Cognitive Behavioral Strategies

Lynne S. Gots, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist

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OCD in The Age of #MeToo

By Lynne Gots, posted on February 3rd, 2018.

OCD is like an opportunistic pathogen, invading hosts with weakened immune systems. So it’s not surprising to see it thrive and spread when daily news reports stoke uncertainty and fear in those who are vulnerable.

The recent spate of revelations about sexual misconduct among the rich and famous, along with controversial reports in the last few years of a campus rape crisis, have brought a new demographic into my practice: young men in their twenties who worry about committing or having committed a sexual transgression.

Some of these men have been accused—and all exonerated—of inappropriate touching, nonconsensual or consensual but inappropriate sex with colleagues, students, or classmates; others live in fear of having a casual sexual encounter from their past surface and become fodder for an accusation.

OCD is having a field day.

As reporter Emily Yoffe chillingly details in a series of articles in The Atlantic , Obama-era federal directives governing the handling of sexual-assault allegations have prompted universities to craft vague and overarching definitions of sexual assault designed to protect the (mostly) female victims while stripping the accused of their right to due process. The Kafkaesque scenarios Yoffe describes—such as a third party accusation in which a friend reported her roommate’s boyfriend as an abuser and the alleged victim, refuting the claim, was told she was in denial– create the perfect medium for OCD to flourish.

Let me be perfectly clear. I am in no way minimizing the trauma experienced by assault victims. I believe charges of rape on college campuses should be taken very  seriously. They should be investigated thoroughly and, if the evidence points to a crime, prosecuted in a court of law. And I am not excusing the predatory behavior of the Harvey Weinsteins who have abused their power to intimidate and sexually exploit women.

But the men with OCD I see in my practice are not predators or rapists. In fact, most share two thinking patterns common in people with OCD: an excessive sense of responsibility and a highly developed sense of morality. They worry about causing harm and about being bad people even though, in the paradoxical way of OCD, they’re actually good people with a strong—perhaps even excessively rigid—moral compass.

So, no, I don’t secretly question if they might have done what they’ve been accused of or fear being accused of, just as I know with a reasonable degree of certainty that the people with OCD who confess to me their fears of being pedophiles are not a danger to children.

As with all OCD worries, however, facts and probability do little to assuage anxiety. So the challenge is to acknowledge the possibility of a dreaded occurrence—such as a false accusation–while not letting fear get in the way of living.

While it’s hard to push back, I can recommend a few guidelines to follow if you’re consumed by worries of being unjustly accused of sexual assault.

  • Don’t try to convince yourself that your worst fear is unlikely to materialize.
  • Don’t review the past for possible evidence of transgressions.
  • Don’t ask friends and family for reassurance.
  • Don’t scour Facebook posts for evidence that an ex might be angry with you.
  • Move forward with relationships rather than avoiding them.
  • Treat prospective or current sexual partners with respect, not suspicion.

Shakespeare said, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” Resist the temptation to lie down with OCD.



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Posted in Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder |

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This blog is intended solely for the purpose of entertainment and education. All remarks are meant as general information and should not be taken as personal diagnostic or therapeutic advice. If you choose to comment on a post, please do not include any information that could identify you as a patient or potential patient. Also, please refrain from making any testimonials about me or my practice, as my professional code of ethics does not permit me to publish such statements. Comments that I deem inappropriate for this forum will not be published.

Contact Dr. Gots

202-331-1566

2440 M Street, NW
Suite 710
Washington, DC 20037

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If you don't receive a response to an email from Dr. Gots in 48 hours, please call the office and leave a voicemail message.

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© 2008-2018 Lynne S. Gots, PhD. Photographs by Steven Marks Photography.