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Sexual Orientation

Sexual Orientation OCD (SO-OCD) is a subset of OCD that involves intense anxiety and uncertainty around one's sexual orientation. For the great majority of people experiencing SO-OCD, they aren't invested in a particular sexual orientation per se but more so deeply troubled by not knowing for sure. Compulsions are aimed at getting certainty and usually involve checking internal signs of attraction and/or arousal, mental review and researching how to figure out sexual orientation. To illustrate this point, type in "sexual orientation" into Google and the next suggested word is "test".


  • having doubts about your sexual orientation

  • noticing attraction and arousal

  • asking yourself, "what if I'm gay and don't know it?"

  • thinking about how people in your life would react if your sexual orientation changed


  • avoidance of places, media content and people that trigger attraction, arousal or doubt

  • checking for attraction to people of different sexes

  • dating to check or confirm sexual orientation

  • replaying memories of past situations, such as childhood friendships, and questioning if it was really platonic or did the connection mean more

  • asking friends and family for reassurance that things are as they seem

  • seeking chat room advice or confirmation

  • researching "how to know for sure" and sexual orientation tests

  • praying for clarity

Additional Symptoms

  • extreme distress from the uncertainty and doubt

  • cyclic nature of intrusive thought followed by anxiety and then seeking certainty and relief

  • feeling in denial about your "true" sexual orientation based on the doubt you experience

  • distress and thinking around making changes with your spouse and how that would unfold

  • analyzing your own behavior

  • noticing your own noticing of people of any sex

The Problem with Seeking Certainty

OCD comes with urges to engage in compulsions, either mental or behavioral. For SO-OCD, it's almost always the uncertainty around your sexual orientation that causes the distress. Therefore, engaging in compulsions carries with it the hope you'll become more certain with every instance. Yet, there is no way to test or scientifically confirm what your sexual orientation is. To further complicate the matter, sexual orientation is on a continuum for many people and so attraction and interest can vary across the continuum. Ultimately, trying to prove something that's unprovable creates an endless loop of feeling unsure and anxious, and frantically trying to figure it out.

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