Just like any other OCD, H OCD—which stands for Homosexual Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—is characterized by obsessions or intrusive thoughts. So first, some background on intrusive thoughts. Nine out of ten people experience intrusive thoughts—it’s likely that you’ve had one, I know I have—while I’m driving on the highway the thought has popped into my head, “Open the car door.” When this happens, I think to myself, “Huh, that was a weird thought, I wonder where that came from,” and then I return my focus back to the road. When it becomes OCD is when you can’t just laugh at or brush away the thought and move on with what you were doing. Someone with OCD gets stuck on this thought and questions “Why did I have this thought?” “Is it true?” “How do I make sure I don’t act on it?” etc. and then engages in compulsions to neutralize it.
When it comes to H OCD, the intrusive thoughts sound something like this, “I’m attracted to that man even though I have a wife,” “I am gay,” etc. And while others can brush that off as a random thought, people suffering from H OCD believe that if they had that thought, it must be true and now they must avoid certain things (such as bars or swimming pools) to prevent having the thought again and perform checking behaviors (such as looking at every man and woman to measure attraction levels) to test the thought out.
So how do we treat this? Just like any other OCD, with exposure therapy! We will want to approach, rather than avoid, situations in which these thoughts come up and then work on sitting with and tolerating them instead of trying to neutralize and remove them. Just like any other intrusive thought, the more you try to get rid of it, the more it pops up. Paradoxically, once you start allowing and accepting it to be there, it will become much less frequent. Once we learn that our thoughts are random and automatic and don’t define us or lead directly to behaviors, we can start to laugh at our thoughts instead of being afraid of them.
By Stephanie Kaufman