honest person about everything with my friends and family (except this) and that’s why I struggle with the unknown.

    —There is a possibility that I have died since writing the response to your post. Yet I will be surprised if you take great efforts to gain certainty of my pulse. You are capable of accepting large amounts of uncertainty about things of far more significance than your sexuality. You are also overlooking the fact that if you find yourself at your death bed whispering to the arbiter of your will that you’ve always been a secret lesbian, this will not mean you had an unhappy life and did not love your family. However, if you spend your life catering to the ocd instead of living in the present, you will look back and wonder what you could have been attending to instead. Now would be a good time to get Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for your ocd!

  • Hi Jason,

    Here are some ideas – you express a need to define attraction and state essentially that arousal from gay thoughts must mean you are homosexual. Neither of these things are true, but are constructs developed by your OCD to keep you compulsively analyzing.

    Part of the problem I see you grappling with is that logic does not change feelings. Only behavior has the power to change feelings, and you are still behaving like someone who is afraid of their thoughts. I can’t give medical advice but I can tell you that many people with OCD benefit from the use of medication. Someone apparently has seen fit to prescribe it for you, so you might consider what that means about your diagnosis. As for CBT, it is the most effective treatment for OCD.

    It sounds like you have a variety of obsessive compulsive issues to address and that you are ready to change the way you relate to this disorder so that you stop jumping from episode to episode and calling it recovery. This would be the time to lock down a long-term strategy for keeping your symptoms from impairing your enjoyment of life!

  • Tanyel,

    You mention having had OCD since you were young but did not mention anything about treatment. As a chronic disorder, OCD often waxes and wanes throughout life, so it is not unusual to find your symptoms in remission for several years and then have them resurface. This makes treatment all the more important.

    The most effective treatment for OCD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Weighing the importance of thoughts in your head from when you were a kid against the assignment of your sexual orientation should be looked at as a compulsion.

    Feel free to contact us about online therapy for HOCD. here is also a good list of CBT treatment providers at

  • Hi.

    I just wanted say I felt so relieved when I found your site. I have been tormented for years with these thoughts. Thoughts that tell me that j want to be with a woman but when I truly ask myself, I know I really only want to spend my life with a man. These thoughts are such a vicious cycle! And I feel like I’m a losing battle. From the moment I wake up till I go to bed the thoughts are there. They are literally exhausting.

    This all started when I was 14 or 15 I believe. I think something was on Lifetime about lesbians and then I started to think one of my good friends was bisexual…and then I thought oh my gosh? Does that mean I am too? And I started analyzing everything and everyone. It was torture because that is something I would have never done.

    When I was younger I used to be obsessed with how I stepped on things and everything must be even. I even thought once my mom would suddenly die because one of my friend’s moms suddenly died. When I was younger I remember having crushes on guys often and still do on my best guy friend. I never remember having any crushes on girls except for one time I’m pretty sure I named my dog after my best friend who was a girl and I’m like wow ok that is definitely weird. But since then nothing until these thoughts. Now even writing this is causing much anxiety…never ending battle.

    I know my family will still love me no matter what. But when I imagine it I just really don’t want to be with a woman like that. It’s just not for me. And then I’ll start comparing it all again. I swear my life is just one big WHAT IF?!

    Oh I feel like I should also mention my other awful thoughts are things like thinking what if I hurt children? And I’m like I would never do that! I love kids! And another is wishing bad on people I care about! I never want anything bad to happen to my loved ones let alone anyone else.

    The past boyfriends I’ve had to describe in a few words…just felt right. I could close my eyes and everything seemed perfect. But they never would last too long because I am faced with these awful things. I am tired of pushing every guy away because I can’t control my head. I want a serious, fulfilling relationship. How can I stop this?

    What do you think??

  • Thank you for this wonderful article. My OCD started a little bit after my mom passed away (I was almost 18). I am now 40. I started having “groinal responses” images, urges, etc. to other women. I also had horrible panic attacks. it was so distressing and seemed so odd and out of my control. It took me awhile to see a therapist but eventually since deep down I believed it stemmed from me missing my mother I was not afraid to tell a therapist about my thoughts. Thankfully this therapist could tell right away it was OCD and I almost cried from relief. She also said my mom’s passing could have set this off and believed I missed my mother and the thoughts manifested this way. That alone seemed crazy to me. DO YOU AGREE WITH THIS? From that point on, all she wanted to do was talk about my mother and all I wanted to do was talk about my obsessions. This went on for years and the obsessions continued to come and go. Eventually I left therapy.

    I went to a psychiatrist for medicine and it worked right away as the obsessions and anxiety started to get much better. My panic attacks also went away. I eventually stopped seeing the this doctor as I felt I took advantage of the appointment only to get reassurance from him that I had OCD. I would even ask for reassurance even when I was not having a “spike”. He would dismiss my questions and would not give in to my need for reassurance. This eventually backfired and would produce a spike after I would leave the appointment. Anyway, I have managed on my own now without therapy and just medicine for 3 years. I go months being fine and then ALWAYS the same thing triggers a spike. This leads me to my question…

    Although I see a lot of people have talked about groinal response, sensations, etc., it seems this is always explained as coming from conscience checking “down there” to see if you feel something when you see an attractive person. My question is can you “feel something” WITHOUT checking?? This happens to me a lot when I see an attractive person of the same sex. This also happens when I see lesbians (no matter how ugly). When this happens I spike so bad that I get a headache for days and I look online (like right now) for anything that will reassure me that this feeling is normal for HOCD and does not mean anything. The whole thing in general seems so stupid to me because not once or ever do I consider nor worry about if I am gay or not. It’s just needing an answer.

    Oddly I also get a groinal response to the word “cemetery” . When that happens it is the only thing that confirms any sexual thoughts come from my missing my mother (I am assuming?). I also hear the word “lucky” sometimes when I see a gay couple. It pisses me off so much and I just tell the OCD to “shut up”. Sometimes it helps, other times it does not. It’s odd to me that the groinal response affects me sometimes, and other times I can ignore it and laugh at it.

    Please help me understand all this a bit better and most important the groinal response happening unexpectedly. I am having a spike this week from it. What gets me is next week I will be totally fine and laugh at all the time I spent on this! I also notice i spike when I am aware I am at my happiest or looking forward to a date or an event. I notice I have not obsessed and then I do. THANK YOU for any feedback!

    -Jade W.

  • Jade,

    >>>She also said my mom’s passing could have set this off and believed I missed my mother and the thoughts manifested this way. That alone seemed crazy to me. DO YOU AGREE WITH THIS?

    —This is silly and exactly why psychoanalytic therapists should not treat ocd.

    >>>Although I see a lot of people have talked about groinal response, sensations, etc., it seems this is always explained as coming from conscience checking “down there” to see if you feel something when you see an attractive person. My question is can you “feel something” WITHOUT checking??

    —Yes. Some groinal responses come from the checking, some come from anxiety, some come for no reason. Over-attending to the sensation and what it means is the problem.

    >>>>> The whole thing in general seems so stupid to me because not once or ever do I consider nor worry about if I am gay or not. It’s just needing an answer.

    —Yes, that’s ocd, an intolerance for uncertainty.

    >>>Oddly I also get a groinal response to the word “cemetery” . When that happens it is the only thing that confirms any sexual thoughts come from my missing my mother (I am assuming?).

    —To the contrary, it confirms that groinal responses are meaningless until you give them meaning.

    >>>I also hear the word “lucky” sometimes when I see a gay couple. It pisses me off so much and I just tell the OCD to “shut up”. Sometimes it helps, other times it does not.

    —Saying “shut up” in this case should be looked at as a thought neutralizing compulsion. Instead the response to the thought of “lucky” should be no response at all. It’s a thought, not a threat. For the record, ALL couples are lucky. You don’t see a gay guy crying alone in the dark and think “lucky.”

    >>> I also notice i spike when I am aware I am at my happiest or looking forward to a date or an event. I notice I have not obsessed and then I do.

    —This is a compulsion called mental checking.

    Overall, the problem seems to be that you have ocd but have not gotten appropriate treatment for it. The most effective treatment for ocd is cognitive behavioral therapy. The least effective is psychoanalysis.

  • Hey,

    This is my second time dealing with HOCD. The first time was around when i was 18. One day i was just like “what if im gay?” the thoughts spiraled out of control, but eventually went away after i went on vacation. the anxiety lasted only a week or two. This time it has lasted for about 7 months. It has definitely reduced, but I still think about it all day. The thought of am i gay or straight. Which is weird because I know I’m straight. When i really think about being with a man its uncomfortable. But i have no problem with gay people or saying a man is good looking. Its just weird to me because my brother is gay and i talk to him about his relatoinship and how things are going all the time and it doesnt bother me. I just need something else to think about, but I cant find it. I think the fact that gay stuff (like seeing men kiss) doesnt bother me has made me question myself more. But when i really think about it, i just dont care if 2 guys hook up. Its just draining and so odd because prior to this i literally thought about women 24/7. Im in a long term relationship and i think every guy who has been with a woman for 4 years plus knows you spend a lot of time thinking about other women haha. Anyway..any tips?

  • One more thing, is there anything in my emails or questions that would make you think it is not OCD? I am sure you are thinking I am looking for reassurance, and you are probably right. Sorry to bug you.

  • Alex,

    It’s very common for HOCD symptoms to show up in the teenage years and then go into remission on its own only to come back later in life. Sufferers who have this experience are likely to over-attend to the idea that having it “come back” means it must be latent homosexuality. OCD is a chronic illness that waxes and wanes throughout life. While a particular obsession may stop bothering you, the ocd itself is not what’s going away. So obsessions come back because ocd continues to go untreated.

    Not being bothered by something and having a deep-rooted desire to do something are not the same thing, but ocd will often make you feel that way. Sounds like it’s time to treat the ocd and find yourself a cognitive behavioral specialist who can teach you how to respond to your thoughts and feelings differently and get back to enjoying your life.

  • Thanks 🙂

    I needed that. I knew I’d get that too as my doctor does the same thing. That alone is a good answer but I guess compulsion?

    I think I just was asking if I get the groinal response to even just a gay person or hear “lucky” as opposed to a couple is that OK?

    I will check out the list of providers. I hope some are covered by insurance. Is there one in NYC that you can recommend?


  • Hi,

    I have been dealing with HOCD for some time now and it feels like it bothers me 24/7. I’m a 22 male and have never been in a relationship. Throughout my childhood and even throughout all of high school I was always attracted to girls. However there were times in college when I began to think “what if” i’m gay. I used to spend a lot of time researching the possibility that I am gay. I would spend time reading these articles and would often feel better afterwards. However, now my mind is telling me that hocd is just a term for being a closeted homosexual. Also, I have been having strong urges to tell my family that I am gay.. because at this point I really don’t care. I mean I do think I care because it would make me feel like I have been living a lie my whole life. However, I just want to know what my sexual orientation is.

    I guess my two main questions for you are do people with HOCD usually feel that urge to tell people they are gay, even if they dont truly know. Also, what are some steps that I can take to help mitigate these thoughts and feelings?

  • Hi,

    I am 27, live in NY, very recently married, am building a house and I had to leave my job as a result of these obsessive thoughts/fear.I was a domestive violence (DV) advocate and I believe I saw the worst of the worst. My husband says for a lot of the woman and kids I worked w/I essentially took on the male role. My job description included getting their groceries, taking them to Dr’s appointments, being emotionally supportive and empathetic, available, helping them learn to be a parent and discipline/impliment breaking the cycle of DV, etc. I feel in some ways he is right, but it was my job. I have been feeling like this since January and it has only gotten worse.

    I have not been diagnosed w/OCD or HOCD of any kind but alot of what I am reading in your online publications is striking a cord with me. I question my relationship w/my husband I feel like I am not a “real woman”, this whole thing is either a yes or no answer. I don’t tolerate uncertainty about anything at all (it has to be a sure thing in order for me to be vested).

    I engage in a lot of checking and this thing of “Oh my God am I gay?” will pounce on me before I am even out of bed. I am just waking up and this is what I open my eyes to. I try to apply logic but that’s not working so well for me. I feel like one day I just thought to myself, “What if I’m gay?” I feel like it’s been an esculating obsession from feeling threatened to full panic.

    The seed I think was planted when I had something very important to tell my mom about being victimized by an older man. Her response when I told her that I had something important to tell her was, “Are you gay?” I felt completely shut down. I felt like she ostracised me for something she did herself. After I told her the situation she called me a bunch of names and belittled me (slut, homewrecker, and on and on). I was able to set that incident aside but eventually overtime thought, what if my mother knows something about me that I don’t know? My mother has been psychologically and emotionally abusive toward me my whole life. She carried on an affair w/a married man infront of me and told me that if I ever told anyone I would ruin lives.

    The next incident was when a bi-woman hit on me, she was a DV client w/the program I used to work for. It freaked me out a little. She was bi-w/7 kids and referred to her ex as her “baby daddy”. I am a very black and white person, there is no room for gray with me.
    The next incident was another woman (alos a client) who posed a question of how can a woman be w/a man her whole adult life and then suddenly be w/a woman. My response was it’s possible. Then I felt like what if that were me? Do I give out gay vibes? Do i dress/ act/look gay? I guess this second guessing is where everything started to snowball. I have always had a habit of internalizing and applying other people’s situation to my life (very bad I’m sure).

    I started to obsess day and night at work, every living moment was spent analyzing and replaying memories. One day I woke up and realized I had blocked out my entire relationship w/my husband. I understand it was gradual but I felt like it was sudden. This only makes things worse; I feel like am I lying to him and myself? Could this really be HOCD or am I gay?

    What if I really am? I will loose everything, my husband, our house the dream of having kids. Everything that I knew was wrong?!?!
    I am majorly aware of any groinal spike and I actively try to determine what caused it. My first groinal spike happened infront of my boss (who is a female) and this made me feel like it confirmed that I must be gay b/c otherwise that would not have happened. Meanwhile, I had been obsessing about the whole thing for about a month already. I questioned myself nonstop so I found a therapist as well as a psychiatrist who gave me some meds and diagnosed me with PTSD, Gen Anxiety Disorder and a major depressive episode.

    I should also mention I have major issues w/other people’s abilities and capabilities.

    I have always chalked my “quirks” up to being a control issue but maybe it was OCD; example I will eat after a child but not an adult. If another adult touches my plate w/the intent to eat something off of it I will not anymore, I am done eating, I will share but if you touch my plate like that it’s over. I go into my mother-in-laws house and first thing I would do was load of dishes in her dish-washer. I would come home from work and I had to wash any dishes immediately. A LCSW told me at ine time b/c I feel so out of control w/in myself from the anxiety I have to control everything on the outside. I am sure I have a load of “quirks” but they seem normal to me. The way I clean, how long I spend cleaning, nonone can do it like me, etc.

    I have a debilitating fear of death where I can wake up from the “death dream” w/the sensation that I am dead and not here anymore and I physically have to get out of bed (usually crying or totally panicked by the inevitable) and walk around on the cold bathroom floor and touch things to know I am still here and real. I had a fear that I contracted “the monster”, everytime I had a blood test and I never heard anything from the Dr. I was sure it was only b/c the Dr. couldn’t figure out how to tell me b/c it was just so terrible.

    I feel like all my life I have had some variation of OCD even from a young age. Obsessional thoughts would just creep in and keep going and going. No amount of reassurance worked and once I got over one thing, a new thing would appear. I am a huge control freak and for me giving up any kind of control causes fear, anxiety, stress, you name it. I used to feel so sure of who I was and now I feel like a fragile mess.
    I don’t want to leave my house often it takes major effort to get out, I don’t want to do the things that I used to do (baking, hiking, zumba, hang out w/friends, etc). My poor husband has gotten used to my crying jags; constantly checking w/him and asking him “am i really gay?”; reviewing my childhood under a microscope thinking what if I missed some tell-tale sign.

    Lesbians never used to bother me before I always thought hey whatever, it’s cool you love a girl that’s just not for me; but now it’s all about what if…

    When my husband kisses me or anything affectionate I wonder is this supposed to be w/a woman? Would I like it, could I do this w/a girl and the answer is “no, i just don’t think I could be w/a woman” but the whole thought that I am even having this line of questionning makes the fear kick in, my stomache starts churning and I question everything about my relationship w/my husband. I have tried to avoid this and refusal to pay attention right then works for a little but then it’s back full force.

    Was it all just a lie and I was in denial? How can you be in denial for so long, how can you not know yourself as well as you thought you did? I feel crazy! I am very leary of being around same-sex, any physical contact w/them including kids and family and feel relieved when I don’t get a groin spike, which now I think I am beginning to understand as a form of checking.

    I have talked to my husband, my gram, and my sister in-law and no amount of reassurance is working, at least not for long. Some days I can manage other days I feel like my head will explode.

    I am so sorry this turned out to be a lot longer than I origanlly had planned. My questions are; I read in an article that OCD can be mis-diagnosed as Gen. Anxiety Disorder by those who are not experts/skilled in OCD, Is that true? Second, Is OCD organic, is it chemical type of disconnect in the brain? Third and last, w/OCD of any kind does a person let go of a fear when they have another to latch onto or is the brain just always in a constant state of doubt that a person just naturally latches onto the next what if? I feel like I latch onto whatever could mean that my world is going to come crashing down and be my demise.

  • Hi,

    I hope you had a nice Memorial Day weekend! Again, thank you for your replies. I just had a bit more to add to the last email I sent.

    The unwanted word thing is really the worse part of this for me or at least close to the groinal sensation. I am understanding the groinal feeling much better though. My question is that you have said thoughts are not threats and I love that and have been trying to believe that. Is the word “lucky” or “she’s hot” or “she floats my boat” (things that seem/sound so alien to me and surprise me) considered thoughts? It’s like the OCD is trying to make me believe something and screw with me. I am thinking the words or phrases are the obsession and how I handle it (saying this is OCD, etc) is the compulsion and making it worse?
    Also, the thing you mentioned in your last response about not hearing “lucky” if I saw a man gay man crying, etc. The thing is, I probably would hear lucky because I hear lucky with most things/people gay. Even if I see the word or someone looks it. FYI… all this bothers me when it happens when I am spiking but when I am not spiking really, I can laugh it off. The mind is so cruel sometimes.

    If you have a doctor in NYC to suggest, please let me know. Thank you for all your wonderful feedback and help, not only to me but to everyone on here.-Jade 🙂

  • Hey,

    I believe i am suffering from ocd again it went awhile for awhile but it is now back. I think it is hard to explain how i feel but i feel gay its not like a i wanna do another man its just my mind saying i feel gay. I get anxiety when i look at a guy and i wonder if it is possible because of the gay ocd if when i look at a picture and notice the guys more is from the fact my mind is already panicked about gay thoughts. I have ridiculous homosexual thoughts like anything i think anything i put something gay into it also i try watching what i say or do or how i lay or sit because i dont wanna appear gay. I have a wife and daughter i am 22 and have been though this once and it is killing my marriage. I constantly tell myself i am not gay it just thoughts but seems lately its getting worse and i just feel like i cant win. I also watched a gay porno twice thinking if i dont get turned on or hard that i am not gay but that made it worse i didnt get turned on or an erection but i caught myself thinking about it.I dont wanna feel like this anymore and i have always had worry and anxiety like tumor then my wife cheating on me HOCD then back to wife cheating on me now back to HOCD. Is it normal while feeling this to not feel attached to anything and look at a girl and not know what im feeling? I think its because my minds so worried it is more fixed on what if i find a guy attractive. I just want my old life back with my wife and daughter any info helps or if you could email to answer more question i would be grateful im kinda in a hurry to figure stuff out. Does it sound like HOCD? sorry so long

  • Sean,

    What you are describing is a “confession” compulsion in which you start telling people you are gay as a means of relieving yourself of the ocd uncertainty. First, no one is likely to believe you, and second, it backfires by further fueling the obsession with sexual orientation. I have seen this behavior in people who have gone untreated for very long. They would almost rather be gay than deal with the constant “what-ifs” in their head. But this represents nothing more than an avoidance of discomfort and has nothing to do with actual sexual orientation. The fear that HOCD is just a code for closeted is also common, but overlooks the fact that so-called “closeted” individuals know they are gay, desire to have same sex partners, feel good and natural when engaging in same-sex behaviors, and choose not to publicize it out of fear. There are no what-ifs.

    Research has consistently found that the best way to effectively treat all variants of OCD is with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). There is a good list of treatment providers at

  • Denise,

    First, the notion of your job duties having something to do with a “male role” does not make sense to me as caring for people should be gender-neutral. If it is somehow associated with maleness, I still don’t see what that has to do with sexual orientation.

    You describe many symptoms of ocd, past and current, and I highly recommend you seek treatment. The best treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy.

    Here are my responses to your specific questions:

    >>>I read in an article that OCD can be mis-diagnosed as Gen. Anxiety Disorder by those who are not experts/skilled in OCD, Is that true?

    —People who are not skilled may often misdiagnose people of many things. GAD is primarily associated with excessive “worry” about real-life issues (money, losing a job, etc.). OCD is a disorder involving unwanted intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and behavioral responses designed to suppress them or relieve discomfort (compulsions).

    >>>Second, Is OCD organic, is it chemical type of disconnect in the brain?

    —There is a lot of evidence demonstrating both a genetic and an organic/neurochemical connection to OCD in addition to learned behavior and other factors.

    >>>Third and last, w/OCD of any kind does a person let go of a fear when they have another to latch onto or is the brain just always in a constant state of doubt that a person just naturally latches onto the next what if? I feel like I latch onto whatever could mean that my world is going to come crashing down and be my demise.

    —It is not uncommon for obsessions to shift in content. As you pointed out, it latches on to whatever you fear will destroy you. This means it is essentially the same obsession with different words.

  • Jade,

    Here are my responses to your specific comments:

    >>>Is the word “lucky” or “she’s hot” or “she floats my boat” (things that seem/sound so alien to me and surprise me) considered thoughts?

    —Yes, many people experience their intrusive thoughts as words or statements. The point is to accept them as happening and not try to change or suppress them.

    >>>It’s like the OCD is trying to make me believe something and screw with me. I am thinking the words or phrases are the obsession and how I handle it (saying this is OCD, etc) is the compulsion and making it worse?

    —Initially relabeling intrusive thoughts as “just ocd” is a good approach, but it can become its own compulsion. A better long-term strategy is using mindfulness to accept that thoughts are simply non-events occurring in the brain and don’t need to be labelled or responded to in any particular way. In other words, not minding them because they’re thoughts, not threats.

    >>>Also, the thing you mentioned in your last response about not hearing “lucky” if I saw a man gay man crying, etc. The thing is, I probably would hear lucky because I hear lucky with most things/people gay. Even if I see the word or someone looks it. FYI… all this bothers me when it happens when I am spiking but when I am not spiking really, I can laugh it off. The mind is so cruel sometimes.

    —My point is that you may hear the word “lucky” but are not necessarily thinking about luck. You could hear the word “potato” and it would have the same value.

    >>>If you have a doctor in NYC to suggest, please let me know.

    —There is a good list of treatment providers by geographic area and other criteria at

  • Hey,

    Reading through all of these posts has provided me with a great sense of relief and understanding. It’s been about a week since this all started for me and the idea of being gay manifested in my head. Since it’s happened though I’ve tried twice to have sex with my girlfriend. Both times I obtained an erection, but quickly lost it. After the two failures, and prior to finding this page, I told my girlfriend about what was wrong and how I knew I wasn’t gay but kept fearing it and that all my life I’ve had periods of time where I become obsessed with ideas and they ruin me(being poisoned and possessed are the two I remember being most traumatic).

    Anyways, since I told her, I’ve been unable to obtain an erection at all, both trying to have sex or masturbating. Yesterday I took a Levitra, and the problem subsided. My question is simple, how much longer do you think this problem will occur? Am I going to carry it with me until these obsessions are completely controlled? If so, should I try to get a prescription of my own?

    Even if I know I’m straight, the inability to perform will ruin a relationship, and a 2 year relationship with the woman I love entirely and wish to marry is not something I want to jeopardize.

    Thanks for everything.

  • Hi,

    Thank you very much for your time. I am seeing a therapist weekly, going back to my psychiatrist next Wed. and just found a referral for CBT. Your answer helped me a lot. Actually this forum has helped me a lot b/c before I found it, I was afraid to even really open my mouth. I thought I was going crazy. Anyways thank you so much for your help.

  • this hocd thing is getting me all messed up can it make me overthink that i wouldnt wanna do stuff to a women like sexually? i have only ever thought about women and use to be able to get erections very easy when it came to them. no i cannot get and erection easliy like i watch lesbian porn and i get hard but im thinking about everything while watching it like do i like her body or would i wanna do that to her and why do i want to and its just constant thinking. i repeated tell myself im not gay all day and i feel if i came out and told people it wouldnt actually give me ny relief i feel like the anexity would still be there. i just wanna be back to old me the day before i started all of this where i was looking at women and talking to my wife about dirty things. i feel like i cant even talk to her right now becasue of this feeling it leaves me with nothing to say.
    thanks in advance…thats my post up there also

  • Hi Andrew, everything you describe, including your symptoms that do not relate to sexual orientation (such as fear of getting a tumor or of your wife cheating on you) are classic symptoms of ocd. They also all represent the same thing, which is a fear of not being in control. When you accept that you cannot control the future by out-thinking it, you will likely find that the present is satisfactory again.

    The over-analysis of your thoughts and feelings and the checking are compulsions and while you are doing compulsions you are not going to be in the moment with your wife, with your fantasies, or with any other thing that would normally warrant your full attention.

    Repeatedly telling yourself you’re not gay in response to thoughts about being gay makes things worse. Your brain is witnessing the behavior of someone who is trying to PROVE they are straight and thus calculates that thoughts about gayness are extremely important and your heterosexuality must be open for debate. Someone without OCD may get a similar thought about homosexuality, but not respond to it in any particular way. The brain would then calculate that thoughts of being gay are not particularly meaningful.

    Getting the appropriate treatment for ocd, which would be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), will teach you how to identify your distorted thinking and choose non-compulsive behaviors that free you from the loop. There is a good list of cbt therapists at

  • Thank you for the work you have done, and the time you take to respond to people suffering from this pain.
    I would like to share my story and would appreciate any comments from you.
    I am 24 years old. In high school I was a cheerleader, and had a handful of hetero relationships. I went to college and joined a sorority. I lived with about 100 girls, and dated a number of guys. I never had an attraction to the women around me. Of I noticed a womans figure it was out of jealousy because I had multiple eating disorders. I know these factors don’t mean too much. But I think that if I were a lesbian then I would have known it.
    Now, I’m in a relationship of more than a year, with a man I plan to marry and have a family. I never really thought much of having kids, until my brother had his first baby. Then I knew I wanted that. Well I began to obsess over stds. I couldn’t have kids if that was the case. I went through so many tests, and took it so far to convience myself I had HIV. I was so depressed. I constantly checked forums, called doctors, talked to my mom.
    Well I got over that. And my boyfriend said something about how his cousins wife left him because she is now a lesbian. I freaked. What if I am? I can’t be with Billy anymore.
    I’ve been in therapy for about 2 months now. Sometimes it helps, but I still have dark times. I will try to think of being with a woman but my body just repulses it. I get these thoughts and feel depressed. I’m happy when I have straight thoughts.
    I’m always checking to see if I’m attracted to someone, and I just can’t tell anymore. Then it scares me.
    I’ve talked to my mom, and we both know that if I were it would be okay. I’ve always been very open minded, and hate ignorance. I’ll ask my mom about me growing up and what I was like with boys. I’ve started to over analyze every part of my past. It’s like Im trying to rewrite my history.
    I don’t have anything against gay/lesbian. I just get so upset because I don’t want to be. I don’t want to lose my boyyfriend.
    What do you think doc?

  • Hi, again. I posted early today. But I wanted to add another question.

    What if the thoughts progress from “what if i’m gay” to “oh my gosh i’m gay”.
    Is this still the OCD? Can it make someone gay?
    Again, I don’t want to be.

  • Let me just start off by saying that I have been researching this topic for reassurance for about a year now and this is the best article I have came across. Thank you for all the time and effort and explaination you have put into helping people.

    I have had many different ocd episoides throughout my life. The largest one (until now) was an obsession with germs. I would wash my hands over and over until my skin would crack and bleed. I checked locked doors at night. And many more little ones. But for some reason this one has got to me the most. With the germ one, I didnt mind it as much. Because it didnt jepordize my future and my wants and dreams of being happy with a husband and children. I have always dated guys, always had middle school crushes on guys. But I was never as sexual as my friends were through highschool.
    I found the man of my dreams, the man I thought and still want to marry. Things were perfect, we were just about perfect. But then out of the blue I woke up one morning in complete distress and anxiety completely tore me apart. I have been on medicine but that would just mask the issue. I know I am not attracked to women (see, when I type that I get the “are you sure? you could be in denial?”)but this has completely took over my life. I dont want to be on medicine, I just want to be myself again. I would always obsess over guys. But now I cant just shut myself up. What should I do? I have looked in my area for help but just can’t find anyone with the knowledge you have! can you give me some advice? or some action plan to work myself through this?

  • As long as I can remember I have had very obsessive/intrusive thoughts (or at least I think that they were compared to what other people experience). I am 22 yrs old and have watched porn for quite some time now. I have tired to stop because I think it is really messing up my view of sex.

    First off, I would always masturbate to it, however there came a time when I thought that maybe I was masturbating to the guy, which really made me think a lot if I was gay.

    Secondly, how can porn distort ones view of sex in real life. It’s hard to explain but its almost as if I would rather watch porn then actually have sex with a girl.. because the porn would be better. This then makes me think that I am gay because I don’t want to hook up with the girl. I feel like my brain tells me that I can get more out of it watching porn and that sex is nothing special.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  • Hi Lauren,

    Your HOCD story is a common one and clearly you have a history of another form of ocd with health anxiety and std phobia. You mentioned that you were seeing a therapist, but didn’t specify if it was cognitive behavioral therapy with an ocd specialist. If you are getting some other form of treatment, it may be providing reassurance, but not reducing your ocd symptoms.

    >>>What if the thoughts progress from “what if i’m gay” to “oh my gosh i’m gay”.
    Is this still the OCD? Can it make someone gay?

    —-Many people with HOCD experience their intrusive thoughts in the form of statements rather than questions. People are not “made gay” by whatever they happen to be thinking.

  • ABC, there is no doubt that you are struggling with OCD and need to be seeing an appropriate treatment provider. There is a good list of cbt therapists at in their “find a therapist” tool. Depending on your location, you may also be able to do online therapy with one of our staff therapists.

    The important thing to remember is that the “are you sure?” thoughts are just that — thoughts. When you respond to them like threats, they become threatening.

  • Sean, pornography addiction can be a very real problem and treated by an appropriate specialist. Like other addictions, the repeated firing-off of the pleasure center of your brain results in a reduced ability to find that “high” outside of the use of that drug (in this case pornography). So it is not unusual for someone to feel that sexual behavior with pornography is “better” than actual sex with another human being.

    As an aside, I think some of the allure of pornography for an ocd sufferer is that it so greatly anchors your attention, it has a tendency to turn all the regular ocd chatter into white noise. This can be very soothing for an ocd sufferer, but then it backfires when it becomes compulsive or when the ocd starts contaminating the experience with unwanted sexual thoughts.

    My suggestion would be to work on limiting the pornography use as a way of combating your ocd. Start by reducing the time spent and the mental analysis that may be dragging it out. Get professional help from a sex addiction specialist if it’s too difficult to set boundaries for yourself. Be sure to get CBT for your ocd, and start working on social skills development and filling your time with pursuits that can be cultivated into healthy relationships.

  • Hello,

    Thank you for helping us out. I wanted to ask you a few more questions. I have so many obsessions and intrusive thoughts about sex that I can not even become aroused by girls anymore. (however I also do not become sexually attracted to guys) or at least I don’t think. Is this common for people with hocd?

    Also, there are times when I feel a strong emotional attraction to guys and then I continue to think about how I am gay. Now, it is not a matter of “what if’s” I am now convinced I am gay, but just cannot accept it. As mentioned before, I may feel emotionally attracted to the same sex but I dont think I am sexually. Please help. Thanks.

  • Sean, anxiety often affects your libido, yes. Constantly checking your arousal states and analyzing the content of your thoughts is a sure way to keep you from enjoying much of anything.

    As for being emotionally attracted to men, it sounds like you are assuming this is gay. People are emotionally attracted to people they share common values with. Often this is a member of the same sex who can identify with what it is like to share your gender experience. This is why I will get very excited about the notion of watching a horror movie with a male friend and somewhat less excited shoe shopping with my wife. In other words, your ocd is saying that all kinds of attraction are inherently sexual even when reality is saying you are not sexually attracted to men. It’s a con game aimed at getting you to do compulsions. Get CBT.

  • Hi,

    My question is in one part of the article you said People with HOCD are “terrified” of having gay sex”. My OCD of course looks at all words literally and I spiked because I don’t think I feel terrified, I just have absolutely no desire to or plans to have it. My question is… Is the obsessing and the rituals I do, the anxiousness, etc. showing I am terrified? Basically I read that line and had a typical OCD con… “Well I don’t feel terrified per se so maybe I am gay?”. Terrified is just such a strong word and maybe because I don’t have any desire to have any sort of gay sex (although my groin trys to tell me otherwise), I don’t feel terrified or maybe the OCD is that??

    Does this make sense? THANK YOU-Jade

  • Hi Jade,

    You wrote: “you said People with HOCD are “terrified” of having gay sex”. My OCD of course looks at all words literally and I spiked because I don’t think I feel terrified, I just have absolutely no desire to or plans to have it.”

    —–Let me first say that “terrified” in the context of that sentence is meant to draw a contrast to the first part of the sentence which describes gay people as “liking” gay sex. Communicating via blog means limiting myself to words that drive the point. In all actuality, most HOCD sufferers I have encountered are not so much terrified of gay sex as they are terrified by the idea that the gay thoughts which intrude upon them mean they will have to start having gay sex and identifying as gay even though they are not. So I could have used any terms to describe the idea, including “disturbed by the notion of” or “confused by the presence of thoughts about” and so on and so forth.

    Now, your ocd says that it is important for YOU to over-attend to the details of my words and be certain they are understood and that all potential room for doubt about an ocd diagnosis is eliminated, or else you might be in gay denial. Nice trap, ocd. Don’t take the bait.

  • Wow. So pumped to see how many other people struggle with this. 5 Years of this garbage and I thought no one else would ever understand.

  • Hi,
    I’m not sure if it actually is HOCD or not, and that’s what freaks me out. I thought I found the solution to my problems when I discovered hocd, thinking that this was why I was so worried and depressed about the same thing 24/7. But now, when I think of HOCD, I think that it’s an excuse I used so that I won’t be thinking about everything again. Now, I can’t understand my emotions, whether I’m sad or worried by what I interpret as a disturbing thought, I think to myself, ‘you’re only thinking that you hate the thoughts so that it would most likely be hocd and nothing else’.
    I’m a 14 year old girl though, and around this time is when people do discover their sexual orientation and I wonder if I use HOCD as a shield as to thinking if I am gay.
    I was in that stage of wanting a boyfriend badly though last year and now, I’m questioning everything about myself. Last year, I went to a public school, and now I’m homeschooled, and after staying at home for a long time and having no boy contact, I feel so miserable with this worrying. It’s just that I can’t tell if it’s denial or HOCD and I also wonder if it’s the anxiety I was diagnosed with in the past that’s making the denial more like hocd instead of it really being hocd.

  • Amy,

    Interestingly enough most people seem to be aware of their sexual orientation much earlier, but it is true that as the sexual brain develops, it is very common to have conflicting or confusing thoughts and feelings about gender identity and orientation. You mention a history of anxiety and describe yourself putting a lot of effort into defining your emotions and attempting to stop thoughts you feel are intrusive. This sounds like OCD to me.

    It is extremely common for sufferers of sexual orientation OCD to doubt their diagnosis or debate with themselves if it is some sort of “cover” for denial. Smartest move would be to see an ocd specialist who does cbt. While it seems pretty clearly HOCD to me, worrying about it will not solve the problem, whatever the problem really is.

  • Thanks a lot for this. It’s been bugging me for 2 years now. Very, very good insight… And for all of those who say, oh it’s a terrible disorder, it’s not actually that big, it is that big how much you let it be. We have a great power as beings, and sometimes we simply poke ourselves for no reason… A soul is a strange thing, as my friend would say.

    Great stuff for watching pictures of males and homosexual pornographic content, it really helps (lol 😀 )… And a great comparison with bike riding… Anybody out there having bugs with HOCD just try this and try not to think anything while watching it, and if a thought comes along just keep on watching. Great, great stuff!

    Thanks once again! Cheers from Serbia!

  • Im a young college student and began suffering from HOCD a few months ago. I don’t know who to go to for help i don’t think that any one in my family would understand. It is litterally an every minute problem I have, there seems to be no excape. I walk around everyday trying to end these thoughts and it is driving me insane litterally. It is making me very depressed and I need some help. I don’t think my life will ever be the same and it is very sad. I’m the all american kid and take pride in that, I’m not exactly sure what triggered these thoughts but now I can’t escape. PLease tell me where I can get help i feel like i cant keep going like this.

  • Sean, sorry you are suffering. As you have most likely noticed, trying to “end” the thoughts only fuels the incessant looping on them. To learn how to unravel this loop and overcome this disorder, you should get treatment from an ocd specialist who does cognitive behavioral therapy. There is a good list of treatment providers at Also, you may want to consider online therapy for HOCD with one of or staff therapists.

    It’s not important to know what triggered the thoughts, but you reference being “all-American” and that may indicate a strong attachment to viewing yourself some specific way which the ocd has been able to target with these unwanted thoughts.

  • Hi. Thank you so much. This article has given me a lot of insight about myself and the posibility that I suffer from HOCD. I´ve enjoyed consensual sex with females all my life (i´m 29). Last month, i started to need a lot of concentration to get it on with my girlfriend, which i´m about to move in with. This need for concentration made me doubt myself and try to desperately explain why.

    I have been thinking constantly that i might be gay, rationalizing and puting into context random, separate events in my life that may give meaning and assurance to the initial thought. I started to notice attractive men on the street, then stated noticing men in general, thinking “so this is what i like, i´m gay”. Out of coincidence, i ended up having dinner with my family in a gay neighborhood, i almost had a heart attack just parking my car. I tried thinking about male parts and gay fantasies while checking myself for a reaction. the first time nothing happened but i had to know for sure so i kept trying until i actually got aroused and panicked. Then i turned to porn, same approach and the same result, nothing at first, but then it happened. I´ve felt miserable, thinking that i´m liying to myself and everyone i know and love. I even had suicidal thoughts, they didn´t last long, but still. This situation goes on from the moment i wake up until i go to bed.

    I´m doubting myself even as i write this post, but i´ve noticed that i´ve had this kind of behavior before, related to other things like “is my plane going to crash”, “do i love my girlfriend”, “should i sell a fantasy baseball player”, etc.

    Are there any OCD and HOCD books you can recommend. Thanks again for these articles.

  • Elwo perez, you describe many of the common behaviors associated with obsessive compulsive disorder. All of the checking and reassurance seeking will have to stop for you to get better. This also means resisting the analysis of your performance in bed with your girlfriend. Ideally the best way to get past this is to see an ocd specialist and do Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with an emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

    There are no books that deal exclusively with sexual obsessions (that I am aware of), but there are several good books on ocd that mention sexual obsessions and their treatment. I would start with Jonathan Grayson’s Freedom From Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Purdon and Clark’s Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts.

  • Hi. Thank you so much. This article saved me. However I have one question: before my obsession, I never had any gay thoughts, but after that I do and they don’t affect me the way they were. Actually some of them are interesting. Does this mean that I have more probabilities becoming gay than before or at some point I will stop thinking about it and move on? The thing is I really love men, I know that I am not gay but the thought just doesn’t leave me alone and now it doesn’t even scare me. During my effort to understand if I am gay I imagined myself kissing women and having sex with them, something that had never occurred me, I have never felt the need. Now, I think tht same thing but I can handle it. Will it stop some day or did I become gay after this experience? The thing is I think things that are completely out of my charecter and they don’t scare me. I keep saying to myself this is the hocd talking, not you. Sorry for my English

    • Hi Helena,

      We humans don’t get to control our thoughts, so I cannot say the thought will ever go away. That said, the thought does not need to go away. You simply need to accept the presence of the thought, without trying to figure out what it means. It means nothing special.

      It is also worth noting that you cannot make your self gay by having a thought about being gay. If that was true, then just about every adult human being would be gay, because just about every adult human being has had at least a passing thought about being gay at some time or another.

  • Thank you so much for this , i really thought there was something wrong with me until i found out what HOCD was and found out i had most of the the symptoms without even knowing what HOCD is, you’ve helped me understand what was going on and it made me feel better , cause i knew it wasn’t something i was making up and i knew i wasn’t alone the moment i read this, again thank you i’m feeling better i just need a little more time and everything is gonna be ok, best of luck to everyone here.

    • Hi Reynold,

      Thank you for your comments. Glad our articles have been helpful for you.

  • I’m glad I read this article and perhaps that’s an understatement. I would say for a couple of months I’ve had moments(some worse than others) when I would constantly argue with a voice in my head, that keep taunting me about apparently being gay. There are times that I spend an hour or so in a debate with my thoughts, telling myself I have been straight and know I am, however it got to a point where I thought I was legitimately going to lose my mind. I’m 21, and recently I’ve started to drink each night so that I could fall asleep without having to argue against myself and worry in my bed. The truth is, every time I hear gay used on tv or amoungst my friends a part of me panics. Every so often I feel like shouting because it feels their are two people in my head fighting for control of my thoughts. Despite all of that, I’m a bit happier to learn others are experiencing the same issue, and now my biggest hurdle is finding the confidence to get help.

    Almost all of these thoughts arise during times I felt tremendously depressed, which I haven’t really explored or sought help for. My family has a history of depression, including both my parents using medications and therapists, however I couldn’t bring myself to tell them about my distress. When I interact with women I seem to completely ignore the thoughts and feel normal, however being isolated draws back ordeal.

    I’m wondering if my untreated depression is directly causing these issues?

    • Hi Nathan,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Depression doesn’t cause OCD, but it is quite common for people with OCD to also have some level of depression. After all, it is depressing to have OCD.

      I like how you conceptualize your OCD as a second person in your head. But arguing with that irrational person is not likely to help. In fact, your efforts to argue with your OCD are mental compulsions and will not result in long-term benefit. Likewise, self-medicating with alcohol (or any other substance) in an effort to avoid the thoughts will only provide short term relief and long-term continuation of your symptoms. I encourage you to seek a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD. You don’t need “confidence” to seek help – you just need to find a qualified therapist.

  • I have been told many times in my life that I’m gay because I’m not into sports and don’t fit the “American Mold”. This has involved traumatizing encounters, including being bullied and told that I’m something I’m not.

    This has transferred lately into severe anxiety and I am constantly scared of what people think and am having thoughts that I might be something I’m not or do something I don’t want to do in the future.

    I have been dating a girl now for over a year and am completely in love with her. But the other week when we were sleeping, I had a bad gay dream that didn’t involve me but it started a panic attack. That day I started putting to breaks on my gf and started freaking her out, when it was all related to this anxiety.

    I’ve been so scared that these “nightmares” might become a reality and for the longest time I’ve been scared to even do a search on the internet as it might confirm that I am “questioning” my sexuality. I finally opened up to my gf and she completely understood what it’s like, as she suffered from OCD in her past. She did a search on the disorder and pointed me to articles about it

    It eased me to have her know what I was going through but it also opened up another type of anxiety that makes me feel really vulnerable and that she is questioning me when she’s not.

    She had a dream the other night that involved me confessing that I was actually questioning my sexuality that triggered me into another panic attack.

    What is the best way to combat this and is there something wrong with me? I am so scared that I’ll never be able to beat this.

    • Hi Connor,

      If not caring about sports is a measure of gayness, then there are a lot more gay people out there than people realize. You couldn’t pay me to watch a baseball, football, or basketball game on TV…and I have no interest in having sex with men.

      What you dream about also has no bearing on your sexual orientation. People dream all sorts of crazy stuff. Dreams do not come true – they are just dreams.

      Finally, what other people think of you has nothing to do with your sexual orientation. If you were gay, you would love the idea of having sex with men, and I don’t hear that in anything you wrote. If you want to really challenge your OCD, then I strongly encourage you to seek treatment with a psychotherapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This is the treatment approach that has consistently been found to be the most effective way to beat OCD.

  • hey i have had this feeling for the 2 years,it started with me questioning why some people are gay and why others are not, then it hit – i asked my self how can someone know for sure if they are not gay. i have heard story mostly in movies where someone turned gay and left their family, after that moment i couldn’t stop the thought from coming into my head. then it start to become worse because every person i met, i asked my self are they attractive. i couldn’t stop every time i sit beside a boy i be asking my if i want to kiss him, then i will have this urge forcing me too even thought its in public and i have no desire too. after i started to avoid anything gay such as gay friend or tv programme that has gay person in it. but i recently came across different website and i confirmed it was HOCD. i read different story about how people beat HOCD. then i read that masturbating about having gay sex i gave in i though about doing someone in ass and them sucking my dick i was able to orgasim but the thought them about me sucking someone or some kissing still disgust me, i have tried to avoid my self thinking about straight sex but now i have tried all the steps listed above and now i am very unhappy i don’t know if i am really staight or actually gay, i tried to accept being but i still cant sleep or do anything so because i was able to orgasim am i suddenly turned gay but i still also enjoy straight sex
    thank you

    • Hi John,

      Your question “how can someone know for sure if they are not gay” is one of the most common obsessions of HOCD. And the answer is simple – they can’t know for sure! The good news is that you don’t need to know for sure. Just as you don’t need to know for sure what you are having for dinner tomorrow, or whether it is going to rain next Tuesday, you don’t need to know for sure what your sexual orientation is. I ask you why must one know “for sure”? It is not necessary to know “for sure”, and your attempts to determine your sexual orientation “for sure” are compulsions that actually reinforce your obsession.

      Avoiding gay friends and tv programs with gay themes is a compulsion. Masturbating in an attempt to prove you are straight is a compulsion. Trying to control your thoughts is a compulsion. None of these compulsions has worked so far, and they never will.

      These thoughts of possibly being gay are just thoughts. Humans have strange thoughts about all sorts of things, and having any particular thought about anything thought doesn’t mean that thought is true or accurate – it just means you had a thought. You would better off accepting the existence of these thoughts rather than trying to prove you are straight.

      Finally, let me note that people don’t suddenly “turn gay”. If the thought of sex with people of the same gender disgusts you, it is a pretty good bet that you are nor gay. Having an orgasm when you masturbate doesn’t mean you are gay – it means you were masturbating. You could have been thinking about paint drying and you would have had an orgasm, because having an orgasm is what happens when a person masturbates.

  • thanks for the reply, to day i tried visual expose such as watching images of gay people kissing and having sex. all the time my heart did not stop beating and i felt ache down there as i was afraid to be turned. i watched the image for about 20 minutes. how will i know when the fear go away?
    finally i have come to accept the possibility of being gay in attempt to avoid argument with my ocd but then it is forcing to come out to tell people that i am gay, some time thought like post it facebook or hang post outside to tell that i am gay, i have no intention of coming out but what should i do during this time
    thank you

    • John,

      You ask “what should I do” when you have the thought that you should come out, and the answer is simple – nothing.

      Just as you do not need to tell anyone what you plan to watch on TV tonight or what book you will read next week, you do not need to come out to anyone about anything. Nothing you write indicates you are gay, but even if you were, you would not need to come out. I am a straight 56 year old man, and I have never once “come out” as straight. Prior to the onset of these unwanted thoughts about your sexual orientation, did you ever feel the need to come out as “straight”? Simply put, your sexual orientation is not newsworthy, and you do not need to announce it.

      Your goal is to accept that, just like everybody else on the planet, you sometimes have unwanted thoughts. And for you, sometimes those unwanted thoughts are about sexual orientation. We don’t get to know when unwanted thoughts or the fear they inspire will go away, and we don’t need to know that information. You would be better served by accepting the existence of unwanted thoughts and fears, and getting on with the business of life.

  • Hello,

    Ive been suffering the fear of becoming gay, hopefully hocd, for around one month and a half. It started one night while I was watching TV, and suddenly the thought came out of nowhere,”what if im gay”? The the next 3 weeks, it was non-stop anxiety, mentally reassuring myself, i wasn’t gay, and endless online searching, checking the way i act, walk, speak ect.

    Ive never, for the 19 years of my life questioned my sexuality. Throughout my childhood Ive always have had crushes and arousals on females, never a thought of arousal from males.(I played water polo and swimming for 8 years, I figured i would know if i was gay by now). Its been really hard for me in college, i’m having difficulties with my studies.

    However recently, the general anxiety has diminished , along as my lust for women. Im fearing that I have actually started to become gay! I get nervous and anxious around male friends now, and in public when. I just want to go back to normal, and I constantly dread myself for not going to sleep that one night, for not going to sleep and thinking that thought, making my life a miserable hell. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

    Ive been reading this article practicing the mindfulness thoughts/ accepting uncertainty. Its been going fairly well but been constantly wondering if this mindfulness will actually cause me to become gay. I honestly don’t care about the social stigmas of being gay, but deep down inside myself, I know that I am not and will not be happy/ find it disturbing. I honestly have no idea what to do right now… I dont want to include my parents on this because i dont want them to worry about me. (only child)

    I feel like i’m getting better, but its also backed by the fear of becoming gay. I miss the lust of women and the fireworks/ sparks that fly in my stomach when i interacted with them. now its just the fear and anxiety around males…I was wondering if you had any tips that could help me to continue along the path of recovery. Also, this is a stupid question but do you know how long this will continue to affect my life? I have finals coming up that i need to study for and its very hard for me study with all these thoughts running through my brain!

    • Hi Ryan,

      People don’t just become gay. Likewise, being mindful of your thoughts will not make you turn gay. On the other hand, people do sometimes suddenly develop HOCD.

      My best tip for you is to seek help with a therapist who specializes treatment for OCD. There is no reason to suffer when help is available. I want to emphasize how crucial it is that you work with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD – most therapist are utterly clueless about OCD, and have never even heard of HOCD. Feel free to contact us about treatment at our center.

  • (People with HOCD may find this message a bit disturbing, but note its about the reverse/complement: het ocd).
    Hi, I am a lesbian with SO ocd symptoms but in the reverse (fear of being straight). I was wondering, as this type is so very very rarely addressed or acknowledged, if your site would consider having its own set of articles for gay people with “het ocd.” Finding resources, information, and support for this has been seemingly impossible. I know it’s real, I have seen it mentioned and acknowledged, but information on it, how it differs from the common h ocd, and how it’s treated are scarcely ever addressed. I feel it is an issue deserving it’s own attention, and not just a one line sentance in a h ocd article, which is often what I find, you know? And even when it is minutely addressed, the focus is often on gay men with it, and not lesbians. Thanks for having such a valuable resource!

    • Hi Risa,

      There is nothing unusual about gay people with OCD having a fear of being straight. I think the only reason there are fewer resources is that there are significantly fewer gay people than straight people. We made a point in our initial article of this series on HOCD to note that sexual orientation is not really the issue, that there are gay people with “het OCD” as you call it, and that the symptoms and treatment are identical to those of “straight” HOCD.

      I appreciate that you feel this variation deserves more acknowledgement and attention, and I encourage you to write some articles on the topic. As Ghandi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.

  • Hello!
    I really appreciate this.
    I can relate to those suffering from HOCD. However, I just have a couple of questions about the treatment. When you say that when we get these intrusive thoughts and feel anxious we should be mindful that these thoughts are just thoughts. So by that do you mean that when we get a thought we want to tell ourselves, wait stop hold up for a second, this thought you are getting is just a thought it doesn’t reflect reality stop worrying. I was just a little confused about that. I just wanted to clarify. I will buy the book The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD for sure. Thank you so much for recommending that. I want to get treatment for it so it doesn’t reoccur however, although I do am fortunate to have all the resources to get actual therapy. My family suffers from anxiety disorders and I don’t want them to worry about me worrying (haha) so I can’t really tell them. Hopefully this is something that I can treat and not have to tell anyone about it.
    As a way to stop the rituals that I do when my anxiety peaks, I will stop googling and looking up stuff after you reply 🙂
    Thank you for your help in advance. It only means the word to me.

    • Hi Diana – Thanks for commenting.

      Yes, your interpretation is correct. When you have an unwanted thought about your sexual orientation, it is important to remind yourself that this is just a thought. I would caution you about saying “don’t worry, that thought doesn’t reflect reality”, as that is essentially a reassurance seeking compulsion, and has the potential to be problematic. Instead, just accept the presence of the unexpected, unwanted thought, without assigning it any value, and without trying to determine if it accurately or inaccurately reflects reality.

  • So I’ve had various forms of pure o since I was a teenager (I’m now over 40). Lately, the HOCD has been sooo challenging, because it plays with my thoughts with things like “I was born to be gay. Why do you want to date when you know you’re going to be gay.” I’ve done my best to reframe the thoughts, however, it’s been very hard because I can’t help but think…why me? Why did this happen to me?

    Will the workbook help someone my age? To the posters who are so young, I urge you to work through your anxiety and don’t pay the thoughts any attention.

    • Hi Callyn,

      Thanks for commenting.

      All of thoughts you mention, including “why did this happen to me” are extremely common in HOCD. I see no reason why our workbook (or treatment) wouldn’t be helpful for you because of your age. We have treated many people in their 40’s (and older) with HOCD. Effective treatment doesn’t have an expiration date.

  • Hello, I have terrible ocd and i am 13 but have been worrying i was gay since the age of 6. I like girls, romantically and sexually, but I am scared because the first time I ejaculated it was after a gay wet dream ( I was half asleep). Here’s the thing: as much as I like and desire girls, I’ve only had wet dreams about males. I’m scared that its because My mind is trying to tell me I like boys not girls, but I don’t want to be gay. Please help.

    • Hi Isaiah,

      Thanks for commenting.

      Wet dreams are common and normal, especially for teen boys. Furthermore, some people report having “nocturnal emissions” in response to dreams that do not even have any sexual content. That suggests that one could have a wet dream while dreaming about just about anything, and that the content does not necessarily indicate anything specific. After all, if a person has a wet dream while dreaming about a car driving down the street, does that mean he wants to have sex with a car? Of course not.

      I suspect that you are having dreams of being gay because: a) people dream all sorts of stuff that is not related to real life; and b) because you have HOCD, and what is on your mind during waking hours can also be on your mind when asleep.

      If you really want to learn how to better manage these unwanted thoughts, I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which has been found by numerous studies to be the most effective treatment for all forms of OCD.

  • Thank you so much ! Also, I’ve been worrying because when I started puberty I had a curiosity for boys ( though not anymore ) and I have a fetish of wanting to be shirtless around other dudes without it being sexual. I worry that I don’t really like girls I just thought I did because I didn’t know about homosexuals.

    • Isaiah,

      It is normal for kids to have curiosity about all sorts of things, including all types of sexuality. And worrying that you don’t really like girls is an extremely common obsession for males with HOCD.

      As for your so-call fetish, I am a bit confused. A fetish is, by definition, sexual in nature. So when you say you have a fetish about wanting to be shirtless around males in a non-sexual way, that doesn’t sound like a fetish. It sounds like a thought. We all have unexpected thoughts, and those thoughts are not necessarily fetishes.

  • Tom,

    Thank you for responding. I have purchased the workbook and hope it will help me to deal with this. It’s very disconcerting, as I miss ‘myself’ so to speak. I’ve done the many things others here have posted, researched on the internet, read coming out stories, tried not to get anxious when I even heard the word gay. Will the CBT help me to reduce the underlying anxiety which produces the anxious thoughts?

  • Hi. I’m 14 years old and a female. I’ve never once questioned myself when I heard the word “gay”. But now when my sister brought something up about homosexuals, I guess that triggered me into worrying that I’ll turn gay. I never once been attracted to girls, only boys. I sought reassurance and I guess it made me feel better for a short period of time. Now, me worrying triggered me into having unwanted thoughts and images in my head that i want to rid so bad. So what I’m asking is how can i make these thoughts subside without going to therapy. Please help, because of this I’ve been experiencing a WHOLE lot of trouble sleeping where at some point i cant even sleep because these thoughts are on my mind (day and night). Please give me tips so that ill be able to calm down and find my way to sleep as well as make these thoughts subside.

    P.S. – I questioned myself once about being gay but i didn’t put so much energy and worry about it and just moved on as i told myself its probably just a phase. So once again please help Thanks!

  • Hello, Tom. I apologize for the lengthy text.

    I am a 21 year old male, and have been suffering from obsessive thoughts about my sexual orientation, and have been (habitually at first, now compulsively) observing, modifying and ruminating over my behavioral, sexual, and emotional patterns for years. I am still reluctant to call it HOCD, even though the thoughts are explicitly obsessive, and I am fully aware of that for some time now.

    There were many circumstances throughout my childhood and puberty that I regularly rewind to in order to assess exactly what, if anything, went ‘wrong’ with my sexual identity. In my childhood and puberty I was interested in women, and it never crossed my mind I might indulge, or want to indulge in homosexual behavior. So, basically, I was aroused exclusively by women, their bodies, etc. as a child, to the point I was embarrassed by myself for it. The thing I always saw as a potential ‘problem’ was the fact that, during puberty and adolescence, I had feelings of attraction (crushes) to several girls, but always felt my sex drive, or interest in actual sexual activities, has severely diminished compared to my male peers. I liked girls, thought about being intimate with them, but I never explicitly lusted for them. It always tortured me, as I was peer-pressured into thinking about sex, and women, in a very ‘objectifying’ way. As I wouldn’t/couldn’t conform to that, I was sometimes ridiculed as weak, sissy, and/or gay, or asexual, or simply as a weirdo. This, along with me encountering some scenes of homoerotic nature on TV for the first time (which left me feeling anxious and curious at the same time)has led (I was 14/15 at the time)to occasional bouts of obsessing over my sexual identity, especially in stressful circumstances.

    As I got older, I started becoming more and more anxious by potential homoerotic content(attractive male celebrities, sights of male nudity on tv, film,etc), which led me to practicing testing/reassuring behavior. Then, as I wasn’t sure whether I felt curiosity, anxiety, fear, sexual arousal, or all of that, I started checking my reaction to different media, which by now included pictures, films, pornography(straight and gay). Whenever my body would ‘respond’ in a ‘heterosexual/non-homosexual way’ I would stop doing it until the next attack of doubt. If my reactions were in any way a sign of me responding pleasurably to, say, gay porn, I would seek out a way to reassure myself again, and the whole process was often very convoluted and torturous. Basically, I was never fully sure, and I never felt like I gathered a compelling evidence of anything. So, throughout my high school years, I was occasionally caught up in repetitive cycles of doubting/checking/confirming/confirming the unwanted,etc.

    I was never explicitly disgusted by homoerotic content, which was another thing which has been bothering me for a long time. The fact is that sexually charged media has always aroused me, including content of both heterosexual and homosexual nature. This fact has made me feel very anxious and at times depressed, as when I have my obsessive/anxious episodes, I tend to define these arousal patterns as a final, definitive evidence of my non-heterosexuality, which somehow ends up annulling every heterosexual though, feeling or desire I have had. Among many things I have noticed throughout the years, is that whenever I encounter homoerotic content, I still feel anxious, nervous, distressed, constantly anticipating unwanted arousal, and it usually ends up with me feeling all of the above at the same time. When I deliberately test my reactions to heterosexual porn, for example, I feel less anxious, nervous and fearful, but also less aroused, like I am trying to force arousal to reassure myself. This mental game of comparing, and failing or succeeding to make a point, all leaves me feeling very confused, hopeless, and depressed.

    For starters,should I stop exposing myself to erotic content(straight or gay), as I am very afraid of how I might respond?

    Also, I am obviously very unsure of my sexual identity, so I avoid self-identifying as straight-bisexual-homosexual, but I am completely certain I have a psychological problem, with obsessive, disturbing, relentless thoughts concerning my sexual identity appearing (with varying intensity )throughout my adolescent life. Thank you in advance, Tom!

    • Hi Joe,

      Some thoughts on your comments:

      1) There is nothing wrong with your sexual identity – there is something wrong with how you value your thoughts. It’s called OCD, and it leads you to value your thoughts as being important, when in fact, many of our thoughts are just cognitive debris.

      2) Of course your peers teased you – that’s what teen boys do when faced with anything related to sexuality.

      3) Being both anxious and curious when looking at homoerotic images for the first time as a teen is completely normal. It doesn’t make you gay – it makes you a typical teen boy seeing something new and sexual.

      4) Just because you are not “disgusted” with gay imagery doesn’t mean you are gay. It means you aren’t disgusted by gay imagery. I am not disgusted by it either, and yet I have no desire to have sex with men.

      5) Of course sexually charged media arouses you – that is what it is designed to do. Media producers (tv, movies, etc.) spend a great deal of time and money in an effort to get that exact response.

      6) Testing your reaction to any porn – gay or straight – is a compulsion, and will only make things worse in the long run. If you are going to look at porn, look at it because you want to, not in an effort to ascertain your sexual orientation.

      7) There is no need to identify your self as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. How about you are sexual – period.

  • Hi my name is Daniel and after reading this article I realise that I may have a serious case of OCD. In the last two months or so I have been experiencing a serious amount of paranoia about being gay but I know in my head that I’m not but my mind seems to keep reminding me about it, I have always been highly attracted to girls all my life and strictly against homosexuals not saying that there is anything wrong with it but It has really began to stress me out and give me major depression, anxiety and all those things, I am just after turning 16 years old recently and I have had a girlfriend for the last 6 months and I have done a lot with her and I think myself that, that may have a lot to do with it? But I’m not sure. I would very much appreciate if someone has an answer to why this is messing with my head so much thanks.

    • Hi Daniel,

      While I cannot provide a diagnosis via a blog comment, I can say that the symptoms you describe sound very much like symptoms of HOCD. As for why it is messing with your head, well, that is what OCD does. OCD is nothing more than having unwanted thoughts (i.e., obsessions, in your case, about being gay), taking these thoughts way too seriously, and trying to get rid of them (that’s the “compulsive” part).

      You have two choices. You can either continue to take these thoughts seriously…or not. After all, they are just thoughts. If you had a thought “the moon is made of peanut butter and I am going to fly there on my magic carpet and have a peanut butter sandwich”, would you take it seriously? Of course not. The human brain comes up with all sorts of ridiculous thoughts, most of which deserve exactly no analysis.

  • Thanks for the reply, Tom, I really appreciate your thoughtful approach to everyone’s comments.
    It is somewhat difficult for me to ‘practice’ such a way of thinking about my thoughts. You could say that every thought is just an abstraction, but they do happen, for a reason or not. (I hope this doesn’t come off as an attempt at self-psychoanalysis)
    What should I do when I become aroused by something homoerotic? It has happened recently, and this fact made me feel upset immediately. Thankfully, my anxiety is at a much lower level for several weeks now, as I’m a bit caught up in real life stuff, and also because I try to approach whatever happens from a neutral point of view. You could say I try to let all my thoughts and feelings rest freely within my mind. However, this is not easy, and right now I feel like I should repeat the whole visual-erotic experience and see if I react differently(ideally – not reacting at all)
    I know this is impossible, I’ve done those ‘reruns’ many times, and I believe you know how that story always ends.
    I might be looking for reassurance just by checking to see you’ve answered me, but I will ask you this (rather corny) question: Should I just let it be?

    • Hi Joe,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      I think it is quite normal for people to take their thoughts way too seriously, and to struggle when presented with a different way of thinking about their thoughts (i.e., that thoughts are just thoughts, many of which deserve very little attention). Many of our clients initially go through this struggle, and some flat out reject the idea. But please note that I am not saying that these unwanted thoughts are abstractions – in fact that would be giving them too much mystery. I think they are just unimportant thoughts. Period.

      You ask what you should do when you find homoerotic material arousing, and my suggestion is this.


      Do nothing.

      Paying too much attention to arousal is the same as paying too much attention to thinking. In fact, the two are not 100% separable, as arousal involves some level of thinking, in addition to a simple, instinctual, physiological response. So maybe you experienced some arousal. So what? I suspect that most straight people could be turned on by homoerotic material, just as many gay people could get turned on by straight material. All of this is testimony to the fact that humans generally find sexuality interesting and arousing, regardless of whether the sex involved is gay or straight or whatever.

      So to make a long answer short, yes, just let it be.

  • Thank you Tom. It is really not easy for me to tolerate what I can best describe as a constant sense of ‘not sure’-ness (as crude as that sounds). It just seems to contradict with what I see as common sense (common sense being that some things you just know, or in my case, should know)

    Is it a sign of progress that all the thoughts and sensations I still stumble upon every day don’t cause as much anxiety and sadness as before? Or is it a sign of regression that I felt compelled to ask you a third question?
    Should I even care?

    On the same topic, I feel there’s no real reason for me to read and re-read all the articles on HOCD written by experts, and many more articles written by non-experts, as I’ve gathered plenty of useful information. On the other side, reading these articles, or people’s comments, relieves some anxiety, even though moments later it all goes back to doubt. Honestly, I’m sort of looking forward to your answer. This all seems counterproductive. Dealing with this requires discipline, obviously.

    • Hi Joe,

      Your experience of having difficulty tolerating uncertainty is extremely common in OCD. It’s worth noting that OCD is sometimes described as “the doubting disease”, both because those who suffer with it experience a great amount of doubt, and because they find that doubt unbearable.

      Tolerating uncertainty is skill that you can learn. There are many things that we take for granted that require learning. For the first few years of our lives, we constantly poop and pee all over ourselves. We have to learn not to do this, and to instead use toilets, toilet paper, etc. We have to learn how to ride a bike, or swim, or do math. For some people, these skills come easily, and for others they require more effort. Learning to tolerate uncertainty is the same – it is a skill that some learn easily, and which requires more effort for others. But it is a skill that can be developed, and for those with OCD, research has consistently shown that the best way to learn that skill is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with a focus on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

      I agree with you that you have gathered plenty of information about HOCD, and that there is no reason to read and re-read more information about this topic. In fact, researching OCD becomes a compulsion for many people with this condition. On that note, I would like to suggest that you exit this page, turn off your computer, and commit to not reading about HOCD for the remainder of the day. And when you wake up tomorrow, commit to not reading about HOCD for the entire day. Do that for enough days, and you will be taking a step in the direction of learning to better manage your OCD.

  • Hi there, I am so glad I found this website.

    When I was 24 I married someone whom I was very much in love with. If anyone asked me how married life was I would reply that it was the best thing ever (which I truly thought it was.)

    I had a couple of gay friends whom I enjoyed hanging out with & I don’t think I ever felt uncomfortable around. (Maybe a little because I definitely wasn’t used to being around gay people but nothing major) They were girls who were friends & they were fun to be around. Never questioned my sexuality at all at this point!

    One night maybe a month after I was married my husband was mad because I was out with my friends a few times over a couple of weekends & called me a lesbian & said I was just like them etc. A night or two later I woke up in the middle of the night & thought “if he said I was a lesbian then I must be!!” Then I googled the crap out of every thought that went through my head, questioned every thing in my childhood (playing doctor, looking at each other genitals & the list goes on) & every as much as cried to my straight & lesbian friends what was happening. I cried to the point that my husband became fed up & bitter. I went to counselling nothing worked, I started taking 20mgs of paxil. I felt a little better but I think the thoughts came up every one & again especially if I read something about people coming out in later life or if I “thought” I had a feeling while looking at a woman. Obsession all over again & I didn’t stop til I was satisfied this wasn’t who I am.

    Fast forward a couple of years… My husband & I broke up, (he cheated on me & left myself & our child to fend for ourselves basically) & I met another man who I was unsure if I loved or not at first. Then I fell I love with him & we had a child together. We are still together & now every time something stressful happens if my life it’s like this thought overtakes every other worry. I’d catch something on tv or online once again about coming out later or if a gay friend said there was chemistry between me and another girl (when all I did was talk to her) I would panic again. I can function with these thoughts but it’s definitely obsessive thoughts that take over my brain where you can tell there is something wrong with me. Other times I barely think about it. I always imagined myself happily married with kids never in a lesbian relationship. It doesn’t appeal to me but then I think I’m not attracted to my partner either.

    Sometimes it’s other thoughts like if I have a pain in my chest I’m definitely having a heart attack & I’ll obsessive about that. Sometimes if I go to the doctor about it & they tell me I’m fine then I think “well what if they’re wrong?!” I obsessed about my son possibly having a learning disability or my daughter might have the same thoughts as me because it happened right before I got pregnant on her.

    The more I write the more I’m convinced I’m obsessive compulsive. Then I think no, it’s all in your head. It’s been going on for almost 12 years. What do you think about this? (Thanks)

    • Hi Van,

      You note that your ex-husband, in a fit of anger, declared that you must be a lesbian, and a few days later you somehow concluded that if he said this, then it must be true. If he had said you were tree, would you have believed him? How about if he had said you were a telephone? Of course, these sound nonsensical, but they point to one simple point – just because someone says something about you doesn’t mean it is true. People say all sorts of ridiculous things when they are angry, and taking them at face value is a bad idea.

      Also, you note all sorts of other thoughts that sound very much like OCD thoughts (worrying about your health, your son’s health, your daughter’s health, etc.), and you also note that your HOCD spikes at times of stress, which is a very common symptom of all types of OCD. So, while I cannot provide a diagnosis via blog, you are reporting symptoms that strongly suggest OCD.

      Finally, let me note that when you say that you can’t decide if it’s all in your head or if it’s OCD, you are setting up a false dichotomy. Where else would OCD be but in your head?

    • Sahil,

      Trying to change your sexual orientation would be like trying to change your eye color. I encourage you instead to focus on accepting yourself as you are, and finding community with others who are gay.

  • Hi, thanks for this website.

    I had HOCD for about a month before I realised that its probably not true. I still get the thoughts sometimes, but Im trying to accept that “maybe I am, but Im probably not” and to live the life I want – as straight, despite whether I think Im living a lie – I know Im not though deep down – I love men!

    Anyway, the HOCD started when out of the blue I thought, what if I am in love with my friend. (I think it was because was going through a break up with a lovely guy that I was still in love with and felt lonely – but felt very comfortable and happy around her, but Im not sure, the thought just randomly popped up one Sunday night, not triggered by seeing her recently or anything) This really really upset me because I thought, I really don’t want our relationship to change. I really appreciate her friendship and we are really close.

    This was the start of a couple of other Pure-O obsessions so rationally, I am almost certain its not true

    I didn’t see her in a while and I forgot about it, but I saw her yesterday and felt happy because we get on well and the anxiety popped up again. I don’t like her sexually so Im almost certain what it is is a non romantic love (and the whole time we were friends in the past, lived together etc, I never even thought about it!) I also am pretty sure Im still in love with my ex – he’s moved away for a year.

    Can you help me with exposure therapy to deal with the doubt? This just really upsets me because I don’t want our friendship to change. I don’t like when I am with her constantly questioning and feeling anxious. I really appreciate her friendship and we have a lot of fun together and I hate the doubt that maybe Im feeling more than that. I don’t want to be with her that way.

    I want to do my own programme of ERP (don’t want to go to a therapist because I already went to one on the NHS (UK) for free for 4 weeks but because of lack of funding had to leave before I was ready – and am also fine with letting go of new obsessions but want to deal with the old ones) but afraid I might do it slightly wrong – what do you advise?

    PS, my sister recently came out as bisexual, about 2 months before I got this fear, and she is in love with one of her friends and I am her confidant. This may have been a trigger because she says she believes that anyone is capable of having a same sex relationship with someone – and that if you get on well you can fall in love… Think it confused me as I am straight and I don’t want to be with a woman and I am scared of that happening (i am in no way homophobic – hence why my sister is happy to confide in me)

    Many thanks

    • Hi Boo,

      It sounds like you have excellent insight, and recognize that the presence of these unwanted thoughts has nothing to do with your actual sexual orientation.

      I don’t see anything unusual or noteworthy about having strong feelings for your friend. But having strong feelings doesn’t mean that you want to have a sexual / romantic relationship with her. And just because your sister is bisexual doesn’t mean you are.

      We can’t really help you with ERP via our blog. If you would like to schedule online therapy for HOCD with one of our staff therapists, please contact us via our website at Take care.

  • Pls help…. One day when working on the computer, I wanted to look at a naked women. I did. I was aroused. I thought, “Oh my God… I am lesbian! It was a huge shock. I couldn’t sleep or eat. The anxiety was unrelenting and I was so depressed. I felt a ‘cloud’ of confusion over my brain for months. I was asking myself, “Can I kiss a woman? Can I sleep with a woman?” With no answer…. I felt like my whole life was a lie. I couldn’t look in the mirror anymore cause all I saw was a lesbian. I started avoiding t.v and music. I hate going out, because I notice how attracted I am to all pretty women…. I hated talking to women and avoided touching them. I still think about it all day, I can’t stop. It’s been almost a year now and it is worse… First, my thoughts have become more vulgar and perverted. All I can think about is a woman’s private parts and I have gone into a dwell a few times, thinking,”I like to be lesbian,” I realise that I am now aroused and excited by my naked women thoughts. But now I feel like I have to deal with liking liking my thoughts… And, I feel like all my depression and anxiety was fake, I thought,”Why must I cry anyway, because I like being lesbian…” when I come out of my dwell I am left feeling awkward and not knowing how to feel and what to do…I feel like I have to ‘work through’ all the thoughts and figure them out , but then I san remember all of them… I feel like I am losing my mind! I am confused, because I thought I had HOCD, but now I am not sure if it was just denial… It still seems unfair, strange and ‘out of the blue.’ Please help is this HOCD, or denial, or both? Has anyone with HOCD experienced the same thing? If not please help, because I am 35 years old and I didn’t know I was gay, or possibly my orientation changed…

    • Hi Nadine,

      Everything you write sounds like HOCD to me. It is extremely common for people with HOCD to be worried that their HOCD concerns are really a manifestation of denial. But this idea of “gay denial” is not realistic – people don’t have sudden breakthroughs and realize that they are gay out of the blue.

      Your enormous distress about the possibility of being gay is further evidence that you are in fact straight. You are not losing your mind – you have HOCD, and I strongly encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in CBT for OCD.

  • hi, I’ve been having bad symptoms of HOCD for 3 months now and it started by me asking myself ” am I gay?” And I blew it off because I knew who I was and the next day it popped up again and everyday I kept thinking about it more and more, then I had a dream that I got raped and then my mind exploded with thoughts and I understand that it’s just a dream but I tried to shake it off but it just kept growing now it’s at the point where I am constantly thinking about it 24/7 and I have my good days and my bad days, the bad days are extremely depressed and not really eating. I did some research about a month ago and found out it’s a high possibility that it is hocd but the question still remains and I can’t get the gay thoughts/people out of my head and it has literally taken over my brain. I wake up and that’s the first thing I’m thinking about it is ruining my work and my personal life. I have a girlfriend and I have been with her for almost 3 years now and I really don’t want this to ruin my relationship. Its a huge cycle. I’m still anxious to be around attractive men I don’t know how to treat it. I didn’t think it would be in my head for so long and that worrys me very bad I cannot cry about it and when I cried when me and my girlfriend got into a fight a gay person came into my mind and it literally took over my head. I’ve always been interested in girls not once have I ever felt the same way for a guy as I did a girl. Please help
    Thank you, Chris

    • Hi Chris,

      Everything in your comment sounds like HOCD. The good news is that you have only struggled with this for three months. You “don’t know how to treat it” for the same reason you don’t know how do other things – you have never been trained in treating it. Your best solution is to find a trained therapist who specializes in treating OCD using a specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Help is available.

  • Thank you for your response. It seemed like it was getting better for awhile until I started doing research again and it just started over again. But another thing that bothers me is that I do have some homophobia and I always have but I noticed over the years I really just stopped caring about it because It wasn’t my life but that eats me alive because I feel that I was a homophobe all this is actually true and it just feels like I was pazessed by something I’m loosing my mind because my sex drive feels like it’s not there anymore and it frustrates me very very bad and I feel like it’ll never come back. I did look up ocd therapists in my area but I’m terrified to go. Is all of this normal?

    • Hi Chris,

      Doing research about sexual orientation is a compulsion which will only make things worse. So step number one is to stop researching anything related to sexual orientation.

      Conversely, treatment with a therapist who specializes in OCD treatment would likely be beneficial. There is no reason to be terrified of therapy, and I encourage you to schedule an appointment.

  • Hey I’m 17 years old and a virgin I’ve recently been trying to have sex and haven’t been able to get an erection with girls this has happened twice and it is making me think I’m gayy. It is really affecting my life making me depressed and I think it’s causing me to have gay thoughts all because I couldn’t get hard
    Wat should I do?

    • Matt,

      Thanks for your comment. There is no link between a failure to sustain an erection and being gay. You likely had difficulty with your erection due to performance anxiety. This is a fairly common reaction, especially for young men who have not yet had intercourse. I encourage you to cut yourself some slack, and not add to your anxiety by assuming you are gay. Don’t obsess about your sexual performance or orientation, and your penis will likely do what comes naturally.

  • Hi, I am a female (I hope) in her 20’s and recently I have begun to fear if I am transgender. The fear just came out of nowhere while I was watching a segment on TV about someone being trans, when the thought, “What if I end up like that?” popped into my head. The thought was initially followed by intense panic and fear. The thing is, I’ve always loved being female, and I can recall thinking several times throughout my life that if I had a choice, I’d choose to be born female. I felt like I was finally starting to get over this fear, until out of nowhere a memory popped into my head where I remember thinking a year ago how if I could, I’d be a male of the majority ethnic demographic of the country I live in (I am a minority). I thought it was related to wanting the societal position afforded to such a group, rather than actually wanting to be a man. This thought came up during a time in my life when I was dealing with an inferiority complex relating to being my ethnicity, but I have since overcome that and I could ultimately say that I was proud of being a woman. But for some reason, that one thought completely seems to invalidate my past, and seems like ‘evidence’. Please help.

    • Hi Random,

      Virtually everybody at some point entertains the idea of being born differently that they were born. This can be wondering what it would be like to be a dog, or a bird, or just about anything, including being a person of the opposite sex. Having this thought does not mean anything other than that you (like everybody else) sometimes experience strange, unexpected thoughts in your mind. It doesn’t invalidate your past (or you present or future) in any way. It is just a thought.

      As I was typing this, I suddenly had the thought, “what if I were a toaster?” (I’m not kidding), which is an equally weird thought, with equally low significance. Your goal is to let the thought sit there in your mind without giving it any significance or legitimacy. It doesn’t deserve any more attention than if you had the thought “what if I were a toaster?”.

      • Thank you. I feel like every time I am about to overcome this fear, something else happens and sends me into a downward spiral again. Today while I was shopping, I had to walk through the men’s clothing section to get somewhere. I was anxious through the entire walk, because I was scared that I’d want to wear the clothing, proving me to be trans. After I got through that, I wanted to make sure that I still didn’t want to wear men’s clothes, so I looked at the men’s section again to check. For a split second, I felt like I actually wanted to wear the clothing, sort of like a yearning, but felt nauseous after. I spent the rest of my time at the store lingering around the men’s section to examine that reaction, and check how I felt. I’d only feel satisfied if I felt indifferent about dressing like a man, but the entire time I felt like I was in denial and that I was just suppressing a trans side of me that I didn’t know existed. I could never get myself to not care while I was checking, and because I never got the reaction I wanted, I still feel distraught. Before TOCD, I was never interested in male clothes, and was proud to be a girl. I feel like I’m losing myself.What is happening?

        • Hi Random,

          You ask “What is happening”, and my answer is simple – you have OCD.

          You do not need to “overcome” weird unwanted thoughts. You need to accept their presence without giving them so much importance. They are just thoughts.

          Conversely, when you respond to uncomfortable thoughts and feelings by checking your reaction to them, and then analyzing your reactions, you are doing compulsions that will only make things worse for you. Spending your day hanging around the men’s department of a store to check and analyze will not help you. I encourage you to read our article about the Obsessive Compulsive Cycle.

  • Hi,
    Thank you so much for your article. I’m 28 now, but I remember having this anxiety at 17, then it went it away. Through out my 20’s, I’ve had multiple girlfriends, been in love, crushes, chased girls like a hound dog, etc. I can even remember thinking to myself, “I can’t believe I was afraid of being gay.”

    Then all of a sudden, they came back in June of 2014. I can remember the exact moment that triggered it. I was on the couch watching tv, and I saw a gay guy, then I thought to myself, “what if the thoughts I had when I was 17 come back?” Ever since, I’ve been struggling. Every time I think of being gay, my compulsion is to think back to a time I’ve gotten an erection with a girl. Then I think, “but if that was fake?” “what if If I really do want to be w a dude?”

    I know deep down these are lies, but I can’t see to shake them. Recently, I was dating a beautiful girl, didn’t work out, but my ocd tells me, “it didn’t work out because of your HOCD.” I know that probably wasn’t it, but I’ll admit, I haven’t been myself this last year. I used to be that confident, outgoing guy girls liked. Now, Im a nervous wreck, afraid to approach anyone in fear of a trigger. :-/

    • Hi R,

      Gay guys don’t “chase girls like a hound dog”.

      Everything you write is classic HOCD. It is not unusual for someone with HOCD to have extended periods during which their obsessions are not present. Likewise, it is fairly common to have new spikes in HOCD triggered by a seemingly inconsequential event such as seeing a gay character in a tv show.

      The problem appears to be that you are trying to “shake” the thoughts, i.e., to get rid of them. Your attempts to eliminate the thoughts will only make them worse. You will be far better served by accepting their existence, not taking them seriously, and not responding to them with compulsions. I encourage you to read our articles OCD, Anxiety and Resistance and OCD and Mental Checking.

      Take care.

  • Hi! Thank you só much for this very helpful arrticle! I finally understood my “insane thoughts”. I would very much like counseling, but unfortunately i cannot afford online therapy! Do you think seeing a “regular therapist” can be bad? And do you havê any advice for me to help Myself deal with this?

    • Hi Bruna,

      If by “regular therapist” you mean a therapist who does traditional talk therapy and has no expertise in OCD, then yes, I believe that has the potential to be bad. Unfortunately, most traditional talk therapists are completely clueless about treating OCD, and have never even heard of HOCD. We have had many clients with HOCD who have told us of experiences with “regular” therapists who tried to convince them that their unwanted gay thoughts were most likely evidence that they were secretly gay, and that they just needed to accept their homosexuality.

      If you had a broken arm, would you want you bone set by a general practitioner, or by an orthopedic surgeon? The bottom line is that you will be best served by someone who specializes in treating OCD.

  • Thank you for the article. I’ve been dealing with this for almost a year now and just recently it started getting worse, thanks to an anxiety attack one night. It keeps getting worse but I’ve started fighting back with exposure therapy. Some days work great and some days don’t (although usually after i get this extreme unbreakable bored feeling, probably depression). I never even thought of the posibility of being with a man. Now its progressed to the point i actually catch weird feelings (not even anxiety) around a male friend of mine i never had before. I don’t like them but i feel like my body does. I don’t want these feelings and I want to go back to my old life. Please tell me this is all not me and it will go away. or how do i make them go away. Because even when i do exposure therapy these feelings remain. I can’t wait much longer because each day is something else, i see a therapist but its every week…even waiting 3 days my mood/mental thought pattern completely changes. I don’t know what to do anymore. Even my relationship is failing. What do I do? Who am i? Why is this here? I’m losing my mind over here.

    • Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your comment.

      The good news is that you have started treatment. The key is to make sure that you therapist is focusing on a specific structured form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

      That said, treatment is unlikely to be as quick as you would like it to be. Your desire for a quick solution suggests that you may need to focus more on accepting your unwanted gay thoughts. This does not mean accepting that they are an accurate reflection of your sexual orientation, but rather merely accepting that these unwanted thoughts exist in your mind.

      Likewise, you will need to refrain from analyzing where the thoughts came from and what they mean. This sort of analysis is a compulsion that will only make your OCD worse.

      The bottom line is that you will need to accept the presence of these thoughts / feelings, while at the same time challenging them via ERP. If you continue to struggle, and would like to discuss face-to-face or online therapy at our center, we can be reached via the contact page of our website.

      Take care.

  • I’m a 20 year old female who has exclusively had crushes on boys since I was 10. I saw a video in 7th grade on tv of two girls kissing and it aroused me, because this was my first experience with arousal, i used to replay this image in my head or change the situation/characters,but I was never in it, this happened until about a year ago. even though i used this for arousal, i never thought of a girl as more than a friend or had a crush on one or even thought to have a crush on one. I was falling in love with boys. about a year ago i freaked out because all my arousal had come from images/videos of two girls together. i have no sexual experienced, so i assumed if i kissed a boy and liked it i would know i was straight. i went to a party and had my first make out and i hated it. this put me into HOCD and a lot of mental checking, asking my mom for reassurance and anxiety. what makes me most anxious is i think penises look gross, heterosexual porn does not arouse me, and women are pretty. I don’t want to develop feelings for girls and thoughts of being romantic with girls are weird to me, but why do these images arouse me and why am i not aroused by heterosexual images?is this denial?

    • Hi Kate,

      You ask why images of women being sexual together turn you on, and the answer is simple – humans are turned on by seeing sexual activity. This is why porn exists.

      Sometimes people are turned on by things they would never do, with the forbidden nature of the activity being a major aspect of the arousal. If you are distressed about being turned on images of women being sexual together, stop watching porn of women being sexual together.

      I have no idea if you are gay, but I don’t think one less-than-thrilling make-out session with a guy is enough evidence to come to a conclusion that you are gay. I also don’t think you need to come to any conclusion at all. In other words, stop trying to figure out if you are gay or straight, and just be with people you want to be with (which sounds like guys, but may also include girls).

      You note that you are a 20 year old virgin who recently made out with a guy for the first time and didn’t like it, so you now assume you are gay. Is it not possible that this particular guy did not turn you on, or that he a bad kisser, or that you were so busy analyzing the activity that you couldn’t really get into it?

      I encourage you to discuss these issues with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.

      • But how could I be gay if i’ve never had a crush on a girl? Are my attractions in real life not enough to help me determine my orientation?

        • Kate,

          You don’t need to determine your sexual orientation. The only people who think they need to figure out their sexual orientation are people with HOCD. If your “real life” attractions are towards guys, then I encourage you to act on those attractions to guys.

  • I’ve struggled with OCD since I was little. At first it was harm ocd. Then when i was 12, I was reading an advice column and the woman asked for advice on how to handle her child coming out. I read it and thought,”What if I was gay?” and I panicked.

    Then when I was away at camp and I couldn’t stop thinking about harming others, to the point where I didn’t sleep and shook all night.I would pray for up to two hours a day to calm my anxiety. My therapist helped. I haven’t had a bad OCD outbreak since then until two months ago, when I was kissing my boyfriend and the thought “You’re gay” came into my head. I tried to remind myself that the thought was irrational but I got so anxious I began to shake.

    I don’t know why these thoughts scare me so much. I have nothing against gay people. Since then, the thoughts won’t stop. I went back to therapy. Now being intimate with my boyfriend is hard because I’m terrified of having thoughts during sex. Two weeks ago I felt better, but then my thoughts became,”What if you said these thoughts out loud?” Which has given me a lot of anxiety. Is there a way to calm these thoughts? I love my boyfriend and these thoughts make me sad.

    • Hi Katy,

      It is quite common for the focus of obsessions to shift from one theme to another. You note that therapy has helped you to better manage these obsessions in the past, and I encourage you to return to treatment. I specifically recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which has consistently been found to be the most effective treatment for OCD.

  • Okay so ive been going to therapy for a while now for OCD, particularly HOCD this time around, and i have to say, my anxiety has gone down a lot. However, there are still some gay thoughts that go through my head which is very strange because when this started it caused me major anxiety but now it really doesnt, but it still seems weird. For example when i have a sexual thought about a guy my first reaction is basically “wtf”, i then feel weird afterwords(feeling in my stomach, questioning if i enjoyed the thought). However when a thought is about a girl it feel better and i normally get a semi-erection. Im just not sure if the problem is that ive been desnesitized to the gay thought therefore they dont bother me, or im really just gay and cant accept it. Ive tried masterbating to gay thoughts and cant get an erection but when i do it about girls i can. I just am afraid this might be because of guilt or denial or something. Anyways id appreciate your thoughts
    I dont know if this helps but my official diagnosis is GAD with obsessions and somatic symptom disorder, but my therapist says things like “your OCD” which is confusing. He says i really fit the obsession aspect of OCD though

    • Charlie,

      A few thoughts…

      There is no such “official diagnosis” of “GAD with obsessions”. My guess is that whomever came up with this diagnosis does not know much about OCD (especially the variants that are often described as “Pure O” such as HOCD) and rather than correctly diagnosing OCD, he/she came up with the idea of GAD with obsessions.

      Somatic Symptom Disorder is just the new nomenclature for Hypochondria with physical complaints (rather than just worrying about one’s health excessively). There is no direct link between this condition and OCD, but one can have both conditions.

      Masturbating to test your arousal level is a compulsion that is making your obsessions worse, not better.

      Your concern about no longer being as anxious about the gay thoughts is known as a backdoor spike. You can read more about this in our article HOCD / GAY OCD: Challenges to Treatment.

  • so ive literally just finished hocd and finished OCD therapy. im 14 and started puberty 6 months ago. this week ive just had random gay fantasies and got aroused by them. I literally dont know what to do, Ive always masturbated to girls never guys. Ive heard of the adolescent stage of puberty but ndver really cared for it am I realizing im bi because this brings me huge anxiety, because I dont wanna be gay. Is this puberty or just the hocd finally uncovred im gay? I went on yahoo answers and read this guy was going through the same thing am I gay? PLEASE HELP!

    • Jordan,

      Having relapses is not unusual in OCD – in fact it is incredibly common. The best response to this turn of events is to return to your therapist who has helped you in the very recent past using CBT.

  • Sir, I’ve been plagued by such thoughts for the last 3 yrs. I feel like I don’t know anything in life. I’ve first started having these thoughts when I read gay erotica accidentally. It aroused me, and I thought was homosexual. I’ve had crushes on girls since first grade, but suddenly this makes me doubt my sexuality. I’ve had a sort of same sex experience in school, I didn’t know it was gay, Now I can’t get these thoughts out of my head right now. Before, I wanted to spend my life with the girl of my dreams, but now I’m considering that I should come out as gay. Though I don’t think that would make feel any good. I’m nervous around guys, especially my best friend. I’ve constantly masturbated to straight/lesbian porn for the the last few years. But when I check it against gay porn, sometimes that arouses me too. I feel like I’ve lost all touch with reality. I even had an episode little while back but it was manageable. Now though, my thoughts torture me relentlessly. I have no problem with homosexual people, but I don’t want to be one of them, I just don’t. I can’t feel anything for girls anymore.
    I’m terrified this isn’t hocd, that I’m actually gay, but in denial. I fear that I’ll have a same sex encounter while drunk or something, I also get disturbing thoughts of sexual or violent nature against family members. I devastating and I nervous around them. What can I do about this? ( if this actually is hocd). There are no Cbt therapists in my area. Furthermore, could conditions like thyroid aggravate it?

    • Neil,

      A few thoughts…

      Lots of children experiment with same sex behavior. This does not men you are gay.

      You fear that your arousal to gay male porn indicates you are a gay male. Yet you are also aroused by lesbian porn. Does that mean you are a lesbian? Of course not. Your arousal means you have a functioning penis that gets excited when you watch people having sex. Congratulations.

      Many people with OCD experience different types of unwanted thoughts, so the fact that you also experience Harm OCD thoughts is not unusual.

      If there are no CBT therapists near you, then I encourage you consider online therapy.

  • Hello, I just wanted to say that reading this article has really helped me out by identifying my problem, but I’m still plagued by unwanted thoughts such as “what if I really am lesbian?” It had started about a week ago and it was a very frightening experience because I had never had thoughts like that before, or I did but never cared before until now. I’m female and have never been attracted to the same sex, but I just worry that in the future I will become lesbian or bisexual and my family will be concerned, even though they say they will never be judgmental . I’ve never gotten therapy before and I might have had OCD my whole life and just haven’t known it. I’m 15 years old, so this might be happening because of puberty, but I’m just worried, even though the thoughts I have aren’t things I should even worry about.

    • Hi Kennedy,

      Worrying that you might someday become a lesbian is a waste of time. First off, people don’t just “become” lesbian out of the blue. Second, if you were a lesbian, all of the worry in the world would not change that fact. And third, you have only been having these thoughts for a week. A far more likely explanation is that you are experiencing unwanted thoughts that sound very much like HOCD.

      I encourage you to accept the presence of the thoughts without taking them seriously. Just because your brain produces weird, unexpected thoughts doesn’t mean that the thoughts are particularly important. If these thoughts continue to upset you, I encourage you to speak to your parents about finding a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.

  • HI,

    What I think to be OCD struck me about 4 months ago because I could not stay erect while having sex with my girlfriend. I started overthinking why I couldn’t stay erect and it led me to thinking “is it because I am gay,” and then it started. For the past four months I have been constantly depressed and can not get the thought out of my head no matter what. Also, as time goes on the thoughts get less repulsive and sometimes the OCD seems so real. But I have been straight my whole life, I have never wanted to be with a guy, I have never been turned on by a guy, only by girls. But now I feel like my entire life has been a lie and that none of that was true. I want to be with girls, specifically with my girlfriend, this is making me miserable because I cannot go a single minute without comparing everything I do with her to being with a guy and all it does is cause me distress and anxiety, because I have never done this before in my life.

    P.S. I have always been happy in my previous relationships with no problems with sex and no doubts about whether I wanted to be with them.

    • Robert,

      There is no link whatsoever between having a loss of an erection and being gay. Perhaps you were tired, or overstressed with work, or whatever. I see no reason to assume that losing a hard-on indicates homosexuality.

  • I am not sure if I have HOCD. But this whole experience I’ve been having has been going on for a month. I don’t want to be with girls at all. I’m afraid of my family’s and friends’ responses. I also don’t cringe as much anymore when my mind shows me gay thoughts. I’ve wanted to be with guys and I have questioned my sexuality before but always crushed on guys and dreamed about them. But now I’ve noticed girls more and get a slight tingly feeling down whenever I see a girl or even reading/thinking of the word “girl”. I can’t look at anyone anymore. I always checked out girls more than guys but it was for comparison. I haven’t had a boyfriend before so they are completely foreign to me. I’ve never wanted a girlfriend before and saw them as friends always worked for me. I had nothing to do for a month and I kind of ran with the whole “am I gay?” idea. I can’t sleep anymore either with my dreams telling me to come out of the closet. I feel so lost and confused with the battle everyday. I also have depression and felt the numbness. Calling myself bi doesn’t feel right. I only feel content with being straight. i feel like crying whenever I think I am a lesbian and can only be with girls.

  • Hi,
    I have 31 years old, and i believe that i’m HOCD sufferer. I all my life i fell in love for women, and have many sexual attraction for women, since the preadolescence. But a 2 years ago, after one love deception, came one thought in my mind, “am i gay and i don’t know?”, and become obsessed with it. With this question started many intrusive thoughts, that i try neutralize with masturbation and check my past to prove that thoughts is fake.

    A few months ago i started ERP therapy, and i fell a small improvement, but after read one article about the diference between HOCD and internalized homophobia, that said the diference is that the person with internalized homophobia fall in love by people for same sex, came one question “can i fall in love for a man?”, and after these i become obsessed that i’m in love for a fellow worker, but when i imagine i kissing he, or have sex with he, the only sensation is disgust and revulsion. But this idea are driving me crazy, i’m having a suicide thoughts. Now i’m starting one relationship with one girl, but these thoughts are very disturbing. This is HOCD or no, is a prove that i’m gay?
    And the medications, it is advisable…

    • Anonymous,

      A few thoughts….

      1) Unwanted thoughts about being gay don’t indicate that one is gay. Actually having sex with people of the same gender indicates that one is gay.

      2) Stop masturbating to check for arousal.

      3) Stop reading articles about homosexuality. This is a a compulsive search for reassurance and will only make things worse for you.

      4) Talk to a physician about medications.

      5) If you are feeling genuinely suicidal, go to your local emergency room immediately.

  • Thank you for this article. Unfortunately I believe that returning to it has become a significant form of reassurance for me. I am 28 years old, married, and have suffered with what I believe is this subtype of OCD on and off since I was 16. I won’t go fully into the origins of my story because I am unsure if they are relevant. I did not even discover that other people suffered from this until 2 years ago before my wedding when I had a complete breakdown, I simply could not understand why the obsession of “being gay” kept returning. I have had a myriad of anxiety related issues but sadly this obsession has remained a constant worry throughout the years, flaring up and getting worse each time. A therapist I did see told me it was rare to have a constant obsession for so long, and so I fear that perhaps being gay is my true reality. I have made attempts at self ERP and sadly not made much progress. I fear mostly that I will suffer with this the rest of my life and never truly be happy. I did not get married to cover up something or hide from homosexuality but I also fear that if I was truly in love these fears would not torment me. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Andre,

      Yes, it sounds like you are using this article to get reassurance. I encourage you to read our article on reassurance seeking.

      Aside from that, everything you describe sounds like classic HOCD. And the therapist who said that “it was rare to have a constant obsession for so long” sounds like an idiot. It is not even remotely rare for people with OCD to focus on a specific theme for many, many years.

      I do not recommend “self-ERP” for most people. If you would like to discuss treatment at our center, please contact us through the contact page of our website at

      • Hi, I’ve been dealing with this HOCD for a long time now, almost a year exactly. And I’m really tired of feeling this way, so how can I do the ERP without it turning into mental and physical checking? If you could explain it further and offer some examples that would be great, thanks.

        • Max,

          Unfortunately, it is quite common for ERP exercises to become compulsions when people self-administer ERP. This is one of the reasons we encourage people to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with ERP. If you would like to discuss online treatment, please feel free to reach out to us on the contact page of our website at

  • Hi, thanks for the information, I’ve been struggling for about a year while somehow keeping a girlfriend and trying to keep friends as well as do sports at school that require touching. There were many times when I thought I beat this but it would just come right back. I want to try ERP because im so sick of this, I honestly don’t care if I turn out to be homosexual, bisexual mostly heterosexual, heterosexual or whatever label it turns out to be. but I can’t think of a way to do it without it turning into mental checking or testing. Could you guys please elaborate further on how this works and give an example? that would help me so much, thanks.

  • Thanks for your informative article.
    As a medical researcher, this is very weird to me that despite the widespread nature of H-OCD, there is a very limited scientific literature about it. Hope that psychologists perform more studies on this to better understand the etiology, prevalence and the effectiveness of treatment strategies for this disorder.

    • Sia,

      I think the reason there is so little research on HOCD is that it is really no different that other forms of OCD, with the exception of having so much cultural baggage related to it. OCD is OCD, and all of the research that has been done on OCD (and there has been a lot) apples to HOCD.

      That said, I think it would be interesting to research how cultural stigma relates to the experience of HOCD. If people weren’t told since they were young that it is unacceptable to be gay, I suspect HOCD would be greatly reduced.

  • As an adolescent I am scared to inform this to my parents.I do not know what they will think of me.
    What to do ?Please help

    • Marc,

      I strongly encourage you to speak with your parents. They are your best resource for getting help.

  • My symptoms have been slowly improving, but my old libido isn’t back yet, which worries me as I cannot get aroused by women like I could before this began. Does this typically happen with HOCD? And how long should it take to return to normal? Prior to this, i was girl crazy. This also had an overlap with gender OCD for awhile. What triggered it was somebody’s comment in a fetish chat room that involved the gender swap fetish. I was looking at stuff regarding it and somebody said “your attraction to women is only envy” that comment triggered this episode, and it’s been bothering me for two months now. However, the compulsive checking seems to be subsiding, and the thoughts occur a little less. I still get spikes sometimes, however. In addition, my appetite, and sleep have also suffered some. What should I do to get back to normal?

    • Tanner,

      A few thoughts…

      1) Yes, it is common for people to report a reduced libido in relation to HOCD.

      2) That said, paying attention to your libido is a good way to reduce your libido. Simply put, the level of your libido deserves the exact same amount of attention as your HOCD thoughts…NONE.

      3) What people say in chat rooms about sex is equally unimportant.

      4) Stop focusing on “getting back to normal”, and instead focus your attention on life as it is right now. Certainly there are better things on which to focus your limited time on earth than being sexually “normal”. The more you focus on what you see as sexual deficits, the more miserable you will be.

      • Hi!
        Thanks for the article and the info. I have had thoughts about being gay previously, but after intaking a hallucinogenic substance, I instead have feelings of being a female (I am male). I wonder if one can have intrusive thoughts about being transsexual as well?

        • Hi Joseph,

          Obsessions about being trans are fairly common, and are frequently described as “Trans OCD” or “TOCD”. I encourage you to view the as being no different from other obsessions in which you are questioning your sexual orientation.

  • my age is 19years,through my whole life i always had crushes on girls,always dream about marrying a girl have kids and lead a beautiful life,i always sees lesbian and shemale sex i never have interest in gay sex,but while masturbating i fantasize myself as female and my female patner as male,sometimes i cross dress and masturbate after masturbation i hate cross dressing and my fantasies [is it normal i never felt any problem with that before hocd] but during night i always fantasize myself as male and my female patner as female and having a lovestory
    i saw a cmnt on youtube that “are you a gay” this triggered a question in my brain that am i a gay after reading that i was never be the same i always feel that iam a gay,iam lying to myself after that i never got sex drive i had before,if i see a man my brain always thinks them naked i fully hated it,today iam going outside i saw a man walking on road suddenly i got a tingly feeling in my penis i dont know what it is i freaked out i think it was due to always checking my limbido,when i see my best friend my brains thinks romantically i hates it my brain says you likes it
    is it hocd or am am i a gay i always some sort of ocd…

    • Antony,

      A few thoughts…

      1) Many people who cross dress are straight.

      2) People fantasize about all sorts of things that do not reflect their true intent.

      3) Even if you do like “shemales”, that is ok. People are allowed to have the full range of sexual appetites and desires. So long as your partner is a consenting adult, pretty much anything goes.

      4) Paying attention to alleged “tingling” in your penis is a recipe for HOCD.

      5) Just because someone on YouTube asks “Are you gay” doesn’t mean you are gay.

  • Hi

    I have read some of your answers and I do really respect your commitment for the people’s concern. I myself do believe that i have been suffering from HOCD for almost a year now and I am batteling it very well. My attraction for girls has come back fully again which was almost gone for half a year, but something are still causing me massive amounts of concern.

    As the fact when I masturbate and enjoying the thought of women, a though about ”what if you like guys” or a mental picture of some homosexual activity appears which causes me to ejaculate in a wierd way. It is like the sexuality is generated by fear and I can feel my legs shaking as if i had just been scared shitless. What if this is a sign that I am gay and that my heterosexuality is just a ”fantasy”. I really despise those kinds of ejaculations due to the shocking, disgusting, distorting, disturbinf and massive amounts of a unease lays over me.

    My guess is that ”HOCD” creates what it need within your body to survive. For example, groinal sensation, the anxiety the situation i just talked about. Which means that the ”homosexuality” really has nothing to do with my fundamental sexuality, if you get me.

    • David,

      Your comment reminds me of a very funny scene in Woody Allen’s 1979 film “Manhattan”. Please watch this, and then read my reply below:

      You say you “ejaculate in a wierd way” sometimes, and somehow think this may be the result of you secretly being gay. That’s nonsense. You almost certainly ejaculate just fine, and then proceed to over-analyze your ejaculation. I encourage you to stop over-attending to your ejaculations and to stop analyzing them. Ejaculating neither requires, nor benefits from, analysis.

  • I freaked out when i had a gay dream.

    Growing up i ALWAYS knew i was heterosexual and i wanted to be with a girl. But somehow i masturbated to gay porn. I never felt anything towards it and even thinking back on it with a mind filled with HOCD i still remember me thinking ”wtf this isn’t me in any way”. I can even say that i didn’t find any sexual pleasure either. I could BARELY get and erection and the ejaculation was completely numb and almodt disgusting i guess it was a way get a ”sexual release” due to me being depressed because i loved girls so much but was never able to get a girl. Yet now when i had the ”gay dream” where i in the dream literally dreamed about me testing myself by looking at gay porn. Even in the dream i found it dreadfull and horrific. My whole body was really sensative and i was in a constant panic and fleeing ”mood” hocd is really eating me up from inside and everything sucks. When i try to say to myself ”im gay, get over it” i always get anxious and it feels wrong. And when i day dream about girls i feel the wonderful feeling of real attraction. But when i test to guys i feel a horrific ”fake arousal” and anxiety… this is killing me, help!

    • Michael,

      Dreams have very little connection to reality. If you dreamed you were able to fly to the moon, would you assume you are able to fly to the moon? Of course not!

      Stop testing your self to figure out your sexual orientation. This is a compulsion and will only further distress and confuse you.

  • reading this article has given me relief knowing that I’m not alone, I haven’t been diagnosed with HOCD but I have all the symptoms, growing up I have always been attracted to guys/boys and I’ve always fantasized about falling in love with a guy and getting married and having kids (still do and I’m 19) everytime I think about a guy I get butterflies, around last year my cousin joked around and told me “I thought you were gay” and at first I laughed it off but then I was like “what if I am gay?” and that’s when it started, I’ve never been attracted to girls that way and I’ve always thought of them as friends and bestfriends, when I go out in public I always say “am I attracted to her? or do I like her? is she cute?”, everytime I used to get a gay thought I used to always “knock on wood” to prevent it from happening but I’ve stopped trying to do it as it was a type of compulsion I had, when I have gay thoughts I go into panic mode and I sometimes cry, and I tell myself “yea you’re gay and you’ve always been that way” and I panic even more, I’ve always been accepting of gay people but the thought of me being gay or bi doesn’t feel right to me.

    • Samantha,

      So many people post comments on our HOCD blog articles noting that they never had a thought about being gay until someone said something to them along the lines of “I thought you were gay”. So let me make this perfectly clear – what other people say about your sexual orientation has nothing to do with whether or not you are gay, straight, bi etc. There is literally no connection whatsoever.

      I encourage you to ignore what other people say about your sexuality, as it is completely unimportant. Instead, I encourage you to accept that your brain, just like every one else’s brain, produces some unwanted thoughts. Your job is to not take those unwanted thoughts seriously, and to not respond to these thoughts with any effort to analyze them or understand them or control them or eliminate them. They are just unwanted thoughts.

  • Hi Doctor,

    I have gone through the E/RP treatment with a therapist when I would have intrusive thoughts on HOCD. I can remember him having me rate the kissibility of guys on the internet. Long story short It\’s been a decade and i\’ve been doing great for the longest time until recently my OCD came back and hit me hard. It\’s been very frustrating for me since telling myself I could care less if I\’m gay doesn\’t seem to subside the thoughts. Money is a problem now so I don\’t believe therapy is an option.

    Question: Reading up on E/RP and trying to remember some different exposures, I can remember looking at pictures of men and avoid using compulsions.

    My question is if I were to take it a step more uncomfortable, would you recommend I look up pictures of men celebrities and actually kiss the men in the images?

    • Joey,

      The exposure you suggest sounds like a pretty good exposure to me. That said, I do not know the specifics of your OCD, so I am reluctant to provide further guidance. I encourage you to contact the therapist who helped you with ERP in the past. If that is not an option, then I encourage you to seek treatment with a different OCD specialist.

  • Hi!
    Is this normal that since my HOCD appeared I don‘t have obsessions after a couple of months anymore but still question myself when I look at a picture of a pretty girl on Instagram? Or I sometimes avoid looking at lgbt content because I still have anxiety? Or is it just avoiding things because I‘m in denial?
    It’s very hard for me to find a guy attractive, he has to have that something that I want to get intimate with him and it really disturbs me. In my 25 years I slept with only 3 guys, but a big sexual attraction I felt only to 1 guy. I recently had to get over him which was really hard and then this thoughts popped out again that I may be lesbian and I think 16 hours a day obsessively about being one. And even question this sexual attraction towards this one guy. And here I ask myself, how can be that even possible? I don’t have that much experience in sex, but whenever I masturbated I thought about him.
    Recently in my obsessive days I had a dream about a sexual encounter between a man and a woman and I wasn’t the woman. I kind of felt in the male body. I felt sexual arousal and then woke up feeling terrible. It scared me a lot. Is it normal or I’m just in denial?

    • Cara,

      This all sounds like HOCD. None of this sounds like “denial”. And for HOCD, these types of thoughts are “normal”.

  • Im 16 and i have been diagnosed with ocdby my therapist.Started years ago when isaw handsome guy and “do i like men?.Not long ago iread that someone was hetero and dicks gros em out.Andi thought”do they gross me out?”And i started googlin dicks just to see.And i got paniky.Most of them looked gross butsome pics didnt look that gross.And after that i saw dicks everywhere.Before that i was grosed and couldntimagine dicks.The thought of gaysex scares me.I wasnever arousd by the pics,but lastweek i woke up with pp in mind and spike,my pp was going erect and itfelt terible.Also sometimes inbed,like today thedickskeep coming when i wake up and i feel movement butwhen sitting or standing just anxiety.Imwith fake mail so myparent cant see this

    • Jake,

      This all sounds like HOCD to me. Assuming your parents are decent people who care about your mental health, and that they would not freak out and react negatively to the very idea of HOCD, I encourage you to tell them that you think you have OCD and to ask them to help you find a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focusing on a specific CBT technique called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

  • Hey,

    In terms of groinal response – does that cover anal sensations?

    • Ian,

      There is nothing special about anal sensations. Unwanted sensations are unwanted sensations, regardless of where they occur.

      And if you are a male with HOCD, it is not surprising that you would over-value and over-attend to perceived sensations in the anal area.


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