Paedophile-Themed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (POCD)

Updated: July 23, 2022

Paedophile-themed obsessive compulsive disorder, otherwise known as POCD is a relatively recent form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  OCD is a mental health condition characterised by intrusive obsessive thoughts, which create unpleasant feelings, and compulsive behaviours.  Such behaviours, though aimed at coping, instead exacerbate the problem.


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What Is POCD?

Most societies wish to protect their children and deem paedophilia unacceptable.  This includes those who experience POCD, they too judge the act of paedophilia to be wrongful.  POCD exhibits the worst forms of OCD; there is the fear of hurting vulnerable people (harm-OCD), the fear of being attracted to someone we shouldn’t be (sexual orientation-OCD), and a fear of breaking the strictest codes of society (moral scrupulosity).


So this form of OCD is not just confusing, it’s also incredibly frightening because of the threat it poses to the sufferer’s identity.  Individuals experience unwanted and repeated thoughts about children, which are of a sexual nature.  This creates fear about being or becoming a paedophile.  Sufferers feel out of control and in order to gain a sense of control, will enact behaviours out of compulsion.  The irony here is that this very compulsion exemplifies a lack of control because it is guided by fear.


What Are The Symptoms?

POCD Causes BEHAVIOURS, Including:

  • Avoidance of anything that brings to mind children, and causes thoughts of them (like kids’ television programs)
  • Individuals will take great care to interact with, and handle children carefully (to prevent brushing against intimate parts)
  • A fear of having inappropriate thoughts about minors can cause individuals to fear being intimate/engage in sexual activities with their partner
  • Fear can make individuals question their behaviour around children and take extra precautions, even if said behaviour was previously considered normal
  • Talking to people they trust about intrusive thoughts can help sufferers understand that their thoughts and behaviours aren’t indicative of their true character, and does not mean they are a paedophile
  • Reassuring oneself that by being open and honest with others about their thoughts, they are not a paedophile
  • Engaging in behaviours that show no inappropriate action has been taken (like interacting with children more than normal, or repeatedly picking up and putting down a child)
  • Obsessively researching actual paedophilia and POCD to differentiate between them
  • Maintaining records to guarantee and offer comfort that children have not been mistreated
  • Examining if being in the vicinity of kids or having ideas about them generates an emotional response in the groin or elsewhere
  • Observing for evidence of mistreatment in kids when in their presence


  • People with POCD often experience thoughts, images, or feelings related to harming children, which can be intrusive and of a sexual nature
  • Even seemingly harmless childhood memories can become tainted and take on a darker meaning.
  • Recollecting a youthful infatuation when one was still a child can be misinterpreted and may seem like a repressed paedophilic memory
  • Survivors of childhood sexual abuse may be concerned that they will perpetrate the same type of abuse on a child
  • Any kind of positive emotion towards children can be misinterpreted as being of a sexual nature
  • It is thought that unintentional physical contact with children is actually intentional and motivated by desire
  • In some cases, individuals may start to obsessively imagine false memories about having hurt a child, which they think were forgotten
  • Sufferers may be concerned that noticing certain traits in young people, like what they are wearing, or body parts, means they are a paedophile
  • People experiencing POCD may also start to question their own actions and intentions towards their children or other kids (like whether buying a toy for them means they are trying to groom them)

What Causes POCD?

No single factor has been identified as the origin of POCD.  As with any mental health condition, a combination of elements, such as genetics and one’s personality, which is molded by upbringing and environment, could be at play.  It is speculated that trauma can also be a contributing factor to the development of many psychological disorders, including POCD.

How Phinity Therapy Can Help

At Phinity we offer various options for the treatment of POCD.  These include some of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommendations.  For example cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), this includes exposure and response prevention (ERP).

CBT is an approach that concentrates on the current circumstances, rather than exploring the past in depth.  It helps people understand how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are linked to their problems, and how these patterns can be changed with ERP techniques.  This allows them to replace harmful cycles with more beneficial ones.

ERP, which is a form of CBT, is a process that helps individuals face the situations they are afraid of.  Our highly trained and experienced therapists will create a plan with you to facilitate becoming more comfortable with the things you are avoiding. This will reduce the intensity of the anxiety you feel and over time the obsessive thoughts and compulsions you experience will lessen.

What Causes POCD?How Phinity Therapy Can Help


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