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Domains of Distress Among People with Sexual Orientation Obsessions

Abstract

Although sexual obsessions in obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) are not uncommon, obsessions about sexual orientation have not been well studied. These obsessions focus on issues such as the fear of being or becoming gay, fear of being perceived by others as gay, and unwanted mental images involving homosexual acts. Sexual orientation obsessions in OCD are particularly distressing due to the ego-dystonic nature of the obsessions and, often, stigma surrounding a same-sex orientation. The purpose of this study was to better understand distress in people suffering from sexual orientation obsessions in OCD. Data were collected online (n = 1,176) and subjects were 74.6 % male, 72.0 % heterosexual, and 26.4 % with an OCD diagnosis from a professional. The survey consisted of 70 novel questions that were assessed using a principal components analysis and the items separated into six components. These components were then correlated to distress among those with a prior OCD diagnosis and sexual orientation obsessions. Results indicated that sexual orientation obsessions in OCD were related to severe distress, including suicidal ideation. Implications of these findings and future directions for research are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Edna Foa, Ph.D., Jonathan Huppert, Ph.D., and Bruce Hyman, Ph.D. for their input into the sexual orientation survey items, and Aaron Brienen, Psy.D., for assistance with recruitment. We also thank Helen Alvey, B.S., for editorial assistance.

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Correspondence to Monnica T. Williams.

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Williams, M.T., Wetterneck, C., Tellawi, G. et al. Domains of Distress Among People with Sexual Orientation Obsessions. Arch Sex Behav 44, 783–789 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0421-0

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Keywords

  • Sexual obsessions
  • Obsessive–compulsive disorder
  • Homophobia
  • Suicide
  • Sexual orientation
  • Anxiety