Regret Over Sibling Sexual Experimentation - Need Help

Postby DaSilva1727 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:40 pm

Hey everyone,

So I've come across some posts on here as well as other sites about sexual experimenting between siblings and cousins.

I myself had my own embarrassing and shameful experience when I was a young-mid aged teenager with my younger brother too (both males, approx. 5 yrs apart). Long story short we were wrestling or playing around and somehow I ended up starting this game where I dry humped/rubbed my body against his in somewhat of a sexual way, plus a little touching/groping. It only happened once or twice and then the urges went away and only after it happened is when I started to realize it was awkward. We're both straight and never been attracted to the same sex but for some reason this happened. The last time it happened he got a little bothered by it so that made me realize that I should stop. Ever since then I've been regretting it so much and feel really depressed about the situation. Over the years its been coming back slowly to haunt me more and more. Nothing but shame, regret and disgust. Sometimes suicidal thoughts come to me as well. I hate myself so much for it and for while I convinced myself that I was some sort of monster.

I honestly don't know what prompted me to do this but at that age I probably wanted to know what being sexual/having sex felt like, yet I was never sexually attracted to my brother. I wasn't even watching porn or masturbating at that age yet and I didn't even know what masturbating was (very socially underdeveloped and sheltered at that age). I'm guessing serious urges through puberty, experimentation, curiosity and lack of control of hormones. My brother and I were very close, and always around each so that might have also led to doing it with him rather then anyone else. Also, I don't remember physically forcing him or threatening him in any way and there was no malicious intent behind it. Looking back at it I wish I never did it but at the time it felt 'normal' and mutual for some reason.

Now I've heard this kind of stuff is somewhat common amongst siblings at a very young age but I'm a little concerned and worried because technically I was not a 'child' anymore. I could have technically been considered a young 'teenager' at the age (can't remember due to how long ago it was). I think I was maybe 14-16yrs of age. My therapist said that this stuff is somewhat common and that although I wasn't a child, mentally and cognitively I was still acting as a kid. Also, because my family was extremely overprotective and sheltering that It could have stunted my overall development and I could have had the mental state of a younger child without realizing it. I also didn't have barely any friends and I was very attached to my brother which could have brought us closer to age in terms of development.

Would anyone have some more insight or personal experience on this type of stuff that could help me understand things better or help with the regret and shame ? And also would it be a good idea to bring it up with my brother ?

I'm thinking of doing it just to apologize and see if he remembers it but that might cause more harm then good. It's never been brought it up yet and he never used it against me. Our relationship is pretty good at the moment, we talk occasionally and when we do its a pretty positive and friendly interaction. We're not super close as of yet but we're on good terms as compared to years ago and its slowly getting better. We've had the typical sibling rivalry growing up like most have had themselves. I just want to make sure he's not affected negatively with what happened and explain to him that it was just stupid kids being curious/experimental and was never done intentionally to hurt him and move on from this whole thing once and for all. I also have anxiety and some OCD symptoms which makes it ten times worse.

Thanks in advance for any insight you may have. I appreciate it !
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#1

Postby DaSilva1727 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:00 pm

Also just to add I've never had any sexual interaction with a child, or underage girl. Never had any pedophile thoughts or even thought about any sort of pedophile behaviour. I worked at a summer camp for a few years with children and never had any sort of sexual thought about them. Just hearing stuff like sexual abuse/molestation and rape on the news sickens me.
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#2

Postby tokeless » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:05 am

I think you're over analysing it. These things are very common in childhood and there is no malicious thought behind it. I remember playing show me yours with cousins (female) and classmates when I was about 5-6...it's just part of growing up. Personally I wouldn't mention it to your brother because what would it achieve? It's all normal so move on and let it belong to the past. You can't change it.
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#3

Postby DaSilva1727 » Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:42 am

tokeless wrote:I think you're over analysing it. These things are very common in childhood and there is no malicious thought behind it. I remember playing show me yours with cousins (female) and classmates when I was about 5-6...it's just part of growing up. Personally I wouldn't mention it to your brother because what would it achieve? It's all normal so move on and let it belong to the past. You can't change it.


Hi Tokeless, thanks for the reply. I've heard lots of these stories happen but I'm a little concerned of my age when it happened. I guess it's still normal considering I was still a stupid kid and maybe I hit puberty later in age and not everyone is developmentally on the same level. The only reason I would mention it to him is to see if hes ok and if it affected him negatively in any way. If it did i think he would deserve an apology and an explanation. But maybe hes forgotten about it. Who knows.
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#4

Postby tokeless » Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:16 pm

Our relationship is pretty good at the moment, we talk occasionally and when we do its a pretty positive and friendly interaction. We're not super close as of yet but we're on good terms as compared to years ago and its slowly getting better. We've had the typical sibling rivalry growing up like most have had themselves.

That seems normal too. I guess it's your call but what if he can't remember it and you then put questions in his head? My advice is to leave alone, continue to build your relationship with him but not because of guilt. Some siblings just have different lives and aren't particularly close... It's all normal.
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#5

Postby DaSilva1727 » Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:38 pm

tokeless wrote:Our relationship is pretty good at the moment, we talk occasionally and when we do its a pretty positive and friendly interaction. We're not super close as of yet but we're on good terms as compared to years ago and its slowly getting better. We've had the typical sibling rivalry growing up like most have had themselves.

That seems normal too. I guess it's your call but what if he can't remember it and you then put questions in his head? My advice is to leave alone, continue to build your relationship with him but not because of guilt. Some siblings just have different lives and aren't particularly close... It's all normal.



Yeah you're right. It is a huge risk to bring it up because if he doesn't remember then it might cause him unnecessary strain and worry. I'm just worried that he has buried under the rug and is supressing it which might raise the possibility of it coming to surface later on in life and then the negative effects might manifest after. But then again that might be my anxiety and OCD kicking in. As it stands now, it doesn't have seemed to "traumatize" him or else he probably wouldn't say a word to me or look at me in the eye. My guess anyways
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#6

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:03 pm

DaSilva1727 wrote: The only reason I would mention it to him is to see if hes ok and if it affected him negatively in any way.


The conversation goes like this...

“Hey brother, I’m older than you so how you remember our relationship growing up together might be different than what I remember. I just want you to know that if there was ever anything I did that you didn’t like or that hurt your feelings, I apologize. I’m not talking about anything specific, but if there is anything you ever want to discuss let me know.”

The above avoids specifically bringing up touching, and instead offers up any memories of potential transgressions your brother might remember.

The strength in this approach is that you do not lead or force your brother into a narrow topic that he may not even remember. Instead, your brother might offer up that there is no current memory of a transgression, or he might offer up something you do not remember, such as when you told your parents he cheated on an exam, or that time you held his head under the water in the swimming pool. By offering an open ended approach to address any perceived transgressions, his memories of what you did or did not do might surprise you.
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#7

Postby DaSilva1727 » Wed Aug 22, 2018 7:03 pm

Richard@DecisionSkills wrote:
DaSilva1727 wrote: The only reason I would mention it to him is to see if hes ok and if it affected him negatively in any way.


The conversation goes like this...

“Hey brother, I’m older than you so how you remember our relationship growing up together might be different than what I remember. I just want you to know that if there was ever anything I did that you didn’t like or that hurt your feelings, I apologize. I’m not talking about anything specific, but if there is anything you ever want to discuss let me know.”

The above avoids specifically bringing up touching, and instead offers up any memories of potential transgressions your brother might remember.

The strength in this approach is that you do not lead or force your brother into a narrow topic that he may not even remember. Instead, your brother might offer up that there is no current memory of a transgression, or he might offer up something you do not remember, such as when you told your parents he cheated on an exam, or that time you held his head under the water in the swimming pool. By offering an open ended approach to address any perceived transgressions, his memories of what you did or did not do might surprise you.


Thanks Richard, I appreciate it. I''ve seen you post on some threads with similar topics so I'll take your advice. I actually asked him a similar question a few months ago about our past history and gave a general apology for anything that I might have done in terms of hurting him in any way and he said its cool. He said that we're brothers and that the age difference probably led to some of the fighting and stuff. He never mentioned the experimenting incident directly but I didn't go into detail either. Hopefully one of these days I will muster up the courage to ask him in the manner you advised and see what he says.

In the meantime I need to find a psychologist/therapist to help with me anxiety / OCD. Im going to one currently about the situation and she said its common for kids to do this with siblings as long as there is no major force or threats involved. So so far so good, now its time to take on the anxiety which gives me so many "what ifs"
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#8

Postby xscreen » Sat Aug 25, 2018 1:07 am

I relate to this post so much. I've been dealing with intrusive thoughts about a similar experience when I was in my teens. This happened when I was 15-16-17 I can't really recall exactly how old I was (that kinda freaks me out) and the other person involved was way younger than me. Happened during like a wrestle or something I can't really remember how, but it ended up in some rubbing that up until this day disgusts me. The other person didn't even know this occurred because it was during a game. No threats or force were involved.
The memories hit me up all of a sudden and to be honest, I was overwhelmed and I didn't know what to make of them. Sometimes I still believe I was an abuser and that is debilitating. The fact that I can't remember everything clearly makes everything worse. OCD makes you wanna have control over everything but you can't control thoughts. They can pop up whenever/wherever and they are not even complete, so you fill up the holes with the worse ideas. "What if?"
I just started with antidepressants (sertraline) to deal with anxiety/OCD and I'm having therapy sessions. My therapist says it's somehow normal to engage in that type of behavior when you are exploring sexuality but I'm still troubled about the age thing. I guess we all develop differently and we need to understand that we cannot analyze things that happened years ago when we were young with an adult mindset. I just came here to tell you that you are not alone, it's damn hard sometimes but you are not a bad person. I hope you get the help you need.
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#9

Postby DaSilva1727 » Sat Aug 25, 2018 11:11 am

xscreen wrote:I relate to this post so much. I've been dealing with intrusive thoughts about a similar experience when I was in my teens. This happened when I was 15-16-17 I can't really recall exactly how old I was (that kinda freaks me out) and the other person involved was way younger than me. Happened during like a wrestle or something I can't really remember how, but it ended up in some rubbing that up until this day disgusts me. The other person didn't even know this occurred because it was during a game. No threats or force were involved.
The memories hit me up all of a sudden and to be honest, I was overwhelmed and I didn't know what to make of them. Sometimes I still believe I was an abuser and that is debilitating. The fact that I can't remember everything clearly makes everything worse. OCD makes you wanna have control over everything but you can't control thoughts. They can pop up whenever/wherever and they are not even complete, so you fill up the holes with the worse ideas. "What if?"
I just started with antidepressants (sertraline) to deal with anxiety/OCD and I'm having therapy sessions. My therapist says it's somehow normal to engage in that type of behavior when you are exploring sexuality but I'm still troubled about the age thing. I guess we all develop differently and we need to understand that we cannot analyze things that happened years ago when we were young with an adult mindset. I just came here to tell you that you are not alone, it's damn hard sometimes but you are not a bad person. I hope you get the help you need.


Hi xscreen, thanks for sharing your story.

I can definitely relate to your OCD thing. I'm dealing with the same thing. In all honesty I was about that age range too same of the one you describe and I'm also feeling the problem that I can't recall 100 % clearly of the age and details of the incident which scares me and pisses me off.

What the therapist said is true tho, we all develop differently and there are so many external factors like family upbringing, dysfunctional environment, personal experiences etc that can stunt someone's growth. Therefore you might be 15-16 yrs old with the mind and moral compass of a 12-13 year old which would explain our current stories.

If you don't mind me asking, was the person you did this with a family member ? And how is your relationship with them today ? And how is your experience with the medication for OCD/Anxiety ? I'm looking into taking some myself if needed in the near future depending on any possible side effects or what not
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#10

Postby xscreen » Sat Aug 25, 2018 4:36 pm

DaSilva1727 wrote:
xscreen wrote:Hi xscreen, thanks for sharing your story.

I can definitely relate to your OCD thing. I'm dealing with the same thing. In all honesty I was about that age range too same of the one you describe and I'm also feeling the problem that I can't recall 100 % clearly of the age and details of the incident which scares me and pisses me off.

What the therapist said is true tho, we all develop differently and there are so many external factors like family upbringing, dysfunctional environment, personal experiences etc that can stunt someone's growth. Therefore you might be 15-16 yrs old with the mind and moral compass of a 12-13 year old which would explain our current stories.

If you don't mind me asking, was the person you did this with a family member ? And how is your relationship with them today ? And how is your experience with the medication for OCD/Anxiety ? I'm looking into taking some myself if needed in the near future depending on any possible side effects or what not


Yes, it was a family member and that probably is what makes me so uncomfortable about the whole thing.
We're good. We are not super close but not because something is wrong, it's just the way it is; and he doesn't know about it because as I said before we were like wrestling, playing, can't remember exactly how it went down but I remember that it was something that I experienced on my own, which gives me some relief because at least thats not the way he experienced that moment.
I've taken sertraline before but not for OCD. I've always been anxious but as I grew older it started to become a problem for me. Going to college was absolutely horrible, I couldn't even get pass the classroom door. Social interactions were hell, I would sweat like crazy when I got nervous. Sertraline and therapy really helped me but I felt there was something there still unresolved and maybe this is it, I don't know. I had taken sertraline for 1.5 years when my psychiatrist told me that I could stop taking it because she saw progress and that I was doing well. Well, it's been 2 years since that and here I am again.
Side effects? Headaches, dry mouth, some sleep disturbance and reduced sex drive. Some of them go away within days or weeks. I remember not taking the drug because I was super judgmental about psychiatric treatment. It's pretty common to believe that people that suffer from mental illness are weak and that have given up. You must have heard in the media or from some friend things like "Hey, don't feel bad go jog or something" "You need to be more positive" or crap like that. Like you could change that so easily. If you have a high fever, you take ibuprofen. You get an infection, you take an antibiotic.
It takes some time to see a difference but I promise it's worth it. You will get a more positive view of life and you will not feel as anxious. I can't promise you the thoughts are gonna vanish because these are real memories but perhaps your take on them will be different. This is a one day a the time battle. There are gonna be really bad days when you will not be able to push the thoughts back and there are gonna be days when you can silence them and enjoy the present. I take this as a chronic disease. You can treat it but there has to come some acceptance with it. Its just the way our brains work and it's not our fault. I've read hundreds of stories like ours and I bet there are thousands out there that people don't even take as serious as we do. I don't think we are monsters, rapists or sex deviants. I think at the time we weren't able to rationalize what we were doing and now that we are adults we see our past actions with disgust. That's what matters. That you wouldn't do that today, and that you are not your 16 years old self. You are you NOW. It's hard to take it in, I have days when I doubt everything and I throw myself down to that dark pit again.
Sorry for the long post. Wish you the best luck and feel free to talk to me any time.
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#11

Postby DaSilva1727 » Sat Aug 25, 2018 5:07 pm

Hey thanks again for answering.

It does amaze me how some people are able to put a lid on it and move on like nothing is affecting them but not all of us have the same hardwired brain to do so. I'll maybe see a psychologist and ask if medication is worth it even for a bit while doing therapy to go along with it. Its a f***ed up battle that I gotta fight and it sucks.

What makes me uncomfortable with it too is that it was with a family member, my brother, who is also a male. Doesn't make sense to me since I've never been attracted to guys before and I didn't do this out of attraction. It was more out of stupid curiosity and "scratching an itch". But I guess since I was developing as a kid still that it didn't mean anything particular into liking males or females.

For me, I knew what I was trying to do which scars me and I vaguely remember something along the lines of asking him to "playing a game" related to sex or something. But that might be an intrusive thought and might not have happened at all. Who knows my memory is garbage. Shortly after it happened he said that he was kind of bothered by it and made a note of it and that's what made me stop. Then after all these years I never brought it up with him because it scares me that it'll make him think about stuff in a negative way if has already forgotten about it. But if he does remember, then maybe its better to apologize and explain. Then again theres too much of a risk in my opinion since I'll never know until I ask. it kills me. Sometimes people suffer on the inside without showing much on the outside.

Good to hear that your situation is on a good note with the family member as of current. As of now doesn't seem to me that he/she remembers. My brother and I aren't that close either probably due to other reasons but or just be it a natural sibling thing. By the way was your family member also a sibling ? And was it a same sex or opposite sex interaction ?
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#12

Postby xscreen » Sat Aug 25, 2018 5:51 pm

DaSilva1727 wrote:Hey thanks again for answering.

It does amaze me how some people are able to put a lid on it and move on like nothing is affecting them but not all of us have the same hardwired brain to do so. I'll maybe see a psychologist and ask if medication is worth it even for a bit while doing therapy to go along with it. Its a f***ed up battle that I gotta fight and it sucks.

What makes me uncomfortable with it too is that it was with a family member, my brother, who is also a male. Doesn't make sense to me since I've never been attracted to guys before and I didn't do this out of attraction. It was more out of stupid curiosity and "scratching an itch". But I guess since I was developing as a kid still that it didn't mean anything particular into liking males or females.

For me, I knew what I was trying to do which scars me and I vaguely remember something along the lines of asking him to "playing a game" related to sex or something. But that might be an intrusive thought and might not have happened at all. Who knows my memory is garbage. Shortly after it happened he said that he was kind of bothered by it and made a note of it and that's what made me stop. Then after all these years I never brought it up with him because it scares me that it'll make him think about stuff in a negative way if has already forgotten about it. But if he does remember, then maybe its better to apologize and explain. Then again theres too much of a risk in my opinion since I'll never know until I ask. it kills me. Sometimes people suffer on the inside without showing much on the outside.

Good to hear that your situation is on a good note with the family member as of current. As of now doesn't seem to me that he/she remembers. My brother and I aren't that close either probably due to other reasons but or just be it a natural sibling thing. By the way was your family member also a sibling ? And was it a same sex or opposite sex interaction ?


I don't think it should bother you whereas it was a guy or girl. I don't think it makes a difference, really. You were looking for pleasure, it doesn't have to do with sexual preference. Sexual identity, sexual preference, gender identity and so on develop over time and you cannot take things for granted when you are a teenager. You wanted to know what it felt like and you went for it. That's it. There nothing more to it. You don't think things through that much when you are in your teens, that's why teenagers tend to make stupid decisions, they are driven by impulse and that could be problematic sometimes. You get horny all the time and you don't know how to control those feelings properly.
On a side note, why are you so worried about your sexuality? It's not a 2+2 thing. You don't experiment with guys if you are gay, and experiment with girls if you are straight. Black and white logic doesn't work here. Sexuality is definitely more complex than that. Even if it was like that, if you were interested in guys (which I don't think thats the case here) what is the big deal?
My therapist tried to explain me that we are all sexual beings since we are born. It's still taboo to think kids as sexual beings but that's the truth. We touch ourselves and get to know our bodies since we are babies and we try to comprehend what is going on down there as soon as we feel pleasure.
I think it's healthy that you understood that your brother was not comfortable and you stopped it. It would've been worrying if you kept doing it even if he didn't want to.
I'm not so sure about apologyzing, tho. Remember that OCD makes you believe this is a bigger deal than it is to others. It makes you think that you ruined their life and there's no turning back. Don't asume that your brothers life is different for what happened. The fact that this is affecting you, doesnt have to mean that he is going through the same. But if you feel like doing it and you think you will feel better if you come clean, go for it.

In my case it was a younger cousin. I'm struggling with the age gap between us, that makes me feel horrible but I need to understand that I had no ill intentions. He didn't even noticed so I guess no harm was done to him, only myself. The fact that its family makes it awkward and I feel like I cant go through family reunions without thinking I screwed everything up. He was younger and I was supposed to be there for him and instead I did that. It sucks. But even though I take responsibility for what happened and I agree it was not cool, I don't think it has to be like that. That past event doesn't have to define me forever. Its not fair to take that tiny part of your life like something that will determine who you are. When you are 15, you don't feel related to your 5 years old self. When you are 20, you don't feel 10 anymore. So why should this be something that defines your whole damn life? Its easier to put it into words rather than act on it, I'm really struggling with this right now and as I'm writing I wish I'd feel better but I try to repeat all of that to myself whenever the guilt pops up.
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#13

Postby DaSilva1727 » Fri Aug 31, 2018 9:33 pm

Thanks xscreen, I appreciate your insight.

Although I agree with your comments Honestly it just makes me feel gross and disgusted that technically the first somewhat sexual experience I had was with a dude that was my own brother. Even tho all we did was rub our bodies together with our clothes on, it still feels disgusting and kind of hurts my ego and "masculinity". I also fear of what my friends would say if they knew about this and what they would think of me. My self esteem has never been at it's best too

I can see why kids can participate in this but I just have a hard time detaching my image from one tiny incident that I seem to be letting control my life at the moment. If it was with a cousin that was a female at a younger age then maybe I wouldn't feel such a "embarrassed" feeling all the time. But the shame is killing me and I need help to let it go and not look at things black and white. I never looked at myself as gay or someone who's into incest but this situation confuses me and the intrusive thoughts come into my mind which affects my healing process
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#14

Postby xscreen » Sat Sep 01, 2018 1:21 am

DaSilva1727 wrote:Thanks xscreen, I appreciate your insight.

Although I agree with your comments Honestly it just makes me feel gross and disgusted that technically the first somewhat sexual experience I had was with a dude that was my own brother. Even tho all we did was rub our bodies together with our clothes on, it still feels disgusting and kind of hurts my ego and "masculinity". I also fear of what my friends would say if they knew about this and what they would think of me. My self esteem has never been at it's best too

I can see why kids can participate in this but I just have a hard time detaching my image from one tiny incident that I seem to be letting control my life at the moment. If it was with a cousin that was a female at a younger age then maybe I wouldn't feel such a "embarrassed" feeling all the time. But the shame is killing me and I need help to let it go and not look at things black and white. I never looked at myself as gay or someone who's into incest but this situation confuses me and the intrusive thoughts come into my mind which affects my healing process


Hey, I'm sorry you are having an off day.
As I stated in a previous message, it isnt fair to think about what you were doing when you were 15,16 with your present mindset. If you are gonna do that, then why dont you try seeing your whole actions back when you were a teen and I'm sure you will feel insecure about a lot of things, because that's not who you are today.
I'm gonna paste some info at the end of the post that helped me a lot!
I think you suffer from OCD and my advice for you is to be brave and get help so you can start to heal and recover.
I still have days when I think about my past and its definitely something I'm not proud of but I know I deserve to be happy because I'm a good person. I've been feeling a lot better, and so can you!

Check it out, try to read the whole thing and let me know what you think.


REAL EVENT OCD
Do you have a life event you are obsessed with, horrified by and spend excessive amounts of time on? I bet you’ve worried that you actually have something wrong with you and in your case, it’s not OCD. I have received many emails from people explaining that they have a real event in their past that makes them exempt from having OCD. They are concerned they must really be evil, depraved, diseased, or otherwise not who they thought they were or wish to be. They write to me with stories of how their situation is unique and they have never seen a similar example in OCD literature. Here are some examples of real life events that at face value may be regarded as non-OCD issues:

“I really did kiss a same sex person.” You’ve always identified as straight, but kissed someone of the same sex and worry this makes you gay. Someone who wasn’t gay wouldn’t do this, right? You’ve read that people with OCD don’t actually act out their fears; they just worry that they might. You now spend all day every day doing Google searches about what constitutes homosexuality and reading blogs about homosexual OCD (HOCD). You don’t find any stories like yours on the OCD blogs and when you posted your story people said you were gay.

“I really played doctor with my neighbor when I was a child.” When you were a child you asked your neighbor to pull down his pants and when he did you touched his genitals. In OCD books you’ve read about people who fear they may one day touch a child, but you’ve actually done it. You have replayed that day a billion times in the past 5 years. You are not sure why you started worrying about it recently. You’re not 100% certain you didn’t do even more. People tell you to ‘let it go’ because it was normal childhood play, but you believe they are lying about how bad they truly think it is.

“I really drove drunk and got into an accident.” Nobody discovered you were drinking and driving because after you hit the street sign you drove home. This happened 10 years ago but in the last 2 years it has begun to haunt you. You obsess about whether you remember the situation correctly. You wonder if you hit and killed a person but didn’t check carefully enough for the body. This must be something serious since you can’t get it out of your mind.

“I really masturbated holding my sister’s panties as a preteen.” You used a personal item of your sisters for sexual pleasure. It really happened. You want to ask someone how bad it was but you are too ashamed. You spend time every day telling yourself how sick of a person you are. Every time you see your sister you have an unwanted sexual thought, so you try to avoid your sister as much as possible.

“I really cheated on my wife.” You broke your marriage vows 4 years ago. She found out and has forgiven you, but you still obsess about it all day long. You ask her daily for reassurance about your wrongdoing. You need to know how bad it was. When you see a beautiful woman in public, you panic and call your wife to confess you may have looked at her. Even your wife wants you to move on, but you feel you are a cheater and must pay the price.

“I really had sex with a reluctant person.” Freshman year you talked a girl into having sex. It was your idea and you sensed she was initially reluctant, but eventually decided to go through with it. “Was that rape?” you wonder on a daily basis. You spend hours reading articles about date rape and panic when you learn that rape doesn’t have to be violent and forcible. You won’t allow yourself to have normal romantic relationships because you feel you don’t deserve it until you solve the questions of your past. You often check her Facebook page to make sure you haven’t damaged her for life. You have even considered turning yourself into the police.

“I really said mean things to people in middle school.” You can’t stop thinking of the kid you bullied in school. If you are still uncomfortable about the memory then it must be true and it was really bad. His mom died and you can’t remember if you made fun of him for that, but you need to know for sure before you can move on. You replay the memories daily. You’re concerned that your actions have affected his life forever. What if he attempted suicide or is a drug addict because of you?

Why are you contacting an OCD specialist?

Now, why would someone who experienced these real life events contact an OCD specialist for help? And if you are convinced that your situation is dire because of the real life misstep you have taken, how is it that you have come to find this article and are reading it right now? For these individuals to be contacting me with their concerns there must be some insight that the level to which they are stuck is not normal. This is true even despite the perceived severity of their real life actions. At the same time you are horrified by your actions, there must be a tiny glimmer somewhere inside that tells you that the way this concern repeats incessantly like a broken record is excessive even considering the life event.

You can have OCD about real life events

Yes, it’s true. OCD can decide to latch itself onto anything you value. A lot of obsessions begin with a kernel of truth, and this is one reason they are so alluring and grab your attention so easily. We have all done things we are not proud of, remember and cringe. Even people who have done worst things than you are generally able put the life experience to rest and don’t appear to experience incessant suffering. This doesn’t mean that non-OCD sufferers don’t feel guilt or regret when they think about the life event. The memory may pop into their consciousness at varying levels of frequency and intensity throughout their lives.

But it is a different brand of suffering when it is OCD. One of the big differences with real event OCD is that there is an extreme sense of urgency that something needs attended to and the sufferer is locked into the task. Your OCD gives you the job to trek through the maze, the piles of disorganized files in your brain to find that one piece of information that will set you free. And there is a deadline and you are already behind. OCD involves the kind of intrusive and threatening memories that drill into your brain and urge you to act immediately or suffer the consequences. It is the ‘my plane is about to crash’ experience. And the feared consequences if you fail to act may involve finding out you’re a sick person, being ostracized by your family, going to jail or suffering a life never knowing for sure the severity of your actions.

Distorting the life event

OCD sufferers engage in cognitive distortions, where the human mind frames life situations in irrational and exaggerated ways. ‘All or nothing thinking’ is a form of perfectionism where a person views situations in two extremes rather than on a continuum. The problem with this form of thinking is that you must be perfect or you are unacceptable. Even a small mistake puts you in a ‘bad’ category with killers, rapists and pedophiles. Without recognition of the ‘all or nothing’ distortion, an OCD sufferer will engage in mental and physical compulsions to ensure they are a good person and experience an urgent need to disprove they are bad.

Since most things in life fall somewhere in the gray area, this certainty seeking will keep you on the hamster wheel to nowhere. Imagine one of the real life scenarios above or insert your own real life event. It is hard to accept something was not the most shining moment of your life, but it also likely not the worst thing that can happen. OCD convinces you that you need to know for sure how bad something was in order to be deemed a good person, but it’s not black and white. Something can be sort of bad on one day and doesn’t fundamentally change who you are as a person. In session, I will sometimes have clients rate their transgression on a continuum for some helpful imagery that reveals their ‘all or nothing’ fallacy:



|————–|—————————————————————————————–|

Ghandi You Jeffrey Dahmer

‘Emotional reasoning’ is another common cognitive distortion in OCD. This occurs when someone regards emotions as facts, rather than using concrete evidence. If you feel guilt, shame or anxiety about your life event you may mistakenly believe this is proof that your actions were especially bad. This is so common in OCD because thoughts and feelings persist in super human ways in the OCD brain. It is easy to fall for the idea that OCD thoughts and feelings are important because they are so powerful and sticky. Remind yourself it is not necessary to compulsively examine your historical event just because it still feels bad. Labeling emotional reasoning helps reduce the urge to ritualize, reminds you it is okay to experience your difficult emotions and ultimately weakens the hold OCD has on you.

‘Magnification’ is a distortion that occurs when you believe the life event was more important than it actually was. When you stop to take a closer look you probably realize that you are likely not the only person that has ever had this life experience. You may also be more willing to accept this behavior in someone else sooner than you would in yourself. The problem is distortions take over automatically in the absence of rational thought. They are the voice of OCD. It is important to take a moment to look at the intrusive thought or memory to recognize if it is distorted, if it is OCD in sheep’s clothing. Recognition of the cognitive traps you may encounter is helpful to resist performing damaging compulsive behaviors.

False memories

If you have OCD about a real life event you may feel you have a faulty memory. You likely wish you could remember the event more clearly but try as you may, the details seem murky. You are probably doing mental rituals to gain certainty about the situation just to find it becomes more twisted and convoluted. People are terribly unreliable eye witnesses. If you witness a crime and are asked to describe the perpetrator, it is common to falsely remember details such as the man wearing a hat or having a beard.

Memories are reconstructed, not played back as an exact replica of what was witnessed. For this reason, the more you review a single situation the more varying ways the memory can be skewed and false details added. You may remember seeing the beautiful woman on the street, but did you look back at her? Did you smile at her? Your OCD might even make you wonder if you asked for her number.

The OCD will capitalize on present fears and construct memories that confirm your theories about the expected behavior of a former cheater. The more the situation is reviewed the more additional false details may be added to the memory and the more material for your OCD to use against you. The more you try to gain certainty the more you will mistrust your memory.

Self-forgiveness

It’s not technically about self-forgiveness. Forgiveness implies that you have done some unforgiveable act and need to work towards reparation for it. This process usually requires time spent discussing and processing the event. You may believe if you find a way to forgive yourself then you can stop obsessing about it. People in your life may have even encouraged you to work on it. With OCD, discussing and analyzing the event is not the approach we want to take. In fact, I’m sure you have already spent excessive amounts of time evaluating the situation and all its many angles, yet getting nowhere.

Now, I’m not saying this is an event you are proud of. What I am saying is that it’s not the event that is the problem; it is the OCD that is the problem. There is a chance you would have moved on from the event if the OCD hadn’t grabbed onto it. And we don’t treat OCD with self-forgiveness because OCD exaggerates and distorts life events. Imagine that being stuck on this may not be due to lack of self-forgiveness but the way OCD traps you. OCD has taken over the life event, twisted it and has convinced you into believing it is a critical problem that requires forgiveness or punishment.

Compulsions in real event OCD

Compulsions are physical or mental behaviors that OCD sufferers engage in to gain certainty about a fear or to feel less anxiety, guilt and shame. ‘Reassurance-seeking’ is one of the most common types of compulsive behaviors that occur in response to OCD about real life events, that is, if you are brave enough to ask someone. This normally comes in the form of asking for reassurance about how bad your actions were.

With ‘reassurance seeking,’ the OCD sufferer will have an urgent need to know for sure how others perceive the incident in hopes they can let it go. You may ask the same person a million different ways until they are about to kill you or you may survey 100 of your dearest friends and compare results. You may find yourself doing extensive Internet research looking for reassurance that ultimately leads you into a bigger hole of despair.

Mental rituals are compulsions performed mentally to gain certainty about the level of terribleness of your actions. Probably the most common type of mental ritual in real life event OCD is ‘mental review.’ You will find yourself replaying the life situation and what likely happened, what should have happened, and what a ‘good’ person would have done. You may say things like, “What would I have done if this one factor changed?” and “How would others view what I have done?”

‘Self-punishment’ is another typical mental ritual that serves to absolve some of the massive guilt the sufferer is experiencing about the incident. If you feel you have done something awful, it may make you feel better to punish yourself as uncomfortable as this process may be. You don’t want to feel as if you got away with the horrible event. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime, however. Ask yourself if your incident calls for a life sentence.

Read about more Compulsions in OCD here.

What if someone really killed, raped or molested?

I am going to answer this right here because I know it is what you are thinking. When should a person draw the line and decide their actions were unacceptable and ‘should’ be punished? OCD suffering about a real life event is different than run-of-the mill feelings about a real life event. And I haven’t had anyone come to me with OCD about anything that could put them in jail for life. I suppose this is because OCD likes to attach itself to things that hover around the middle ground, in that elusive gray area that is hard to prove or disprove.

With real life event OCD I usually see situations that occur somewhere at that halfway point, where half of the population would say, “So what, move on” and half of the population would say “Why did you do that?” This is exactly why it is a good target for OCD because you will have trouble proving with 100% certainty how bad it was. Label the ‘all or nothing’ thinking here so you don’t get panicked that not everyone agrees your actions weren’t bad, it doesn’t make you Jeffrey Dahmer. In addition, if you can accept that not everyone has to agree with your actions and you can still be a good person, than you will be more likely to refrain from compulsions that strengthen the problem.

Mindfulness

It is really not the life event that is the problem. It is also not the thoughts or feelings about the life event that is the problem. The problem is your reaction to the thoughts and feelings about the life event. Particularly because you are tracing this back to a real life event, it is even more important to practice acceptance. It is a good practice to witness the thoughts and feelings that arise and decide to stay with them instead of trying to escape them.

It is okay to have these unwanted memories, anxiety and guilt about something you did. Observe the thoughts, images, memories and feelings as they enter the room and allow them to leave on their own when they choose to. You do not have control of these internal experiences and you cannot stop them. The idea of mindfulness is to allow them to happen organically while you watch. This practice will result in a more agreeable relationship with the real life event and related thoughts and feelings.

Read more about Mindfulness and OCD here.

Exposure and Response Prevention

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a form of behavioral therapy that is used to assist OCD sufferers to face thoughts and feelings about the real life event while preventing compulsions that reinforce obsessions. Since those with real event OCD are triggered by thoughts about the event, a process called ‘imaginal exposure scripting’ should be one of the primary components of ERP.

An OCD specialist will help you develop scripts for exposure therapy that target your OCD, based on your specific fears. Examples that might be included in the script are: You have harmed someone permanently with your actions, You are indeed a horrible person, You will never know the exact details with certainty and you will obsess about the event forever. It may also include feared consequences such getting away with a crime, social rejection, or losing everything you love in life.

I promise if someone asks you to do this they are not crazy. They are suggesting you intentionally spike your OCD fears until you habituate to them and no longer have extreme levels of anxiety when you have thoughts and memories about the event. It is a process that is used to un-pair your thoughts from anxiety and guilt by intentionally exposing yourself to them. You will not feel particularly good about the life event but you will be able to experience the thought without an extreme emotional reaction. You will end up with a conventional relationship with your life event, like all the rest of us have. “Not my favorite moment, but oh well.”

How do I know mine is OCD?

You don’t get to know for sure if yours is really OCD and not something really terrible. One of the symptoms of OCD is that you are in a persistent state of doubt about whether your obsession is something that needs attended to. One of the most important parts of OCD treatment is learning to sit with uncertainty and choosing to resist doing compulsions despite it. It kind of doesn’t matter anyway. It is important to find a way to create a life worth living for yourself.

Ask yourself if you should waste your life trying to figure out the past, when you can focus on bringing what you want into your present and future. I know you don’t feel you deserve it. The main tenets of behavior therapy are: We cannot control our thoughts and feelings but we can control our behavior. If you change your behavior, your thoughts and feelings will follow. Take the actions of deserving it first and the feelings of deserving it will follow. Take active steps towards life improvement even before you feel deserving of good things. Don’t wait to feel deserving of good things in order to move towards life improvement when your OCD thoughts and feelings go away. Living a life in service of what you value will assist in undermining OCD thoughts and feelings about real life events.

Be angry at the OCD, not the life event. Let the emotional energy be used to target the real problem which is the fact that your brain is stuck on a real life event that the OCD is making you think is still important. The response to the event is exaggerated because of the faulty brain messaging due to OCD. The event may not be ideal or what you would have wished to happen in your life, but don’t we all have those? Consider that the stickiness level of the memories is through the roof, much more than anyone without OCD would be experiencing. And finally, be very kind and compassionate with yourself as you learn to weave in this life event and conceptualize the way OCD has hijacked it.
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