The Mighty Logo

How BPD and OCD Affect My Sex Life

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

If you have a mental health condition, the chances are quite high that you will also have another one. In my case, I have both obsessive-compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Sometimes, having both is a good thing. I don’t have the impulsive behavior trait that many people with BPD have, such as drinking to excess or taking drugs (although I do self-harm) because my OCD is all about the opposite — timing, measuring and controlling things to an absurd degree.

However, I have a big problem with sex, and I think it’s so bad because it involves both my BPD and my OCD.

Because I have BPD, I fear people leaving me. In particular, I am often terrified my wife will break up with me. My OCD brain has decided that as long as we have sex once a week, we’ll stay together.

Like most of my similar OCD symptoms, this one started when I read a “rule” that then got stuck in my head and refused to budge. The first time my wife turned me down for sex I worried she didn’t love me anymore and might break up with me. In a panic, I Googled the topic obsessively, finding people saying if your partner doesn’t want sex often, they are likely cheating on you. I became convinced this was what had happened, but after a day of worrying, I realized she wouldn’t do that. But as part of my Googling, I had come across a “sex expert” who said he encouraged couples to have sex once a week as it was good for the relationship. As soon as I read it, that was it. The “rule” was in my head and if we didn’t do it once a week, we were in a bad relationship and she would leave me. I became so convinced of this that I developed a number of compulsions around it.

Having sex once a week is a compulsion, but it isn’t the only one. Planning sex is a compulsion. I know we don’t usually do it during the week, so every weekend I have to plan the whole weekend out in my head, working out when we will have time for sex. I also have to ask my wife if she wants sex that day and when she wants it. My OCD goes mad with the uncertainty of not knowing what is going on in her head. I simply have to know when she wants to do it. Even if she says yes, I have to ask again because what if she has changed her mind? I can never be sure. Simple things like her yawning or saying she felt full after dinner sets me into a panic — what if she is now too tired, or too full? I practically force her to take a nap if she says she was tired because I think if she has one she’d be more likely to want sex later.

As you can probably imagine, this makes for a very stressful sex life. My wife became convinced I had a high sex drive but in reality, it was the OCD telling me we simply had to do it to stay together. Once we have done it, I am fine for a week. I can relax and my BPD is satisfied thinking the danger of her breaking up with me is over for a week. We’d had sex so she must love me, surely? On the odd occasion she wants it more than once a week, I’m really disinterested, thinking we’ve already done it and so there is really no need, the danger has been eliminated. As soon as the next week comes around, I start to panic again. I’m constantly working out in my head how long it has been since we last did it.

The ironic thing is this stresses my wife out so much that often we do go more than a week and we haven’t broken up yet. But still my brain won’t accept the possibility that we can do it less than once a week. I’m worried if I don’t plan it out like this and keep track of it, we just won’t do it, and then we won’t do it the next week either and then we’ll never do it again and we will break up.

No other expressions of love satisfy me. It has to be sex. Nothing else convinces me of her love for me.

It often stresses me out, too. Sometimes I have literally been crying with the battle going on in my head — I really don’t feel like having sex, but my head tells me I have to do it to keep her.

As with all OCD symptoms, the only way to get over this is to resist the compulsions as well as being in therapy to understand my thoughts and feelings around it. With the help of my therapist, I resisted planning for or asking about sex for four weeks. It went OK and we had sex a few times during those weeks. Just after that, it got bad again. I realized I couldn’t remember the exact day we last had sex, and that panicked me because what if it had been weeks? I worried that because I couldn’t remember, it must mean it wasn’t important to me and that we’d just stop having it altogether and therefore break up.

Recovery is hard for anyone with mental illnesses, but when disorders overlap like this, it makes it even more difficult. I will get there, but it will take time.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Rawpixel Ltd.

Originally published: August 7, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home