Have you ever been so distracted thinking about something during sex that you struggle to enjoy it? That’s what it’s like having sex when you have OCD.
While OCD usually falls into four categories: checking, contamination, hoarding, and intrusive thoughts, the general feelings tend to be the same.
For example, a person with an urge to wash their hands multiple times may share the same feelings as someone with an urge to turn a light on and off again and again. You do it until you find some relief. You don’t stop until your mind finally tells you everything is going to be okay.
When I say a person will feel ‘okay’, what I mean is that they will feel safe. These rituals are played out as a way to calm the intrusive thoughts, that tell someone with OCD that if they don’t follow them, something terrible is going to happen.
In a recent article, I estimated that I spend around 14 hours a week playing out my OCD rituals. That’s two hours a day. And as you might excpect, these two hours each day interfere with my sex life.
It’s hard to enjoy sex when your mind is working over time, worrying about whether you’ve left a tap on or whether something in the next room is plugged in and about to catch fire.
My main concern is contamination. I worry about germs. But not just about germs – about the germs contaminating other people and making them sick. If they were to become sick, it would be my fault for transferring the germs over in the first place.
I know in my rational mind a person’s health is not determined by how many times I wash my hands – but my brain says otherwise.
Considering sex consists of two people pretty much swapping bodily fluids, you can imagine how much my OCD comes into play.
I worry that I’m not clean enough. I spend ages washing myself before getting into it.
Spontaneity is out of the window, because sex needs to be planned out, with plenty of time scheduled to clean up first.
My need to feel clean puts a dampener on things when my partner does make a move. The second something’s initiated, his advances get shut down so I can go and give my body a once (or twice) over in the shower.
Try getting that fiery desire back after you’ve pressed pause for fifteen minutes so you can scrub your skin clear of imagined dirt. It’s not easy.
This isn’t to say I don’t have sex or that I don’t enjoy it – it can just be exhausting, and not for the right reasons. Sex to me sometimes doesn’t feel like a fun, sexual act – it’s a routine, one that has to be played out following my own rituals.
Even after following these routines, I can struggle to enjoy getting sexual – simply because my mind just doesn’t shut up.
You know how when you’re told not to think about something you automatically think about that thing? That’s what sex is like for me. I know I should be enjoying it, and not worrying about whether I’m totally clean, whether I’m contaminating my partner, or whether the oven is off. But knowing this only makes me think about it – and worry about it – more.
Trying to orgasm when my mind is somewhere else is near-impossible.
Plus it’s a struggle to truly commit myself to intimacy. All I want to do is let go and enjoy myself, but OCD is constant. It’s there no matter how much you wish it away. And unfortunately it’s there even more so when you do.
The only relief I’ve found in enjoying sex while living with OCD is to be honest with my partner about my obsessions and compulsions. That way I don’t feel so much responsibility to try to hide them. That way I can deal with them.
I wish I didn’t feel the need to carry out these rituals, but knowing I can do so without the pressure to ignore them for the sake of someone else is a relief.
I won’t say I don’t feel guilty for having them or that I don’t at times feel like a burden – especially when I’m ruining a sexual experience for my partner. Luckily, he understands and he doesn’t love me any less.
That’s an important thing to know. It takes the edge off. It’s the only way I can come to terms with how my illness affects me, and feel encouraged to deal with it, instead of harbouring everything in my head, struggling alone, and pretending everything’s okay.
I’m on track to work through my OCD. Soon I’ll receive treatment in the form of medication and therapy.
I’m so excited to learn how to cope with it… and getting my sex life back will be a bonus.