HOCD: a recovery story.
My HOCD began around 2 years ago. At the time, I didn’t know that I had OCD.
I have a vivid memory of the moment it all started. I was scrolling through TikTok, and stumbled upon a video of a girl talking about how she’d been ‘straight’ her whole life until meeting this one woman, and then she realised that she had never been straight at all… Initially, I felt confused, and then I felt one of the most intense rushes of panic I’ve ever felt: ‘what if I’m gay and just don’t know it?’, and a million other trailing thoughts ensued.
What followed was 2 years of endless questioning, anxiety, panic, confusion, sadness and grief. Looking back, it’s almost comical to me how I let someone else’s narrative and experience shatter my own identity; but I guess that’s just how OCD works.
It was a couple of months into this theme that I stumbled upon ‘HOCD’. What I was experiencing felt so bizarre; I had no concrete evidence to suggest that I was into women, yet I was questioning my sexuality every day, for hours! Having a pretty stereotyped conception of OCD, I didn’t believe that I could possibly have it… and then a thread started to reveal itself; I’ve had obsessions in the past about my health - I always assumed it was hypochondria, but it had an obsessive-compulsive style; it was more than just ‘worry’. It then occurred to me that this obsession with my sexuality felt very similar…
After a lot of research, learning about OCD (the ‘pure O’ kind) and hearing and reading the experiences of others, I decided that I should start implementing exposures into my day-to-day life, in the hopes that I could finally close that chapter of my mental life.
For me, my predominant ‘compulsions’ were reassurance seeking and checking. This manifested as staring at ‘erotic’ images of women, monitoring my mental and bodily responses, doing the same with men, and comparing the two; playing scenarios in my head of myself both romantically and physically with women, monitoring my responses; going back over photos, videos and memories to see if I ever behaved in a ‘non-hetero’ way; and the embarrassing list goes on.
I found that intentionally trying to ‘stop’ these things, just fuelled my desire to do them more - to find certainty. I decided that this method - for some reason - wasn’t working. My next choice (and the choice that basically ended my battle with OCD) was letting the thoughts be there, but changing my response. I realised that the crux of my suffering was my constant responding to the thoughts, and my constant rumination on them. I realised that it was taking away from my day-to-day life - I wasn’t doing as much as I could’ve/should’ve been, I was neglecting aspects of myself that I should’ve/could’ve been attending to. I started to focus on the things that gave me a sense of meaning and contentment: school, my friends and family, music, learning, my health, etc, all the while LETTING the thoughts be there. At first, the suffering felt the same, I was still thinking all the time, I still felt like I was on autopilot, but I was progressing. Before I knew it, this progression became exponential. Over the course of months, my shift in prioritisation yielded huge rewards. I was happy and thriving, and my HOCD just became a dull background noise that had virtually no relevance to me.
For some, the only way to achieve this is though therapy; I didn’t have the means, and that likely made things harder, so I highly recommend professional help to those who have access to it!!!
Nonetheless, I feel free from OCD. Yes, I still have thoughts about my sexuality, YES, I still engage in the odd compulsion, but I definitely don’t qualify as having OCD anymore. Nothing triggers me in that regard, which I’m unbelievably thankful for. For example, I couldn’t even hear a ‘coming out’ story without bursting into panic and sometimes tears!!Now, I could listen to one with intrigue and absolutely no anxiety, and that’s really saying something.
If anyone can take anything from this, I hope it’s the knowledge that you’re not doomed to your obsession, there is, unequivocally, hope for you. If I can recover, in the state that I was in, then there’s no doubt that (regardless of the severity) you can too!!! In retrospect, I can see how cognitively distorted my thinking was, and that’s not something you have insight into until you’re on the other side. I’m writing this with joy.
I’m sending my absolute best wishes to all, whatever obsession you’re dealing with.
You are not trapped, you are not doomed, you are not incapable of recovery - make the choice of change now.