The Fear of Being a Pedophile

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For several years now, I have observed a significant rise in clients, especially males, who suffer from massive fears of having pedophilic tendencies. Even though these fears are often unfounded, they may cause intense symptoms like massive emotional pressure and suffering or even lead to self-inflicted injuries. In diagnostic terms, however, what most of these clients were dealing with are in fact obsessive thoughts, a disorder that has to be clearly distinguished from pedophilia.

In most cases, an initial event may be cited in which the fear of possibly being a pedophile arose for the first time – e.g., physical arousal at the touch of a young girl, a sexually colored dream, movie scenes perceived as exciting or images that may be classifiable as pedo-erotic or pedo-pornographic. From that moment on, one’s own thoughts regarding ‘young girls’ or ‘young boys’ are observed very closely. For example, if an underage girl crosses their way, affected people might examine carefully whether they can sense any special emotional and physical reactions, or they might experiment with fantasy scenes in their mind to get a ‘safe’ clue about whether a sexual encounter with a certain girl in their neighborhood might make them feel aroused. To a very high extent, they are also deprived of control over their thoughts. Although they commonly don’t play out their fantasies and their real sexual interests are directed toward adults, in their thoughts they always worry about the worst case scenario, namely sudden and uncontrollable flare-ups of real sexual feelings for minors.

Obsessive thoughts can take very severe forms that restrict the quality of life. What begins with occasional, disturbing thoughts can reach a level within a few years or even months that makes keeping up with a regular life increasingly difficult and gradually takes away feelings of vitality and joy. A major problem is that some patients want to verify in real life that a pedophilic sexual experience would feel as exciting as they imagine it would. This can lead to very awkward situations, influenced by strong taboo feelings or even result in very real assaults on minors; which would then define the first time this borderline had been overstepped in real life.

Such incidents would probably never have happened if these persons would have looked for therapeutic treatment in time. But they are very likely to involve legal and inner-psychical consequences. So unlike most other forms of obsessive thoughts such as OCD where the cross effects on third parties are generally relatively limited or completely absent, this particular form of obsession contains a certain risk to initiate acts that put patients on the borderline of undergoing criminal acts, or beyond.

Live the happy life you planned! Richard L. Fellner is head of the Pattaya Counseling Center in Soi Khopai and offers consultations in English and German languages (after making appointments at 0854 370 470).