OCD: From My Head to My Bedroom
When OCD makes you question your orientation it can ruin the joy of sex.
Posted Sep 18, 2014
Debilitating Sexual Obsessions
The Relentless Nature of OCD
OCD afflicts between two and four percent of the American population and its symptoms can be unrelenting and incapacitating. Due to its disruptive and persistent nature, the World Health Organization has recognized OCD as one of the most disabling illnesses worldwide. OCD includes repeated thoughts, images, or impulses (obsessions) that cause a great deal of distress. In other words, the worries just keep coming. In an attempt to reduce the distress caused by the obsessions, an individual engages in behaviors or mental responses (compulsions) over and over. While obsessions can appear in different forms, those including disturbing sexual content may be especially damaging to a person’s sexuality and relationships.
OCD: The Unwanted Sex Partner
“I suddenly had a thought that I may not be turned on by my partner,” says a 29 year old male with OCD. “I questioned my attraction to her, and then suddenly, I was telling myself, ‘you can’t get it up,’ over and over again.” Unfortunately, the “monster,” as he calls his OCD, did not stop. OCD relentlessly chipped away at his virility, leading him to worry and question aspects of his sexuality that he had never questioned before.
Everyone has fleeting thoughts, some of which are more disturbing and upsetting than others, but they are able to flow through the mind as simply thoughts, and do not consume notable amounts of time. The obsessions and compulsions associated with OCD are extraordinarily distracting and impair daily functioning. The above patient continued, “I had a constant tape recorder of thoughts. It didn’t matter what I was doing – tying my shoes, opening doors – I was constantly worried that I could not perform with women. Sometimes God would give me a five-minute break from the thoughts, but at its worst, they were nearly every minute.” As a result, he did not want to be around anyone for fear that he would be aroused by men and turned off by women. His anxieties led to performing compulsions, which included frequently checking himself for arousal and mentally revisiting each of his sexual partners. “I tried to avoid women and sexual situations, but it only made things worse.”
The upsetting nature of OCD may cause an individual to avoid the thoughts and situations related to the anxieties. While it may be natural to not want to expose oneself to negative or disturbing subjects, research supports the observation that the avoidance can make OCD thrive.
The Pain of Watching a Loved One Suffer
If you or a loved one has OCD, it can be a scary and intense struggle. Reading about OCD may ease some of the fear and shame surrounding the disorder, as a greater understanding may help couples and individuals cope with many of the daily challenges posed by OCD.
Getting Professional Help
For the treatment and management of OCD, therapy has proven effective through the use of exposure and ritual prevention. While most therapy is at an individual level, between the patient and a therapist, a partner can be helpful by showing support and encouragement for participation in therapy. It may also be beneficial for a partner to participate in therapy as needed, and couples therapy can be part of this.
Additional support and resources can also be found in support groups, through online communities, or your local chapter of the International OCD Foundation.
If you are married and either you or your spouse has OCD then consider participating in an online study to help researchers better understand this issue. For more information and to participate, please click here.
By Jen Viscusi & Monnica Williams