Pedophiles. Their names are littered throughout newspaper headlines. You know the stories; you’ve heard them all before. The teachers fired for having sexual relationships with their students. That middle-aged man that looked at your little sister a little too fondly, while you both were taking the bus home. I already know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking it as well. They are punished and shamed from society for good reason.
Now that we’ve established the roles of pedophiles in our society, picture this: An average individual with no pedophilic tendencies, deeply fearing that they may be a pedophile, simply because the thought popped into their head one day and never left since. These people suffer from sexual obsessions OCD, which is a lesser known form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They fear engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior such as, incest, rape, pedophilic tendencies, as well as homosexual tendencies. This fear prevails although, “there has been no sexual arousal, sexual fantasies, or sexual behaviors that would support this” (Weg, 2011). The victims of this dark form of OCD includes children and adolescents. A child for example, “might be plagued with worrying that he might commit rape. He might have zero desire to actually commit rape, but the possibility that he might is terrifying to him” (Ehmke). These unfounded thoughts circle their minds until they utterly consume them.
Sexual obsessions OCD extend beyond the mind however, affecting the individual’s behavior as well. For example, this person may remain distant and avoid physical contact with others. They avoid “touching others because [they are] worried it might be sexually inappropriate” (Ehmke). Other symptoms include the inability to focus, extreme anxiety and shame. Additionally, these individuals may compulsively seek reassurance. For example, “they might try to ‘test’ themselves when looking at pictures to “prove” whether or not their obsession reflects an actual desire. Others might go in the opposite direction and strenuously avoid looking at pictures or going to places where people might be physically exposed, like the beach” (Ehmke). In addition, parents may hear repeated questions like, “this doesn’t mean I’m gay, right?” (Ehmke). The answers to these “questions” and “tests” are not exactly effective and so, children still fall victim to these “unwanted and intrusive thoughts that are deeply distressing” (Ehmke).
People with sexual obsessions OCD can experience varying degrees of intensity. For example, in an online forum, a woman named Rose Bretecher, shares her story of having these obsessive sexual thoughts as an adolescent. She feared that she “may have committed a pedophilic act in [her] past without realising” (Bretecher, 2018). Although these thoughts were baseless, they continued to impede on her everyday life. She engaged in various rituals to subdue her sexual obsessions OCD. “I prayed repetitively; I tried to shout them out of my head; I tried to distract myself with reading and running and drinking. Nothing worked” (Bretecher, 2018). She feared that she’d “be punished for [her] sins”, even though they were nonexistent (Bretecher, 2018). It is important to note the difference between pedophiles and people who suffer from this form of OCD, thinking they are pedophiles. According to Dr. Bubrick, “pedophiles actively seek out situations to be alone with children and like those experiences, whereas someone with OCD who has those obsessions will feel extreme guilt and shame [and] avoid those situations and feel horrible about themselves just for having the thought.”
The inappropriate sexual behavior involved with sexual obsessions OCD is not limited to pedophilic tendencies. Some individuals fear being homosexuals. Lauren Townsend, a writer on the OCD Stories forum, for example, feared having an abnormal sexuality before entering high school. She reflects, “my mind made me feel like a pervert on a daily basis, telling me I was dirty and weird and abnormal. (Townsend, 2016). This did not last quite long, however, as she “realized that being gay really didn’t matter to [her]” (Townsend, 2016). However, the longevity of her OCD could have increased if, rather than fearing homosexuality, she feared sexual behavior less accepted by society such as, incest or pedophilia.
Finally, individuals with sexual obsessions OCD are not necessarily pedophilic, gay, or engage in incest; however, they see themselves through a hypersexual lens. Consequently, the smallest actions can trigger their dark thoughts, resulting in toxic social isolation. Lastly, many individuals may associate these behaviors with uncertainty about sexual identity, as opposed to OCD and so, these individuals typically suffer in silence.
Bretecher, R. (n.d.). My OCD story: Living with intrusive sexual thoughts by @RoseBretecher. Retrieved from https://www.ocdaction.org.uk/community/personal-stories/my-ocd-story-living-intrusive-sexual-thoughts-rosebretecher
Ehmke, R. (2018, April 10). Sexual Obsessions and OCD. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/ocd-sexual-obsessions/
Townsend, L. (n.d.). OCD: The Monster In My Mind. Retrieved from https://theocdstories.com/intrusive-thoughts/ocd-the-monster-in-my-mind/
Weg, A. H. (2011, July 16 ). The Many Flavors of OCD. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-ocd/201107/the-many-flavors-ocd