Discover POCD (the fear of being a paedophile)

The purpose of this blog is to explore what is POCD and can it be treated?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can have varying themes/symptoms from person to person. Generally speaking OCD treatment is the same regardless of the OCD theme/symptoms.

Paedophilia OCD (POCD) refers to a common OCD theme in which a person FEARS being sexually attracted to and/or sexually harming children. This means POCD goes against a person’s actual desires, wishes or values causing the individual extreme levels of distress. This is extraordinarily different to paedophilia disorder (a person whom is aroused by and attracted to children, and/or intends upon being sexually harming to children in order to obtain pleasure).

Common symptoms of POCD can include, feeling overwhelmed and believing you are a bad person. Experiencing excessive feelings of shame and guilt. Experiencing persistent unwanted/intrusive thoughts about being attracted to children or sexually harming children. Avoiding all children (both known and unknown to you). Excessive reassurance seeking from family or friends to gain a sense of clarification over your actions. Searching the internet to ensure they are not named on the news or on international police wanted lists. Questioning your own morality. Also checking for unwanted sexual arousal.

It is very common for a person with POCD to question the meaning of their thoughts and have catastrophic style thinking i.e. that the worst possible outcome will happen. They may also worry about thought -action- fusion i.e. “I thought about harming a child therefore I definitely will harm a child”. This can lead to the person with POCD avoiding children at all costs, or spending huge amounts of time engaging in checking behaviours as OCD thrives on the need for certainty.

Groinal response is a term to identify any reaction in the genitalia, i.e. sensations after an unwanted intrusive thought or image. Sometimes even a small tingle or movement in the genitalia will be sufficient enough to cause a person to believe they are aroused and reinforce a misinterpretation of their intrusive thoughts. The body reacts the more a person checks for arousal. The feeling does not mean anything- it is simply a body reaction because of the attention bias, not because of your values, wants or wishes!

People with POCD are keen to know what are the causes of POCD, of which the absolute answer remains unknown. Yet research suggests that biological, psychological and environmental factors could play a potential role in causing vulnerability to experiencing OCD.

Treating POCD:

It is possible to treat POCD with a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Exposure Response prevention (ERP), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

CBT Psychotherapists based within the UK should be guided by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

I would recommend that if you are seeking support for POCD, look for an experienced, non judgemental CBT practitioner that holds accreditation with the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP).

The BABCP maintains standards for practitioners of Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapy, and has minimum criteria for members to become accredited. You can find more information about the BABCP on their website:

I am a BABCP accredited CBT practitioner, should you wish to work with me, please contact me via telephone to discuss your mental health needs. Alternatively you may book an initial  assessment appointment via my website

Please remember that if you are struggling with POCD, you are not evil, damaged or dangerous. It is most likely that you have a mental health difficulty, which can be treated with the right support. You do not need to struggle and suffer alone as help and support is available.


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