I’m 16 years old, female! I have been house- bound for 18 months as I have an anxiety disorder. I suffer from depression also but i usually have depression for a few months then anxiety! I have attempted suicide and used to self harm! I need some advice as I am too ashamed and scared to try and explain this to my doctor or psychologist! I can’t talk to ANYONE about this! Something is wrong! I’m terrified that I will do something sexually inappropriate! I’m scared that I will touch people in a way I shouldn’t. I have felt this around many people! I feel uncomfortable when I’m physically close to people! Especially males! I have no desire to touch people or anything but I’m scared that I’m going to do it! I feel like I’m perverted or something! I have felt like this with strangers, friends and even family! It’s like I’m scared that I will just touch them in private places or kiss them! What is wrong with me????
- Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
- Dr. Dombeck intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
- Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
- No correspondence takes place.
- No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Dombeck to people submitting questions.
- Dr. Dombeck, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Dombeck and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
- Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
At age 16 years, you should be well into puberty and have undergone most all of the biological changes that transform girls into a sexually mature woman. The obvious changes include changes in body shape including development of breasts, growth of hair in the armpits and pubic region and the onset of menstruation, which means you have become fertile and could become pregnant with a child. Menstruation is sometimes delayed in women who have active eating disorders, I should mention, but in the absence of such a disorder, it should be present by age 16. The less obvious aspects of sexual maturation are invisible to the eye, because they are psychological and emotional in nature. Put simply, women start having sexual urges that were not present before puberty. These urges are completely normal, and exist evolutionarily to motivate women to have sex and reproduce. The same sort of changes urges start happening to boys about the same time of life (e.g., puberty) for the same reasons. These urges are normal and healthy; they are a sign that development is working properly.
I mention all of this because when you say you are experiencing urges to touch other people sexually, especially males, I don’t see anything out of the ordinary in this admission. Well, maybe except that for whatever reason, you are very much uncomfortable with the fact that you are having sexual urges and are experiencing them as a shameful crisis. That much is not ordinary. But it is very much ordinary and normal for young people such as yourself to get quite “horny” in this manner, and to fantasize about other people you see. What you are reacting to is how those people look and act; you are in fact programmed to instinctually react in this way by millions of years of evolution. It doesn’t much matter whether the bodies you are reacting to are strangers or friends; they look appetizing, and you are drawn to them. There are strong societal taboos about who it is appropriate to be attracted to, so many people will find it alarming when they find themselves attracted to someone who they shouldn’t (like a relative), but it is still normal to have this sort of attraction occur. Most people just don’t pursue it, and instead channel their sexual urges towards acceptable targets (e.g., appropriate boy or girlfriends).
When you suppress a natural urge, that doesn’t make the urge go away. It stays in the background, and continues to push for recognition, just as the water behind a dam continues to try to push through the dam towards the sea. Your sense that your urges are trying to “break free” and that you might touch someone may be a result of how tightly you are trying to hold them back. At least, that is how a psychoanalytic psychotherapist might look at your situation.
You’ve got a lot on your plate, with your other diagnoses. I could see how you would be feeling rather fragile and not very in control of your life. I can also see how adding budding sexuality to the mix may feel like it is making everything even more stressful than it was before. But sexuality isn’t going to go away, so you will have to make peace with it. Please be clear that your sexual urges are not perverted but instead completely natural (so long as you aren’t fantasizing about harming anyone!). Please also be clear that most everyone around you who has become an adult has similar urges, and that sexuality is a normal part of adult relationships (albeit a regulated part that is best contained within marriage, or at least within long-standing committed relationships). You are not weird or a pervert for wanting to touch others or kiss them. Find the courage to talk about your urges with trusted advisors and with trusted family and friends (those who won’t be abusive and who will give you straight answers) and you’ll see.