By Wasim Kakroo
A person who refrains from touching others out of concern that it might be sexually inappropriate is less generally known but Obessesive Compulsive Disorder can also manifest itself in this way.
Consider this. A teenage boy might be worried about engaging in unwanted sexual activity. This can be as simple as being worried that since he has accidentally touched a girl in a crowded hallway at school, he has upset her. Or he might constantly be fearful of committing rape. Even though he has no desire to rape somebody, the thought of doing so makes him feel anxious. In order to reduce the possibility of saying and doing something wrong, he might keep his hands in his pockets while walking and maintain a greater distance from people than is customary.
Additionally, those who have sexual obsessions may worry that they harbor forbidden sexual desires like paedophilia or incest. In actuality, they don’t have these urges but they are troubled by the fear that they might act on these thoughts. These kids might make every effort to avoid being alone with their families or other kids.
In actuality, these so-called “sexual obsessions” are fairly common component of OCD in teenagers and even young children. Since they feel ashamed of having sexual thoughts that they find difficult to handle, they are especially isolating for the children and adolescents who experience them.
Although a person may have a wide variety of sexual obsessions, there are those that can be viewed as taboo that frequently arise, including bestiality, incest, infidelity, sexual abuse, blasphemy in relation to sexuality and religion-the person may have sexual thoughts about religious figures, sexual servitude, sexual sadism or sexual thoughts about friends.
According to estimates, between 6 and 24 percent of OCD sufferers will have some sort of sexual obsession. Given that most people are unwilling to disclose such thoughts, the number may even be larger. While studies indicate that both sexes with OCD would likely experience sexual obsession at roughly the same rate, people sometimes mistakenly attribute this trait to males only.
Sexual fantasies and obsessions are two different things and should be confused with each other. Sexual obsessions are undesired and upsetting thoughts that are generally linked to fear, guilt, or self-loathing, in contrast to sexual fantasies, which are typically tied to pleasure or desire, whether or not it is attainable.
Whether it be an obsession about paedophilia, rape, or sexual violence, people with OCD frequently worry that it will one day cause them to act on their fantasies. A person with OCD will find the preoccupation immoral and feel repulsed at the prospect of acting upon it, in contrast to someone who could be at risk for acting on similar urges.
A person with OCD may become disproportionately preoccupied with pornography and/or masturbation as a sexual compulsion as “outlets” for their unwelcome sexual thoughts.
Because these thoughts are not representative of the person’s own beliefs and morality, those who suffer from sexual obsession find it difficult or terrifying to ignore them. Thoughts in some people may be so strong that they seem to be true but usually the person is aware that they aren’t. It’s common for someone to worry that they might act on these unsettling thoughts if they continue to have them or if they become more frequent. Even if a person may be conscious that they won’t act on their obsessions, the mere act of thinking about them could be viewed as immoral.
While this problem can make it challenging to talk about, competent mental health professionals reassure people that the condition is treatable and that either not treating the disorder or self-treatment can worsen their disorder. People who believe they may have a sexual obsession or who know someone who does require assistance should get it.
Finding a therapist who is skillful in employing cognition-behavioral therapy (CBT) in treatment of OCD using exposure and response prevention, can help such patients with sexual OCD to navigate their obsessional feelings of stress so that they may develop an acceptance of their feelings and reduce their compulsive actions. A skilled mental health professional will collaborate with a patient to create coping mechanisms for them to handle the physical and emotional upheaval caused by their obsessive thoughts.
Other evidence based therapies that have been found to help patients with sexual OCD include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Metacognitive therapy, Psychodynamic psychotherapy etc.
In moderate to severe cases of sexual OCD, the patient may get benefitted by taking medications prescribed by a psychiatrist alongside the various tools and strategies taught by a trained therapist in psychotherapy. The chances of relapse in those cases where both psychotherapy and medications are used is lesser than those cases where only medication is used to deal with the severity of sexual OCD.
- The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar) and works as a consultant clinical psychologist at Centre for Mental Health Services (CMHS) at Rambagh Srinagar. He can be reached at 8825067196
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