Last night, possibly for the first time, I wanted to look at a picture and check my feelings as a compulsion. The urge was so strong, but I resisted. It is possible to resist compulsions. It’s incredibly hard, but possible.
It feels like you’re putting a lot on the line, but in reality you’re not. I think the logical side of you knows that. And in five minutes, or fifteen minutes, or an hour, when your anxiety has gone and you’ve forgotten what started it in the first place, you will see that it’s true.
In the moment, anxiety makes us feel like our thoughts are a threat. Like they must come true, because we thought them. However, that is only the result of our faulty brains. Making up meanings for thoughts that have no meaning.
In reality, thoughts are just thoughts. Everyone has them and they are harmless, to everyone.
My therapist and I have been working on exposing myself to the root of my fear. That I might be attracted to someone taboo. This means, instead of writing out my intrusive thoughts objectively, I write out the meaning I (falsely) apply to them.
I think that may be why this urge to ritualize was so strong.
But I’ve heard stories of people who have this compulsion. One minute of checking turns to two, then five, then ten. One photo brings feelings that are too conflicting, so add another, and another. Then it’s more than just the person you started with, it’s anyone who meets the qualifications set by OCD.
But that is true of all compulsions, isn’t it?
I wasn’t going to jump down that rabbit hole. I know where it ends.
That’s why when I get a new compulsion I try my absolute hardest to resist. No matter how strong the urge is. One compulsion always turns into two. And like drug tolerance, we become tolerant to the compulsion. So we have to do more and increasingly intrusive rituals.
When you look at it that way, it’s much easier to not ritualize in the first place.
Don’t look at rituals as momentary relief, look at them as giving OCD the foothold it needs to control you. That’s all it really is.
It is terrifying to resist compulsions, especially for the first time. However, it is necessary to recover from OCD.
Fight the bully, don’t feed the bully.
I like to think of OCD as the alien from Doctor Who that lives in electronics. If you don’t watch Doctor Who, you will have no idea what I’m talking about, but bare with me. If you do watch Doctor Who, I haven’t seen this episode in a while so I might be a bit off on the lore. Bare with me. Disclaimers aside, the alien feeds off of human’s faces because that is the “essence” of their being, so to speak. So the alien comes to Earth and goes into television screens, using satellite connections to be in many screens at once.
When a person is sitting on their couches watching television with their families, the alien appears on the screen in the form of a woman. It screams, “FEED ME! FEEEEEED ME!” As it sucks the face off of the people on the other side of the screen.
I remember watching the episode and thinking the alien was so gluttonous and disgusting. It will do anything to eat the most faces it can.
Then I realized, OCD is the same way. OCD comes into our lives shouting, “feeeeed me!” It starts off small, but grows larger and larger as we give it what it wants. It feeds off of our compulsions. And in doing that, our essence disappears. We become the person OCD wants us to be, rather than who we want to be. We become faceless.
To stop this, we must starve OCD. We will feel it’s whining and the result of it’s hunger pains. However, in doing this, it will shrink. And we can be ourselves again.
As someone who has OCD, I recognize the importance of classifying OCD symptoms. It makes it easier to educate professionals (and advocates), and makes it easier to find people who have the same OCD sub-type you do.
HOWEVER, the form of OCD I identify with the most doesn’t have a name.
I have sexual obsessions.
But they’re not about the same sex, they’re not about children, and they’re not about animals. I have obsessions about therapist figures in my life.
Usually middle-aged, male therapist figures.
So, completely opposite from the sexual obsession acronyms we’re used to.
THEREFORE, today I introduce to you a brand new OCD sub-type, Therapist OCD (TOCD)!
Ah. I finally feel like I belong in the OCD world. I’m going to call the IOCDF right now to initiate this.
YOU can qualify to have TOCD too, if you have any of the following:
Obsessions about your mental health professional
Obsessions about your doctor
Obsessions about other doctors and other mental health professionals
What if you have one of these things and not the other? What if you have harm thoughts with sexual obsessions? What if it’s one or the other? What if you have thoughts about a therapist-like figure in your life who is not licensed?
You lose. Go back to OCD limbo.
If you’re taking this seriously, you’re missing the point.
When I say OCD comes in all shapes and sizes, I mean OCD really does come in allshapes and sizes. OCD is different for everyone.
Sometimes we don’t fit exactly into one OCD sub-type. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you have any less OCD than anybody else.
Some OCD symptoms fit into multiple sub-types. For instance, my sexual obsessions also leak into my religious obsessions because I fear if I act on a thought, I’ll go to hell.
This doesn’t mean I need to go off and make Sexual Scrupulosity. OCD is sneaky. It will sneak into any area of your life, even ones that have never been mentioned to any therapist before. (I put it that way because even if there’s no literature on it, there’s a good chance that someone has had that symptom).
To explain OCD symptoms, I like to give the example of windows. People who have OCD commonly have obsessions about germs, order, and harm. And people who have OCD commonly have compulsions involving hand washing, straightening, and avoiding knives. However, people who have OCD can have symptoms about anything! Including seemingly harmless things like plates, chairs, and windows!
You may be thinking, “How could someone be afraid of a window?!”
But OCD is a master of fear. It can get you to fear anything. I am convinced of this.
My OCD symptoms around therapists and professional figures may be uncommon, but it doesn’t make it any less OCD.
OCD is comprised of two things. Obsessions and compulsions. If you have those two things (and it significantly effects your life), you have OCD. Regardless of the theme, sub-type, or lack thereof.
In that way, OCD is the same for everyone. Same formula, different variables.
Formula: O + C = D
If “O” represents obsessions and “C” represents compulsions,
“O” plus “C” always equals “D”.
So it doesn’t matter if you plug in dirt, harm, or symmetry for O. It doesn’t matter if you plug in hand washing, straightening, or avoiding knives for C. It always equals D.
Ugh, algebra. I have a headache.
But do you see what I’m saying? You don’t have to fit in to an OCD sub-type to have OCD. Even the most severe cases of OCD may not fit into a sub-type. Anyone who tells you otherwise either does not understand OCD or is incredibly superficial.
Don’t feel left out if you have an uncommon obsession like I do. It’s my guess that most people who have had OCD for a long time has also recognized an obsession that doesn’t really fit anywhere.
If you have an obsession or compulsion that you can’t place into a sub-type, please comment it below! I know people who have struggled with this with be grateful to see it. 🙂 At least, I know I will be!
Have a nice day everyone and do your exposures! 😛
By the way, this post is coincidentally timed to be on #WeirdThoughtsThursday. Weird Thoughts Thursday is a hashtag I started for us to share our weird or scary thoughts. They can be intrusive thoughts or just random! If you have a Twitter, join us every Thursday to reduce the stigma around weird thoughts. My twitter is @thekatway. If you don’t have a Twitter, feel free to start a #WeirdThoughtsThursday on your favorite social media site.
Since starting Weird Thoughts Thursday, I’ve gotten messages saying it’s helped OCD sufferers take power away from their intrusive thoughts. This was it’s mission to begin with and why I’ve continued doing it every week (except when I forgot)! Being able to laugh at OCD has been a big part of my recovery and I want to extend that to you all too.
If you know people with OCD, whether you have it or not, initiate a Weird Thoughts Thursday with them. You’d be surprised at how amazed a sufferer can be when they find out they’re not alone.
1) My slutty friends (TOTALLY JOKING, my friends are great!)
Anyone who’s been on Facebook during engagement season knows the frustration of watching your friends one by one get married off. I was thrilled for the first one, but by now I’m totally over it. It seems that every 19 year old on my friends list got married this year. This isn’t a bad thing and I’m super happy for them, but it gives the opportunity for a lot of obsessions.
You don’t have to be married to bother my OCD, though. Pictures of unmarried couples trigger the anxiety as well.
What’s worse than that are the people constantly posting jokes about “Netflix and chill” and some poor girl “wanting the d.” I’ve seen posts of incredibly sexual drawings that have left me ruminating for hours.
2) Sappy love songs
My OCD can be triggered by even the smallest mention of love. There was a point where I couldn’t even listen to the most innocent of love songs without getting anxious. Whatever happened in the song would always end up in my mind. And, in proper OCD tradition, it would happen with the wrong person. My mind would play out every scene in the song with me and that person. It makes it hard to listen to the radio because I never know what song is going to trigger me next. Don’t even get me started on the blatantly sexual songs.
3) Cute Couple Pictures
Much like the love songs, pictures of couples give me intrusive thoughts. Once again, these pictures could be anywhere. It is all but impossible to avoid them. Not that I should. The more I expose myself to these things, the less anxiety I will have in the long run because I’ll get used to them.
But right now I’m ranting so I’m not thinking of those truths. Let me rant in peace!
4) Stumbling Upon Sexual Education/Blogging Sites.
It seems every few days a friend posts a link entitled something along the lines of “Top 50 Kinky Sex Moves!!!11!!1!!1!” and “What He Wants In Bed!!!1!!1!11!” When I see these things, my anxiety spikes. For some stupid reason, I then get a terrible urge to look at the article for reassurance that it’s not as bad as it sounds. Which, of course, makes everything worse. So now I’m reading about the latest sex moves and my OCD is overjoyed to take in the new material.
This also happens when I walk by an issue of Cosmo in the grocery store. That magazine is basically my nemesis.
5) How Can I Enjoy Law and Order: SVU?
I have a confession to make that everyone probably knows already. I love Law and Order: SVU. I love Olivia Benson’s hardcore attitude and seeing everyone’s story lines unfold. It’s a guilty pleasure. However, it is so hard to sit through episodes that talk about rape. Which is nearly every one.
When my sexual obsessions first became more prominent, they were mostly about rape. It was also mysteriously around the time that I started watching SVU. Which came first? I’m not sure. But having these intrusive thoughts has hindered my enjoyment of the show and any show like it. Especially the more graphic episodes. Once again, it gives my OCD new material.
6) Accidentally Stumbling Upon Porn
That pretty much says it all.
This was especially hard in my Tumblr days. Oh, Tumblr.
You may have noticed a lot of these have to do with the internet. Ever since I was twelve, I’ve pretty much lived on the internet. It has always been my safe haven. A place to go to where I had friends and people who supported me, when I didn’t have that in real life. Websites like Tumblr were my go-to places when I was depressed. Unfortunately, websites like Tumblr also made my depression worse. Being on the internet all the time led to me never leaving my house, which made me feel even more lonely.
Now the internet hurts me in a new way. What was once a safe haven is now a minefield filled with triggers. Youtube is my main source of entertainment, but even on there it’s hard to avoid sexual content. Just watch one PewDiePie video and you’ll see what I mean.
7) Researching OCD
This problem may only exist for mental health bloggers/vloggers, but researching OCD really triggers my sexual obsessions. To no ones surprise, the types of OCD that trigger me are usually sexual related, such as HOCD. I sometimes find descriptions of intrusive thoughts and compulsions too graphic for me. Or sometimes a story of recovery will involve things OCD doesn’t want to hear about. Sometimes these things create more intrusive thoughts and worries. I continue despite this, because I know people need to be educated on these topics.
8) Avoiding Important People
When I was having intrusive thoughts about a therapist while in the OCD Intensive Outpatient Program, it was hard to even sit in a room with him. If he got too close to me or touched me, I would immediately freak out inside. But I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t risk someone knowing I have these embarrassing thoughts.
What made it even worse was that he was my favorite. I loved working with him. We would do exposures for my social anxiety every day and I couldn’t just give him up to OCD. (My determination to continue working with him despite OCD is a good thing, of course.)
It got worse when the thoughts moved on to my psychiatrist. If I had not been doing my exposures, I would dread seeing him because of the terrible anxiety I had leading up to the appointment. One night before an appointment with him, I just started bawling my eyes out because the anxiety was too much to bare. The next day my psychologist and I started doing exposures around seeing him.
It’s the association anxiety that hurts the most. Intrusive thoughts are one thing, but it’s the people and objects associated with the thoughts that give me the anxiety that makes it hard to live my life. There could be a trigger around any corner to cause intrusive thoughts and anxiety. Albeit, the more I work on my intrusive thoughts with exposure and response prevention, the less daily triggers I have.
I have to say, I’ve come a long way from those exposures. It took me two years, but I finally was able to tell my psychiatrist one of my thoughts. And at our last appointment I hugged him and had no anxiety. I would love to still be working with him about these thoughts, but I’m now 1,000 miles away.
Other people with sexual obsessions might avoid people of the same sex, opposite sex or children. Since my OCD tends to focus on a specific person, I just have one person I severely want to avoid. However, I am so glad that I didn’t avoid him. By not avoiding him, I was able to have great conversations and make huge progress with my OCD. Through medications and exposures.
Everything on this list triggers my intrusive thoughts. At one point, I would have avoided all of them, but now I do it anyway because I’m not about to let OCD dictate what I do.
The biggest thing that has helped my sexual obsessions was talking about them. If you’re struggling with sexual obsessions, please tell someone. The more details you can give, the better help you can receive. Trust me, if your therapist is any good, your therapist is not going to judge you.
If talking to someone is too hard, try writing them down. Writing down scary thoughts takes some power away from them and helps you separate them from yourself. Because you are not your thoughts. You are not your OCD.
You are not your OCD.
Thank you for putting up with my rant! I hope it enlightened you on some of the struggles those of us with sexual obsessions have. It certainly helped me to get my feelings out.
See you later and hopefully with something more coherent,
Alas, those years of dancing around it in fanfiction are over. The days of awkwardly closing the page is gone. The innocence of my words is no more.
When I began treatment for OCD, I never knew this was even an option. Of course, before I was diagnosed with OCD I thought it was about perfectionism. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I would have never thought the horrific images in my head were a result of a disorder known for handwashing. Learning about Harm OCD let me know I do, in fact, have OCD. And that I am not alone in having horrific thoughts about people harming me and me harming others. At the time, these thoughts nearly destroyed me. The lead me to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Nowadays, I don’t even flinch.
But my harm OCD getting better made the way for an even more repulsive monster.
Now, my sexual obsessions didn’t come immediately after my harm obsessions went away. In between I had scrupulosity and perfectionism OCD to work on. However, because my harm OCD had gone away by the time I got treatment, I never learned how to deal with OCD symptoms that don’t produce overt compulsions. Regardless, at the end of my treatment OCD decided to give me a going away present. A new obsession, one it knew it could use to control me. Because how was I supposed to tell my psychologist I have intrusive thoughts about one of my therapists raping me? It was more than scary, it was embarrassing. Embarrassment kept me silent longer than it should have and my sexual obsessions became a problem.
Once I figured out I could not handle my sexual obsessions on my own, I told my psychologist. We started out doing exposures about the therapist in question, then moved onto the thoughts themselves. Exposures changed as my sexual thoughts changed focus. Fast forward two years and I’m writing smut with my new psychologist.
I suppose I should clarify, I do not enjoy writing this smut. In fact, it makes me incredibly anxious. The point of Exposure and Response Prevention therapy is to 1) expose you to your fear and 2) prevent you from responding with an action to reduce anxiety. Since my fears are about being raped by or having sex with people I know, I can’t directly expose myself to those fears. Instead, we employ a wonderful tool called a “script exposure.”
Script exposures involve writing out the worst possible scenario of a fear you have. If you have a fear of becoming a failure, you’d write a script about losing your job, your house getting foreclosed on and you living as a hobo with not even a cardboard box to keep you company. Then you would read that repeatedly. Just writing that out may not make you anxious, but if you fear becoming a failure and have OCD, it’s sure to kick your anxiety into overdrive. To someone not familiar with Exposure and Response Prevention, you may wonder why people with OCD would do this. The answer is simple, when you expose yourself to something enough, you get bored. Like if you were to watch the same horror movie over and over again, at first it’s scary, but by the tenth time you’re falling asleep. However, my OCD fear is not of failure or horror movies. It’s sex. Hence why I’m writing smut with my psychologist.
It’s not a common thing I suppose, writing smut with your psychologist. But I’ve learned there are some pretty weird things allowed in Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, that you just would not see in traditional talk therapy. For example, when I was in an OCD Intensive Outpatient Program, they had a whole folder devoted to images of vomit (we can talk about emetophobia later). At first I found it strange, but now I’ve embraced it and when someone tells me they eat off of the floor or stare at strangers for an exposure, I don’t question it.
When I started writing smut with my first psychologist, it was petrifying. And, much like with the fanfiction, I could not write out parts about the actual sex. My new psychologist knows how to give me the push to write the hard parts. My scripts are looking smuttier and smuttier every time and at this point I’ve embraced the weirdness of ERP so much, I’m not embarrassed about it.
In fact, I almost want to shout it from the rooftops. Because people with embarrassing obsessions are keeping silent and it’s hindering their recovery. Some of them don’t even know they have a disorder they can recover from. I want to encourage everyone out there to talk about their weird thoughts because I now know they’re not weird at all. Literally every person on this planet has intrusive thoughts about sex and harm. The difference between them and I is that I have OCD. Meaning, my mind latches onto these thoughts and they get stuck in my mind and cause me extreme anxiety.
If you have ever had a weird thought, write it as a comment on this blog.
(By the way, this is an exposure for me too.)
I’ll start: I have intrusive thoughts about kissing my former psychiatrist.
Stop being embarrassed about thoughts you can’t control. Had a thought of having sex with your best friend? Normal! Had a thought that you might have a crush on your English Professor? Cool, me too! Had a thought about having sex with your pet? Oh well!
Embrace the weirdness.
Embrace the exposure.
Embrace the anxiety.
Embrace the anxiety and you will live.
Because life starts at the end of our comfort zones.
Becoming comfortable with talking about my obsessions did not come easily. It took me a long time to tell my former psychologist what my thoughts were about, let alone the details of each thought.
But it got easier with, you guessed it, exposure. The more I talk about it, the easier it gets.
The biggest help to me in this ongoing exposure was starting my video blogs on Youtube. When I started vlogging, I knew I had to talk about my thoughts so I could help other people experiencing similar thoughts. I’ve made this written blog so I can expand on the topics in my videos and hopefully talk about OCD in a little more detail.
Anyway, I know starting off a blog with a post about taboo thoughts is a bit bold, but I hope you stick around!