Difference between POCD and real Paedophilia

One of the hardest things about living with POCD is a deep-seated fear that the obsessions are true. This is true with all types of intrusive thoughts, but due to the particular nature of the thoughts in POCD, if they were real, it would mean you were a paedophile.

Most people cannot talk openly about their fears, and fewer still seek therapy; this article is for you. I wrote this piece to make clear the differences between POCD and real paedophilia.

Read more on POCD here.

What is paedophilia?

Paedophilia is a mental health condition called pedophilic disorder, as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). A person with this disorder experiences intense urges and fantasies about children. Some individuals with pedophilic disorder do not act on the urges, whereas others are child molesters.

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What is Paedophile Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (POCD)

Pedophile Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (POCD) is a type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) where the person fears being or becoming a paedophile.

This is a significant difference; people with POCD are terrified that they might become a paedophile and go to extreme lengths to ensure this does not happen.

Those suffering from POCD experience unwanted thoughts, physical sensations and images at odds with their core values.

Differences between paedophilia and POCD

feel pleasure or arousal from thinking about or engaging in sexual contact with childrenexperience distress and guilt.
find their thoughts enjoyable and may fantasize about childrenintrusive thoughts that they feel compelled to perform behaviours or engage in specific activities to get relief.
Know they are attractedfeel compelled to check if they are attracted to children, peek at children, or imagine sexual situations with children
Paedophiles have a genuine and consistent attraction to childrenPeople with POCD have intrusive thoughts
Paedophiles do not experience doubt or questioning about their sexual attractionpeople with POCD often have a preoccupation with questions or doubts about their interest in children.
A paedophile may take pleasure in situations in which they have the opportunity to find sexual gratification with childrenperson with POCD will actively avoid children to ward off the distress associated with their thoughts

A person with paedophilia feels sexual attraction towards children.

Paedophilia is a form of paraphilia indicated by an intense attraction to and sexual fantasies about children; POCD is an anxiety-based disorder in which the individual experiences fear, shame, and distress related to the intrusive thoughts of having sexually abused or wanting to abuse children. 

While paedophiles may feel pleasure or arousal from thinking about or engaging in sexual contact with children, those with POCD experience distress and guilt. Furthermore, people with Pedophilia enjoy their sexual thoughts about children, whereas those with POCD do not.

Additionally, someone with POCD may feel compelled to check if they are attracted to children, peek at children, or imagine sexual situations with children. In contrast, someone with paedophilia may be more attracted to children the younger they are. Lastly, someone with POCD may feel that they are questioning if they are attracted to young children and teens, while someone with paedophilia knows without a doubt that they are.

Treatments for POCD

  1. Exposure Response Prevention Therapy

Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) therapy is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that is the gold standard treatment for OCD and POCD. ERP works by exposing the patient to the feared stimuli (e.g., young children or teens) while simultaneously discouraging compulsive behaviours that attempt to reduce discomfort. Through this process, the patient learns to habituate—that is, become desensitized to—these stimuli and reduce anxiety, as well as inhibitory learning—the recognition that the feared stimuli do not pose an actual threat to the person’s well-being. With repeated exposure, the anxiety and compulsions associated with the targeted stimulants will decrease, allowing the patient to make the necessary behavioural and lifestyle changes to lead a happy and productive life. ERP is particularly effective for those with POCD, as it helps them learn how to confront and manage intrusive thoughts and emotions without relying on compulsive behaviours. However, it is important to note that for the best results, it is essential to work with a mental health professional with experience in treating OCD.

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that helps individuals identify and reframe unhelpful thoughts and behaviours that can lead to mental health issues. CBT allows individuals to challenge, reject, and ultimately replace distorted thinking and behaviour patterns. CBT is an effective treatment for POCD (Pedophilia-related Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) because it helps individuals recognize, challenge, and reframe their intrusive and irrational thoughts. By acknowledging that these thoughts are false and not reflective of reality, the individual can gain insight into their behaviour and work to modify them to live a life free from intrusive thoughts. Through CBT, individuals with POCD can learn to accept their thoughts and feelings and develop strategies for managing them effectively and healthily.

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