October 16, 2010

The Blessing & Curse of the Internet

If you’ve read my first post, you know that I have gay OCD (HOCD) and relationship OCD (ROCD).  Both are primarily mental in nature – both mental obsessions and compulsions (though I do have some visible compulsions).  For the most part, it really is “all in my head”.  I believe this is why it took so long for me to “discover” that I have OCD.  I use the word “discover” because although it was a psychologist who suggested that I might have OCD, any of the books that I read on the topic, covered only the traditional types of rituals such as washing, checking, ordering etc.  It took a lot more extensive research (mostly on the Internet), for me to confirm that her hunch was correct.   
I only saw that psychologist once.  That was the first time that I had ever been to a psychologist, and I didn’t know that there are differences between the types of therapies that they practice.  At that point (over 15 years ago), I was filled with anxiety, guilt and shame.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone about what was going on in my head.  There was no way that I was going to risk having some psychologist tell me that she thought I might be a lesbian, and perhaps I should consider coming out of the closet.  This would be going against all of who I believed I was.  I just knew it had to be something else. 
I am thankful for that psychologist, though, because she knew enough about OCD to know that there was such thing as obsessing about one’s sexual orientation.  Her comment sent me on a quest to learn more about OCD, and especially HOCD.  (Not initially of course.  Initially I thought that just having the knowledge of "what was wrong with me" would be enough for me to get better.)
From where did I gain most of my information?  From books, and the Internet, of course.    
I would be willing to bet that most of us who have OCD have used the Internet at one time or another as a vehicle for checking for evidence to support or disclaim our fears.  I have to be very careful about this.  Though the Internet has provided me with a wealth of information and ammunition about OCD, and how to fight it, the world-wide-web also very generously supplies many coming out stories and “how to know if your relationship is the right one for you” articles that I can easily become swept up in.  Though it is helpful to stay on top of new information about OCD, it is not helpful to constantly be searching for “the answer".  Until recently, (having gained a better understanding of how OCD works), I would spend hours searching for information to help me figure out if I had to leave my boyfriend and declare myself to be gay. 
The flip side of this though, is that if it wasn’t for the Internet, I wouldn’t have gained the knowledge that I have about this debilitating disorder.  I wouldn’t have learned that there is such thing as relationship OCD (discovered only one year ago).  I wouldn’t be receiving treatment from a therapist who has direct experience treating my type of OCD.  And I wouldn’t have found my own little support group of OCD bloggers who have given me an even better understanding of what goes on in the OCD mind.    
Now that I know that “figuring out” is a ritual, it requires a great amount of mindfulness and self-awareness to stop myself.  Some days are better than others, but I know that it sure feels good when I have some success. 
Some websites that I have found helpful:


4 comments:

  1. Nice post! Thought I have never experienced "HOCD," some of your experiences parallel my own, as I'm sure they parallel those of all sorts of OCD sufferers with all sorts of manifestations of OCD.

    I think all of us with OCD have feared that, when admitting our fears to a therapist, they will confirm what we fear most - that the content is important and that whatever it is that we are afraid is actually something to consider and be concerned about. I had this experience when I first sought help for my OCD a year ago. The first professional I saw basically told me to do what would be the equivalent of "coming out" to someone with HOCD. I was afraid of chemicals I worked with and the safety of my work environment, but as confused as I was about whether my fears were real or not, like you said, I felt like "it had to be something else." Instead he made things worse taking my fears at face value - he suggested that I report my concerns to the safety department and basically seek reassurance from them. He also endorsed my performance of decontamination rituals by saying things like, "Hey! At least you'll be less likely to get sick if you wipe down your laptop and phone on a regular basis." He didn't understand that I was wiping them down so much and so meticulously that it was taking a lot of time out of my day and was literally breaking my electronics!! Luckily, I found my way to a much more helpful therapist soon after, but it's hard for me to understand the inability of a trained mental health professional to recognize what was so obviously and stereotypically OCD. I can't imagine how he would ever recognize other forms of OCD that can involve mostly mental rituals, like HOCD and ROCD!

    Like you, I ultimately have the internet to thank for figuring out that I had OCD and finding the right treatment, but I have certainly used it to seek reassurance, as well, especially before I knew what was happening to me! It's a tricky line to walk - there are many helpful resources out there but also lots of unhelpful info, as well!

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  2. I completely agree! It is frustrating to think about how many mental health professionals (even those who claim to be CBT therapists) who don't recognize let alone know how to treat OCD. I can get frustrated when I think about how much time and money I have wasted with these therapists. But I have to be hopeful. If you saw the "Evening of Stories" last night one of the speakers talked about how far we've come in the treatment of OCD. That makes me feel better because when I was 10 years old there were only about 12 people treating this disorder. There was no way my parents would have received a proper diagnosis even if they did try to seek one. In Canada there are so few that actually know what they are doing. Lots claim to know - but in actual fact they have very little experience.

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  3. I really get this post! "figuring out" and internet researching pretty much take up most of my days.

    I also hadn't heard about HOCD, but I worry a lot about whether or not I might be a lesbian and not know it. It's difficult, because I can see that women are attractive, but can't imagine actually having sex with one. Sorry if this is too TMI, but I am just fascinated that this worry is part of our OCD. It makes sense. I don't worry about it daily, but it crosses my mind a lot, and I have even researched "how to know if you might be a lesbian" lol. Sounds funny now.

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  4. Charming - thanks for your comments! I am trying to get a chance to read your blog, but life is a bit hectic these days. Nope - what you describe is totally HOCD. Looking for a "checklist" of what makes one a lesbian is total OCD. My therapist always says being a lesbian is a part of who you are - there isn't a "checklist" you can tick off and if you get 6/10 you're a lesbian, and if you get 3/10 you're straight. "Figuring it out" is one of my biggest compulsions and so frustrating so stop!!!

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