Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for HOCD

man receiving online counselling with MoodSmith logo on screen
Dr Elaine Ryan
Written by Dr Elaine Ryan Psychologist and Founder of MoodSmith® Elaine obtained her Dr in Psychology from the University of Surrey and has worked in psychology for 20 years. Dr Ryan specialises in Intrusive Thoughts, OCD and anxiety-related conditions.
man receiving online counselling with MoodSmith logo on screen

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a treatment model that can help you overcome the suffering caused by HOCD.
This does not mean that you accept your thoughts as being real; it is quite the opposite.

This page will cover

  • What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, ACT?
  • How will it help with HOCD?

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which is usually abbreviated to ACT, is a model of therapy which I shall give a brief overview of now.  Simply put, ACT would suggest that we suffer because of how we relate to experiences in our minds.

For example, say you did something that hurt my feelings.  As it was happening, it’s okay for me to be aware that my feelings were hurt.  However, if the day after, the week after,  I am still going over what you did in my head and feeling the pain, it is now me that is causing my suffering.  The original event that caused pain is long over, but I continue to suffer as I keep it alive in my head.

Sometimes when I am introducing these ideas, people may think, “no, Elaine, you are not causing your suffering; it is the other person fault who hurt your feelings in the first place.”  If you find yourself thinking this, take some time to think about the following.

It is not about casting blame, the original event that caused pain has ended.  The way I look at it, I have a choice;

  1. I can blame you for hurting my feelings, and let the hurt grow and keep the story alive in my mind every day, or
  2. I can move on

If I keep blaming you, not only do I keep the original feelings of hurt alive, but I am probably adding to it.  After a day or so, I could start to feel anger and resentment; my suffering intensifies because of what I am adding to the original event inside my head.

If I can learn to move on, I feel the hurt when it is happening, then it is gone, I go back to normal.

Sounds simple, right, but sometimes (well, more often than not), we get stuck.  To move on and stop blaming the other person, I have to do the following;

Accept that it happened

Use some techniques to take the emotion out of the thoughts in my head

Bring myself back to what is happening now – right now; I am writing this post that you are reading.  I am in a quiet room in my house; there is nothing in this exact moment that can cause suffering; except my thoughts!

Keep an eye on myself.  If I start to suffer or get upset, rather than run with it, I watch what is happening and realise it is stuff going on inside my mind.  This is a good point, as we – you, have control over this!

The human mind can create an awful lot of the suffering that you experience.

How will ACT help you with HOCD?

HOCD survives due to a series of things going on inside your head and a series of things you do, namely, obsessions and compulsions; if you haven’t read about this before, you can read it here and come back to this page.

The reason that you are suffering at the minute is not that your sexual preference has changed; you are suffering because of the battles you are having with your mind.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy will help you in the following ways

You will learn to accept the thoughts and images in your head.  This does not mean that you agree with them or accept them as true; rather you can learn to accept them for what they are – thoughts.

You are suffering now as you try to make sense of the thoughts, grappling to see what they mean.  This is just how your human mind is wired; you, as a normal human being, seek to make sense of thoughts, situations, but not all of the thoughts in your head need that type of analysis.

It would help if you learned to accept your thoughts relating to HOCD for them not to grow stronger; you can see this in the video below.  You might have watched this on my main HOCD page, but I’ve included it here again to save you the bother of jumping back and forth.

The language – the words that you use to talk to yourself inside your head will not be neutral; they will make you feel something.  How you talk about HOCD inside your head will more than likely make you feel anxious.  Using ACT, you will learn to take this strong emotional reaction away.  This is important, as it is the strong feeling that you get that makes you carry out your compulsions – the things you do to reassure yourself or make yourself feel better.

The problem is not that your sexual preference has changed.  The problem is how you are reacting to what is going on inside your head – and this you can change.


image for MoodSmith course on HOCD

Retrain Your Brain
If you are serious about overcoming HOCD, I have an online course that can help you

View the course


Further reading HOCD

Read more on Act at ContextualScience

Online self-help

If you would like my help, please see my online courses

Table of Contents

Recent articles