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by Abigail Van Buren

Maturing Teenager Is Fearful, Ashamed of Body's Changes

DEAR ABBY: I am a 17-year-old girl who is obsessed with remaining a virgin. I'm uncomfortable around guys my age for fear they will want sex.

I am tormented all day long by thoughts of losing my virginity. If I see a mildly racy scene in a movie or have a sexual thought and experience some sort of physiological reaction, I become extremely upset. I must repeatedly reassure myself that any arousal was not deliberate.

I'm sick of feeling so anxious over this stuff. I sometimes wish I didn't know about sex at all. What can I do? -- EMBARRASSED IN NEW YORK

DEAR EMBARRASSED: Stop beating yourself up for having normal feelings for someone your age. As young women (and men) mature, sexual feelings happen. They are not shameful, and experiencing them does not mean they must be acted upon.

The more you tell yourself not to think about something, the more you will. (I feel similarly about chocolate.) One way to deal with obsessive thoughts is to divert the thought into an action that is acceptable. In your case, becoming involved in sports might rechannel some of your sexual energy. The key is to stay busy. But if your obsessive thoughts persist, they should be discussed with a licensed mental health professional.