Sexual OCD – Symptoms and Treatment
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is a condition in which a person experiences persistent thoughts, images, and ideas that are unwarranted, upsetting, anxiety-provoking, and troublesome. OCD can manifest in a wide array of sub-types, including sexually-based thoughts, in which the person experiences obsessive thoughts about sexual themes that can range from mild to violent. While the human mind may daydream about sex on a daily basis, these thoughts or impulses come without any desire to think in a sexual manner and are highly disturbing to the individual experiencing them.
What is Sexual OCD?
Research suggests up to 24% of people diagnosed with OCD have these sexually intrusive thoughts, but these figures could underrepresent the actual number of people suffering from this type of OCD due to the reluctance of others to admit to this. Obsessions of this nature occur equally in both men and women and can play a role in preventing or disrupting intimate relationships due to the fear, anxiety, and distress caused by the individual’s obsessive thoughts. A common misconception is that sexual obsessions are fantasies, but it is not the case. Fantasies provide pleasure, but obsessions are focused on a person’s fear of perversion, such as pedophilia or rape. Individuals suffering from this type of OCD don’t desire to have such thoughts and ideas and consider them terrible, painful, and shameful.
Symptoms of Sexual OCD
Common Obsessions of Sexual OCD
Some common obsessions that are associated with this form of OCD include:
- Extreme fear of being attracted to a family member, animal, dead/inanimate objects, or children
- Intense fear of committing a sexually heinous act
- Extreme fear of becoming violent during sex
- Intrusive thoughts or images about distressing sexual acts with undesirable entities, such as children or animals
Common Compulsions of Sexual OCD
As individuals experience these types of obsessions, they begin to develop compulsions or behaviors that are employed in order to cope with the anxiety caused by their sexual intrusive thoughts.
Some common compulsions of Sexual OCD are:
- Avoiding situations where they may interact or encounter a subject of their intrusive thoughts
- Performing mental rituals to replace unacceptable sexual thoughts with acceptable sexual thoughts
- Avoiding sex so they do not harm their partner
- Mentally reviewing past sexual behaviors for signs of perversion or depravity
- Checking for genital arousal when encountering or interacting with the subject of their obsessions
Treatment for Sexual OCD
People suffering from Sexual OCD are encouraged to seek treatment from a mental health treatment provider that specializes in the treatment of OCD. OCD specialists are equipped and prepared to treat a wide array of OCD subtypes, including Sexual OCD. Like all types of OCD, Sexual OCD can be treated with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), specifically with treatment approaches called Exposure with Response Prevention (ERP), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
Mindful-Based CBT teaches patients that everyone experiences intrusive thoughts. Individuals will also learn that intrusive thoughts have no power over them and that by responding to their thoughts through compulsive behaviors, their thoughts are given more strength and credibility and their fears and obsessions are strengthened and reinforced. Mindfulness-Based CBT is a very effective OCD treatment, especially when combined with ERP.
ERP exposes patients to situations related to their intrusive thoughts that cause them anxiety. The goal of this treatment is for the patient to prevent himself or herself from completing their compulsive behaviors when triggered by intrusive thoughts. The situations that are confronted will intensify over time, until the patient can face and overcome their most feared scenario. Once they are able to stop themselves from responding to their intrusive thoughts with compulsive behaviors, they can experience tremendous relief from the symptoms of OCD.
If patients are suffering from severe levels of anxiety due to their OCD, they may benefit from participating in treatment at an Intensive Outpatient (IOP) OCD treatment program, as is offered by The Gateway Institute. The Gateway Institute offers Intensive Outpatient treatment options as well as regular outpatient psychotherapy sessions, and a free, 30 minute face-to-face consultation with one of our experienced and caring clinicians at all three of our beautiful locations in Orange County, Scottsdale, Arizona, and the San Francisco Bay Area. OCD symptoms typically worsen over time and can take over a person’s life, so it is very important to seek OCD treatment as soon as possible with a skilled and dedicated OCD specialist who can provide expertise and support during this journey.
Other Common Sub-Types of OCD
It is not uncommon for an individual suffering from one OCD sub-type to also suffer from other sub-types. Treating co-occurring sub-types simultaneously is important in finding balance and healing from OCD.
The Gateway Institute is here to support you in getting the help that you need.
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