In mainstream depictions of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), the condition is usually presented as someone who is preoccupied with organization, cleanliness, and order. Many people aren’t aware there are many different types of OCD such as harm OCD, relationship OCD, and Pedophilia OCD (POCD). Due to the controversial nature of sexual violence perpetuated against children, this type of OCD can feel scary to those who experience it firsthand, as well as those who don’t fully understand the nuances of the condition.
What is Pedophilia OCD?
First and foremost, Pedophilia OCD is not the same as the parahelia, pedophilia. People with POCD more often then not do not experience paraphilic desires, rather, they experience intrusive, unwanted thoughts thoughts about the potential of being or becoming attracted to children. These thoughts are typically unwanted and debilitating to people who experience POCD. A person who struggled with POCD is typically so terrified of being or becoming a pedophile that they will often go to great lengths to avoid thoughts, images, and behaviors that can trigger mental compulsions.
Common P-OCD symptoms and thoughts can look like:
- Intrusive sexual thoughts and images about children that are not wanted or voluntary
- Excessive worry that they are a pedophile without being conscious of it
- Avoiding children in real life, in movies, tv shows, and other visual or audio stimulation
- Anxiety that personal experiences with sexual abuse as a child make them a pedophile
- Fear that liking children in innocent, non-sexual ways will lead to pedophilia
- False memories that they have acted in a sexual nature towards a child/children
- Being afraid of the obsessive thoughts and what they unconsciously mean for them
- Worrying that thinking a child is cute is a sign of pedophilia
- Ruminating about preventative measure if they discover they are a pedophile
Reassurance seeking from others that behavior towards children is not inappropriate
- Turning down certain jobs, events, or situations where children may be present
- Hyperfixation about ensuring they are still attracted to adults
- Frequent research about pedophilia to see if there is a match in their own behavior
What Causes POCD?
POCD is considered a subtype of OCD and theories about where POCD stems from are similar to OCD, such as genetics, environmental, and neurochemical factors. If you have a family member who lives with OCD or one of the subtypes, the likelihood of you or other members of your family also developing a type of OCD increases.
It’s also difficult for research to be done on this topic as many people with POCD are often terrified to open up about their experiences. The topic of pedophilia is a very controversial one and the fear of being rejected by loved ones and society can make opening up about POCD an anxiety inducing endeavor.
While it can helpful for some to have context about where POCD comes from, many people benefit most from effective treatment due to the ways POCD can severely impact their quality of life.
Forms of Treatment for OCD & POCD
When it comes to effective treatment for people with OCD and POCD, the gold standard is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). ERP is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and involves exposing a person to whatever stimuli is causing fear, obsessive thoughts, or compulsions until it no longer carries the same intensity. The focus of ERP is to facilitate two outcomes: habituation and inhibitory learning.
Habituation is important because over the course of the treatment, the anxiety and compulsions around the targeted stimuli should decrease due to repeated, controlled exposure.
The goal of inhibitory learning is to teach the patient that the stimuli does not pose as serious of a threat as their brain is communicating to them. For example, if a stimuli (being around children) is inhibited, the obsession or intrusive thoughts (being a pedophile) can decrease in intensity and show the client they can be around children without being a threat to their safety.
ERP is so effective in treating OCD because it targets behavioral changes that can help POCD sufferers recover.
It’s important for many looking into forms of OCD treatment for POCD, or any type of OCD to work with a mental health professional who has direct experience treating OCD. While OCD can look similar to other mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, OCD is a completely different, complex condition to treat, and proper experience and training is often necessary for effective treatment outcomes.
When searching for the right therapist, be sure to check therapists’ websites or schedule a complimentary consultation so you can ensure they specialize in OCD and exposure and response prevention.
Coping with POCD
If you are living with POCD, please know that you are not alone. It can be a scary thing to experience intrusive thoughts about harming others, but it does not mean you will or are capable of causing harm.
There is unfortunately, stigmatization around many mental health concerns, but especially ones like POCD, if someone isn’t aware that is it completely different than the paraphilia. It can be incredibly challenging to make the decision to share your experience when you aren’t sure how those around you will take it. This is where finding safe community can be helpful.
If you aren’t sure how your loved ones would react to POCD, the internet can be an incredible resource for finding like-minded community. There are various online forums, blogs, and social media accounts where people are trying to shed light and advocacy on POCD in attempt to destigmatize the condition and create a society where people with POCD don’t have to suffer in silence. Find your community where you can be open, vulnerable, and honest without fear of rejection. People within the POCD and OCD community will understand your struggle more than most and can be your greatest allies.
In addition to finding community, you deserve to be free from any of the ways POCD might be impacting your relationships, self-esteem, and sex life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional in the mental health field. It helps to try to find someone who specializes in OCD, or even better, POCD, so you can feel like you are in a safe space with someone who is qualified and trained to provide the care and treatment you deserve.