Answer to Amanda’s “Gay OCD” Question and the Importance of Acceptance

Amanda’s suffers from fears of being gay and says that she has read my book and understands that she needs to accept the possibility of being gay to get better (see book for why this is so).  However, she then goes on to say that she thinks she may have arousal feelings and this might make it true and that she doesn’t want to accept.

Amanda, you are raising the most important issue about acceptance.  To work on accepting the possibility is exactly what you are not doing.  And notice how I’m writing this — I’m not saying accept the possibility, because if it were that easy, your problems would be solved in minutes. Acceptance of something we don’t want is an effort and is painful, but it is usually necessary, because the alternative is living in fantasy.  Specifically, for you to work on accepting the possibility of being gay means that you would need to consider how you would make your life worthwhile if you suddenly decide you are gay, as opposed to saying it’s possible, but I know that I’m not.  You may ask why, so allow me to give you a few examples not involving your particular fear.

  1. To not accept means the individual is in denial, which translates to trying to compare real life to a fantasy.  When someone loses a loved one, the statement of denial is: life would be better if they were still here.  This may be true, but it is a fantasy, since the lost person will never be back.  In this case, acceptance doesn’t mean you don’t care about the loss, but it does mean that you stop comparing your real life to the one where the loved one is still here.  You may miss them at times.  You may cry for them.  But when you are doing something, you would enjoy it rather than wishing for your loved one.
  2. This brings up an important point, mourning – the process of moving from denial to acceptance takes time.  No matter how self-aware someone is, when they lose a loved one, they start in denial.  To move and work towards acceptance takes time.  What you can decide is that you want to do this.  Without this decision, the process won’t begin.
  3. The problem with acceptance is that there is always a loss — and it doesn’t matter if you intellectually know the truth, denial is in the wishing.  Again, anyone who has lost a loved one knows they are dead, it is the comparing their current life to the one where their loved one hasn’t died that is denial.  Mourning is giving up this wishing.
  4. Amanda, for your OCD, you fear you may be gay.  So one loss is accepting this as a real possibility.  To accept uncertainty means accepting that you really may be.  So the second loss is that certainty over this issue will never be had, but learning to not care about it is possible.   What would this look like?  At present, you seem to know that you don’t want to live a gay lifestyle, so you don’t have to.  Even if you decide that you are 100% gay, you could still choose to live as a straight person.  So your exposure isn’t saying your gay, but it is saying that if a time comes that I want to live as a gay person, then I will have to figure out how to do it.  Until then, I’ll keep living this way and will work on trying to not figure it out, because I also have OCD and I also have to work on accepting that I can’t know anything with certainty and part of the reason for this is that research has shown that the only people who have any certainty are stupid people.
  5. It is true you don’t like this and would like to figure it out, but that won’t happen.  Again, the best you get is not right now.  It’s true you wish this change won’t occur, but there are a million things you don’t want to happen that you live with — you don’t want to be a mother whose child dies of a horrible disease or gets kidnapped, you don’t want to be maimed and paralyzed in a car crash, you don’t want to get a fatal cancer and on and on.  The goal isn’t to know whether or not you are gay, but to work on deciding that if it happens, then you will work on making the best of it.  Why would you do this?  Because what choice would you have?  Will this be your future?  Will you live long enough to find out?  Maybe.
  6. All we have is the present.  The past is pleasant memories, the future is hope.  When you have OCD, you don’t even get the present, so the purpose of choosing to do exposure and to work on acceptance is to have a life where you get to enjoy whatever you have.  The failure is never in falling down, it’s in not trying to get up.

9 Comments

  • That is very helpful Dr. Grayson. I think the biggest challenge is in accepting I will never be “sure” of anything. OCD is painful, as it makes me feel as though I am a liar. But I am not interested in living a gay lifestyle, and even when I picture my life as a gay person, perhaps I wouldn’t be all that different. I really need to work on “not caring”. And I think the word “truth” in terms of applying it to my life and my OCD fears, is something I will have to take a chance on. I can choose my truth, even if I don’t feel it.
    Thank you again, your advice is so very helpful! and clears acceptance for me. The empowerment is in the choice of the moment… and certainty is for stupid people. haha that did make me laugh!

  • Hi Dr. Grayson,
    Your words about acceptance come at an opportune time for me. I’ve written to you before about my OCD related to anxiety and suicide (I fear that I will want to die rather than keep living through the anxiety that seems to inevitably return, and that it will get too much for me.) My therapist, as you did, suggests that I work on acceptance, but I find it a daunting challenge. In my case, accepting the possibility means accepting the end of my life or the possibility my life will be largely a nightmare of anxiety (which it is, at times). I can’t wrap my head around what accepting this would look like, let alone feel like.

    I tried using what you wrote for Amanda to write myself some notes about acceptance. If you could please review them, I’d be grateful for your insight.

    My OCD and the anxiety I feel on a regular basis makes it very difficult to be consistent in my job or personal relationships. I’m trying to let go of the illusion that I will ever be a person free from ups and downs and strong feelings/challenges, but it is hard. Every time I feel anxious it feels like my worst fear is coming true.

    What I wrote about acceptance, using the above as a guide:
    Accepting uncertainty means accepting the possibility that I might want to die rather than live with anxiety. But in every moment I can chose to live- so I have to figure out how to live with the doubt. If it were that I only had one leg (rather than suffer from anxiety) what choice would I have? I could learn to live the best one-legged life I could, or kill myself.
    Even if one day I decided that I wanted to die rather than deal with anxious feelings, I would still have a choice-it would be a choice. My exposure is that if the time comes when I want to die rather than live with anxiety (which could happen because you can’t have certainty) then I will have to deal with that when/if it comes. I could even want that right now, there is no way of knowing for certain, and I can’t be 100% sure about everything.
    Right now, I must work on living with anxiety and coping with the possibility that someday I won’t be able to go on dealing with it. I will also work on trying not to ‘figure out’ what I really want.

  • “Right now, I must work on living with anxiety and coping with the possibility that someday I won’t be able to go on dealing with it. I will also work on trying not to ‘figure out’ what I really want.”

    this is awesome, I think. But I am not Dr. Grayson!

  • Hey Dr. Grayson,

    I suffer from OCD and right now my main issue is based around my wife. I doubt anything and everything about my marriage. how do i know i love my wife? how do i know i EVER loved my wife at all? it drives me off the wall to even think these things bc we have 2 kids and it makes me think well if i dont love my wife then how can i be happy and so i need to leave my marriage and subsequently break up my family.

    the truth is i DID have doubts while we were dating. i always thought well im not so sure she is the right girl for me. im sure there were times i did not think this but right now im so clouded with it that anything i think about is tainted with a thought of well maybe she isnt right for me. we will be married 7 years come this January. for the first half of my marriage i never looked back and never regretted anything. my thoughts were always well once you get married and you make the committment there is no turning back thats it and once i got married i was fine and great.

    about 3.5 years ago i was diagnosed officially with OCD (had it all my life) bc of something completely unrelated to my relationship doubts that imhaving now. after a few obsessions it landed on this theme and i havent been able to shake it since. dont get me wrong i have not been in a depressed anxious state for 3.5 years. with the help of medication and therapy i have been able to function and be happy and enjoy (although there was a few month period in between where it was very bad when i got off my meds and until i get regulated back on meds)…..when the theme first started we only had one child at the time and right when it flared big time again a year later my wife had just gotten pregnant with our second child. after i got over it for the second time i was fairly well for 2 years and recently went back into it as a result of the stress of my older brother suddenly passing away. i am currently on 60mg of prozac (have been on 20mg for past 2 years about then when my brother passed on about 2 months ago i went to 40mg and very recently went to 60mg)and just started doing cbt therapy. i am besides myself with these doubts and thoughts.

    i keep thinking well since you had real doubts while you were dating and you were not under the influence of OCD then they muat have been real doubts. what i did was just throw them away and say who cares just get married youll have fun and enjoy and build a life and family together. how can someone do that when they had doubts about whether they loved or even enjoyed being with this person? this is what really gets me stuck…..the fact that i threw away those doubts so to speak and got married anyway bc i always wanted to get married young and since i had the opportunity i jumped on it…..

    sorry for rambling but can you provide any kind of advice and insight?

  • I’ve been struggling with the same thing as Amanda for almost 20 years and its only the last few years I’ve had any diagnosis. The acceptance is the hard thing. Not knowing very difficult. I always struggle with this. SOmetimes I think I’m in acceptance and the images and fears subside. So I tend to lose motivation to work on things.
    I’ve dabbled with ERP but not in a structured way.
    How do I start?

  • Ugh, I just stumbled upon this section of the forum. I find it reassuring at best, but for some reason feel it lacks the same camaraderie of the Staring OCD section, which I also suffer from. Does anyone else have issues with a sort of staring that brings about the thoughts or are the thoughts just ever-present? What I’m really looking for is some detail as to how all this specifically affects you all.

    The one reason it is so difficult for me is that I am a Muslim, and as you may or may not know… it is forbidden for us to take part in sexual acts with the same sex. I know that is not the same thing as simply accepting the fact that one may be gay, but I am scared to do even that ~ in the same vain that one would label marijuana as the gateway drug. Does any of vagueness and round-aboutness make sense? I hope so.

    For a small portion of my problem’s existence I refused to believed it, but went ahead and simply told everyone I was bi because I figured it would make me care less. One of my best friend’s light-heartedly told that if that was the case, I was just gay. I didn’t really take him serious and knew that he understood my dilemma (especially after I showed him more information on the forms of OCD I’d be researching) , but the problem arose moreso when my Staring OCD worked in conjunction with public situations. I even fear my male teacher stopped teaching my class because of the predicament I put him it. It makes me want to cry and sometimes die, but I keep pushing forward with the support of my faith. Though going to the mosque even presents a great opportunity for my OCD and Social Anxiety to arrest me, or the dojo where I train in martial arts… ;-; Life is truly unbearable for the most part.

    2 Last things to mention:

    1: I have not been offically diagnosed with either because I haven’t had health insurance, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to ascertain the symptoms of my predicament.

    2:
    http://www.brainphysics.com/yourenotgay.php
    http://www.brainphysics.com/hocd.php
    http://straightguise.com/default.asp?id=1842

    ^^^
    You may find those links very beneficial ~ or not. OCD is like that, even after reasonable consideration and whatnot. But I wish you all the best and I hope to overcome this disruption in my life sometime soon.

  • I really don’t mean to post a 3rd time, but the last article/link I posted is very much in-tune with what you’re suggesting. The other three articles may serve to just enhance and influence the OCD, but this one voices the idea of acceptance and after reading it I truly have hope, my heart feels lighter, and I truly hope you all can derive the same experience from it. ^_^ Yup.

  • I am only 13 years old. I’m also a girl. I have what I really hope is HOCD. I’ve only had crushes on boys my whole life and never any girls. Now I would say 98% of my thoughts are gay thoughts. I always check to see if I feel aroused around girls and I can’t tell if I do or don’t like them, it freaks me out and I hate it. I have had this obsession for about a month but for about 2 years I always thought “What if they think I’m gay?” “Did I just act gay?” “I need to prove to them I am Straight.” When I had those thoughts I could control them and only had them for about 2 hours a day if that. Just last month when this started I only had the thoughts for a few hours too. Then when I started to research what it was I started getting really nervous I was gay and then the thoughts were there from the moment I woke up until I went to bed and they still are there. I spend at least an hour a day researching HOCD which is the only thing that gives me relief. I’ve never been diagnosed with OCD but I always do strange things like touch only certain colors because they will make me do good in a math test. Or I will touch a table so that I’ll have good luck. Recently what I think is the backdoor spike is happening to me. I still have the thoughts all day long but no anxiety. I get slight anxiety that I accepted that I’m gay. Nothing really makes me nervous anymore so I’m worried that I really am gay. What really makes me nervous is that my grandma and uncle are gay and I’ve heard it’s genetic which really freaks me out. Also in my last period class there are 4 gay kids. I don’t really have anything against gays but I’m worried I’ll catch being gay from them somehow. There’s also a girl I think is pretty but my mind keeps telling me I’m attracted to her. I really scared because I can’t tell if I’m attracted to her so I try really hard to stay away from her. And it doesn’t make me nervous anymore. So is the HOCD? I don’t feel nervous at all anymore even though I have the thoughts all day long. I’ve tried to accept the thoughts to see if it makes it better so maybe that’s why I’m having a backdoor spike? I used to cry all the time about being gay and have had one huge panic attack about it. If I just tell myself I have HOCD I feel a lot better but maybe I’m just using it so I feel better that I am gay. Sorry for how long this is but thanks!

    • Reese,
      Yes you have HOCD. It would be useful to find an OCD therapist to help you with this, because it is a problem that can be overcome, but you will need help to do it. What part of the country do you live in (send this direct to my email at drjg17@hotmail.com, since this shouldn’t be public info).
      – Jon Grayson

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