It is clear that human beings are characterized by their wide variety of differentiated behaviors, both within individuals and within groups and in society in general. However, few variables regarding behavioral patterns and psychological predispositions receive as much attention as the expression of sexual orientation.
Historically, this concept has been linked to strong stigma; a stigma oriented towards forms of sexuality considered as unconventional, such as homosexuality. Moreover, it is not only exercised by society towards the individual who is considered a minority, but is also installed in the minds of people, many of whom adopt a kind of “internal policing”., A tendency to try to control his own. thoughts and indications of forms of sexual desire and attraction to be avoided. It shapes the psychological problem of fear of being gay, Which has harmful effects on oneself and on society.
What is it and how is the fear of being homosexual expressed: a double problem
The first thing to know is that the fear of being homosexual is not a concept that appears in an “official” way (that is, standardized and conceptually limited by scientific consensus) that appears in diagnostic manuals. like the DSM-5.
However, this does not mean that an approximation cannot be made of what it reflects, and that it is very real: many people suffer and develop patterns of behavior and regulation of thought that are harmful and have to do with trying to avoid being homosexual and / or posing as one. In fact, there has been research on this phenomenon for years.
Elements of this form of discomfort
It is generally understood that the fear of being homosexual consists of these elements.
Homophobia should not be expressed as hatred towards homosexuals; it can also be more subtle and based on the idea that homosexuality is a bad thing and therefore causes shame wherever it occurs. In many cases, this is referred to as internalized homophobia, applied mainly to homosexuals who believe that this sexual orientation itself is a problem, something fundamentally wrong.
In addition, homophobia is linked to a tendency to detect unconventional or unusual forms of gender expression, giving them great importance in oneself and in others. For example, we know that in men, there is a correlation between a predisposition to homophobia and the fear of being perceived as feminine.
On the other hand, alongside the homophobia present in individuals, it should also be borne in mind that in many ways there are still cultural elements and social inertias that perpetuate the existence of homophobia: It doesn’t come out spontaneously in people, but in a sense to see things around them that make them think they should see non-heterosexuality with bad eyes or with suspicion.
2. Obsessive thoughts
In this context of clinical psychology, obsessions are patterns of intrusive and anxiety-generating thoughts that appear in our consciousness in unwanted ways and they predispose us to try to alleviate the discomfort they generate urgently, by adopting behaviors that neutralize the effect of the former.
For example, in the case of people who are afraid of being gay, it is common for unpleasant ideas to come to their mind that make them doubt their sexuality. the need to test what attracts them, Either by carrying out behaviors of a sexual type by interacting with others or with the environment, or by carrying out tasks of “reflection”, mental experiments which serve to them to refute this disagreeable idea for them. As we will see, it can become a real diagnosable psychopathology.
3. Social fears and loss of self-esteem
As a result of the above, people who are afraid of being gay feel like they have an Achilles heel, a psychological vulnerability that can be exploited by others if they learn that what is happening (somewhat reinforced by the fact that there is still a in non-heterosexuality, in some countries even with legal and institutional expression).
This creates a vicious circle effect, causing the person to place even more importance on the issue of their sexual orientation so that they can be alert and avoid, if they were truly gay, let others notice.
OCD based on fear of being gay or lesbian
As we have seen, the fear of being homosexual goes through fish biting their tails: the idea produces discomfort, and the desire to get this idea out of your head because of the discomfort it generates, makes it even stronger and more ability to grab the person’s attention. This causes, even in extreme cases, a person who has never really felt sexual attraction to someone of their gender to develop this kind of fear, having received a snowball effect from obsessions, fears and insecurities.
Sometimes even the fear of being homosexual fits the picture of the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which makes sense considering that in this psychopathology, obsessions can take almost any form as long as it is. ‘they are seen as something of the norm’ or what it should be.
It is estimated that around 11% of people with typical symptoms of OCD suffer or have suffered from obsessions related to their sexual orientation. Additionally, these types of symptoms tend to appear a bit earlier in men, although this type of psychological problem can occur at virtually any age.
Are you looking for psychological help?
Fears and anxiety issues related to our experience of sexual orientation can be overcome with psychotherapy.
If you are looking for professional help, please contact me. Fr Azor and associates We have over 20 years of experience in the field of psychology and we will be happy to help you in person (in Madrid) or online. You will find our contact details on this page.
- Martinez, C .; Vázquez, C. and Falomir-Pichastor, JM (2015). The perceived similarity to gay men mediates the effect of anti-femininity on the anti-gay prejudices of heterosexual men. Journal of Homosexuality, 62 (11): pages 1560-1575.
- Meyer, IH (2007). Prejudice, Social Stress, and Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations: Conceptual Issues and Research Evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129 (5): pages 674 to 697.
- Pinto, A .; Eisen, JL; Mancebo, MC; et al. (2007). Taboo Thoughts and Doubts / Verification: A Refinement of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Symptom Factor Structure. Psychiatry Research, 151: pages 255 to 258.
- Williams, MT; Farris, SG (2011). Obsessions of sexual orientation in obsessive-compulsive disorder: prevalence and correlations. Psychiatry Research, 187 (1-2): pages 156-159.