Having obsessive thoughts about children is such a difficult thing, but, if you also struggle with the misconception that you might be in denial and not know it, this adds another painful layer to your suffering.
I decided to write this article as I have worked extensively with the many manifestations of OCD throughout my career. I think, due to the intense shame and fear that a person with POCD experiences, it is hard for them to come forward and attend therapy, and as such, they miss out on normalising some of their thought processes. Recent research noted that fears of sexually harming children are relatively common amongst people with OCD, yet the symptoms largely remain unrecognised and misdiagnosed.
If you are one of those who have suffered in silence and now have started to obsess that you are somehow in denial, this article shall explain the concepts and point you toward where to get further help.
POCD and denial
Pedophilic Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (POCD) and denial are different concepts. POCD is a diagnosable mental health disorder characterized by unwanted, intrusive thoughts or impulses related to paedophilia. Denial is a defence mechanism that involves an individual refusing to accept or acknowledge the reality of a situation or experience.
Having POCD does not mean that you are in denial.
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Dr Ryan: Psychologist and Founder of MoodSmith
Pedophilic Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (POCD) is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that involves intrusive, unwanted thoughts or images related to paedophilia. These thoughts can cause significant distress and anxiety for the individual, even though they may recognize that the thoughts are irrational and unwanted.
Common symptoms of POCD include intrusive thoughts or images related to paedophilia, avoidance of children or situations that may trigger these thoughts, compulsive behaviours such as checking or seeking reassurance and intense feelings of guilt or shame.
Individuals with POCD may experience various emotions, including fear, disgust, and anxiety. They may also feel isolated and ashamed, as the disorder is often stigmatized and misunderstood.
You can read more on POCD here.
Denial is a defence mechanism in which an individual refuses to accept or acknowledge the reality of a situation or experience. This can manifest in various ways, including denying the existence of a problem or issue, minimizing the severity of a condition, or blaming others for one’s actions.
Common behaviours associated with denial include:
- Avoidance of the problem or issue.
- Defensiveness when confronted with evidence.
- A refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions.
An example could be an individual who is aware of their spouse’s alcoholism but chooses to ignore it out of fear of its repercussions on their marriage and family. Similarly, someone aware of same-sex attractions but refuses to acknowledge or accept their sexual orientation is another example of denial, as they may feel uncomfortable with its social and cultural implications.
People with POCD tend to have a preoccupation with doubts and questions about their attraction towards children and experience a sense of shame and anxiety when they have such thoughts.
This contrasts with people with genuine paedophilia, who have a consistent and genuine attraction to children and do not experience questioning or doubt about their attraction.
People with POCD may also experience emotional self-punishment or an inability to focus on anything other than intrusive thoughts, which can take up most of their day and cause undue anxiety and shame.
Moreover, those with POCD may experience difficulty in differentiating between reality and fantasy, whereas those with paedophilia have a clear distinction between fantasy and reality.
Finally, people with POCD may experience blocked arousal when fantasising about sexual interactions with children, whereas people with genuine paedophilia would not have such difficulties.
Obsessive thought relating to children. Regardless of how despicable they are to you, it does not mean you are in denial. There are very effective treatment options available.