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Although all the many ways that obsessive-compulsive fears manifest themselves can cause debilitating anguish, perhaps there is none that causes more distress than OCD with pedophile obsessions, sometimes called POCD. This form of OCD involves the fear of harming or molesting a child.
People may wonder what causes OCD to take this form. OCD has a tendency to latch onto things that are important to a person. For most parents, there is nothing more important than their children. So, imagine the distress experienced by a loving mother with a newborn baby, who imagines every day that she will do something unimaginable to her child.
There are higher levels of suicidal thoughts and depression in people with POCD. A person with contamination fears generally has those fears because they do not want to die. Whereas someone with POCD might be so worried they will harm an innocent child that they would rather take their own life.
People with pedophile-themed OCD are the least likely to harm a child.
It is important to note that those with POCD do not want to harm children. Ironically, the person you could probably trust most with a child is someone with this obsession, as causing some sort of harm is the very last thing they would ever want to do. However, POCD obsessions, despite being quite prevalent, are not very well known to the general public. Even common forms of OCD such as contamination can be misunderstood. For example, people may think a person with OCD washes a lot to keep clean, without understanding that people wash because of a fear of something catastrophic happening they don't.
Frequently misidentified and misdiagnosed
A recent study assessed clinicians’ ability to correctly identify common symptom presentations of OCD. All participants were members of the American Psychological Association (APA), randomly selected to participate in each state. One of five OCD symptom vignettes was assigned to each participant, who was asked to give a diagnostic impression. 42.9% misidentified sexual obsessions about children, with over a third classifying the problem as pedophilia. In contrast, only 15.8% misidentified contamination obsessions as being indicative of OCD, and 28.8% misidentified religious obsessions as part of the disorder. Of the respondents, 81.8% were doctoral-level psychologists, 81.3% were licensed, and over half reported a CBT orientation. This high degree of misidentification calls into questions the likelihood that people with POCD will obtain a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Glazier, K., Calixte, R., Rothschild, R., & Pinto, A. (2013). High rates of OCD symptom misidentification by mental health professionals. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, 25(3), 201-209.
With so much misunderstanding around even most basic obsessions, a person with pedophile OCD may feel shame or worry that others may not understand. In society as a whole, there are few people more reviled than pedophiles. It is therefore extremely important to find a therapist familiar with this manifestation of OCD worries. A therapist with no understanding of proper OCD treatment may cause more harm than good by providing a catastrophic misdiagnosis. Here at the Louisville OCD Clinic, we have successfully helped countless individuals with these concerns. Just like any other type of OCD, these obsessions can be beaten.