Paedophilia OCD involves preoccupation with repetitive, intrusive, and sexual thoughts, images and/or urges involving prepubescent children. It is normal to have an occasional thought of paedophilia. While these thoughts are often disturbing and unenjoyable, people without OCD can accept this and move past these thoughts. People who are paedophiles embrace the thoughts of paedophilia and think about them voluntarily.
Paedophilia OCD develops when an individual becomes consumed with obsessing over these thoughts and/or urges, begins to feel anxiety, distress, doubt, confusion, or another difficult emotion because of these obsessions, and may develop some compulsive behaviours (physical or mental) to find short-term relief from these difficult emotions. Unfortunately, the obsessive doubts (e.g., “Why am I having this thought”, or “What does this thought mean?”) cannot be argued or reasoned with and it is exhausting and endless to attempt to do so.
What are the OCD symptoms?
Obsessions: The obsessions in paedophilia OCD revolve around sexual thoughts, images and/or urges involving prepubescent children. This can involve a fear of losing control and accidentally acting on one’s thoughts and a fear of becoming or being a paedophile. Some examples of the intrusive thoughts associated with paedophilia OCD include: “I noticed that little girl looked very pretty in her dress. Does that mean I’m a paedophile?”, “I looked at the boy’s penis for a long time when I changed his nappy. What if I’m a paedophile and I don’t know?”, and “What if I’m actually a paedophile and I’ve been lying to myself, my partner, and my family all my life?”. The thoughts can take an infinite number of forms and are only limited by the brains capacity to imagine.
Compulsions: To manage the anxiety and distress associated with the uncertainty of whether they are a paedophile, people with OCD seek to reduce the amount of anxiety and distress caused by these thoughts by behaving in repetitive ways that provide short-term relief. They may find themselves attempting to avoid the difficult emotions and/or gain certainty by researching, checking their physical sensations in their groin, mentally reviewing past experiences, and/or avoiding certain places (e.g., playgrounds) or people, checking their attraction to adults, ruminating and/or listing reasons they could never be attracted to a child.
Why does it occur?
Paedophilia OCD can occur when the thoughts clash with an individual’s morals or values (e.g., the wellbeing of children and their own integrity). This clash can cause anxiety and distress, and the individual may attempt to suppress the thoughts, causing a rebound effect where the thoughts come back more often and more intensely. Interestingly, our genitals are programmed to respond to things that are sexually relevant, and do not indicate what we consciously or subconsciously desire or value. This is known as “arousal non-concordance”. Individuals with paedophilia OCD may try to find relief from the anxiety and distress by performing certain compulsions. They may find themselves stuck in a cycle of obsessing, feeling anxious or distressed, and engaging in a compulsion to relieve the anxiety or distress for the short period until the obsession returns.