“Emma Gordon, a 41-year-old straight woman with SO-OCD, has spent the past several years paralyzed by the fear that she might be a lesbian … “
WOMEN’S HEALTH – I was sitting in my therapist’s office in Brooklyn, answering his questions from an OCD diagnostic test, when he asked me something particularly unexpected.
“Do you have homosexual thoughts?”
“As a bisexual woman, I was more than a bit offended.”
Do I have homosexual thoughts? Over the course of the diagnostic, I’d been asked a number of odd questions, including ones about my hygiene habits, whether I tend to visualize violent scenarios, and whether I believe numbers have magical meanings.
But this question felt completely out of left field—and as a bisexual woman, I was more than a bit offended.
In the moment, though, I laughed it off, reminding my therapist that I was bisexual and thus obviously had homosexual thoughts. (He, for the record, was gay, and merely reading the question off an official diagnostic form.)
But years later, when I thought about that clumsily-phrased question, I was finally able to piece together what, exactly, it was supposed to be screening for.
Stranger still, I realized the problem it was supposed to suss out was actually one I’d been struggling with for years—one I’d assumed was just garden variety sexual-identity questioning.
Although it’s not as well-known as OCD subsets like contamination OCD (an obsessive fear of germs and infection) or compulsive counting and ordering, sexual orientation OCD (SO-OCD) is a very real, and very painful, manifestation of OCD that’s estimated to afflict about 10 to 12 percent of OCD patients, says clinical psychologist Simone Leavell-Bruce, PsyD.
With OCD impacting up to 3 million adults in the U.S., it’s possible that anywhere from 300,000 to 375,000 people suffer from SO-OCD.
And that number could easily be an undercount. “Sexual obsessions are underreported because they’re taboo. So these rates are likely higher,” says Dr. Leavell-Bruce …