I’m soooo (paedophile) OCD – OCD Awareness Week October 2013

Children walked past the classroom where I was messing around,  smiling and laughing with friends. I awwed about how cute they were. “You’re such a paedophile” joked my friend and it was like someone sucked the air out of the room and I couldn’t breathe. Could she be right? Was I attracted to children rather than just finding them cute and funny? And so my world caved around me. I was 15 years old. Of course it wasn’t her fault.  We were living in a society where the media was obsessed with stories of it, the word was being bandied around all over the place and rules were getting stricter and stricter about how far you could come within a child that wasn’t your own. I volunteered at a children’s summer holiday camp and was told off for soothing a child, who was injured, with a hug. The telling off rang in my ears and I felt ashamed that I had even thought that was appropriate. I questioned my intentions and convinced myself that perhaps I’d had a motive that I wasn’t even aware of.  How sad that I should even have had to think about it as an innocent well-meaning teenager but think about it I did. And obsess. And ruminate.

Then the Millenium struck and there was the terrible case of Sarah Payne. The tabloids went crazy, ramping up their witch hunt for ‘paedo’s’. It felt like everywhere I turned the word PAEDOPHILE loomed large. I sat and smiled my way through meal times on a family holiday, forcing down food that felt like rocks in my stomach whilst Radio 4 discussed paedophilia quietly in the background. I excused myself from the table as the feeling that I was being swallowed whole by the word PAEDOPHILE became stifling and the horrible conviction that any minute now someone would guess that I too was probably one of them. I became convinced that I had probably done something to a child and just didn’t remember it and so the compulsive checking began. I would sit for hours replaying what had been happier times looking after children searching for any evidence that I had done something inappropriate. I refused to babysit unless I had someone with me in case one of these images that haunted my waking hours and ran amok through my dreams acted itself out. I was supposed to be revising for my GSCE’s and all the while I was tormented by the thought that perhaps  I had better ‘confess’ to the police and volunteer to be put on the sex offenders register just so children would be protected from me – never mind that I was only really merely a child myself. Better yet I didn’t actually know what it was that I should be confessing to but that’s OCD, – never one to let the facts get in the way of a good story.

I veered wildly between avoiding any news story of child abuse and forcing myself to read inches of newspaper columns devoted to it to check my reactions and scan my body for any sign of arousal. Ever heard the expression “if you look for something enough you’ll find it”? Well I can confirm it’s true. If you think about arousal for long enough you will find it somewhere in the body.  Yet another nail in my paedophile coffin.

It was unbearable. I confided in my sister but then wished I hadn’t done so as I became convinced that she would never allow me near any children she may have in the future. I told myself that I would just stay away from all children if that was what was necessary and so I made the decision then and there that I would never have children of my own. I was desperate to have some respite from the tyranny of the thoughts and I thought about injecting myself with heroin just to have a moment’s relief from the crushing anxiety and the endless onslaught of thoughts and images that were screeching for my attention. But then I remembered that I also had contamination fears about needles and that put paid to that. Thanks OCD.

I felt shame by the bucket load, I felt guilty that I wasn’t ‘confessing’ as I was sure that these thoughts must have their roots in something  but equally I was frozen with the fear that I couldn’t possibly articulate it because it was the one thing that society vilified the most. I thanked people for Christmas presents that I felt I surely didn’t deserve because if anyone possibly knew what was going on in my mind they wouldn’t want to reward me for it. I have never felt so lonely as I did at Christmas. New Year came and went in a haze of vomiting from the sheer horror of it all. It cast a long and dark shadow.

This was roughly 15 years ago and whilst my OCD worries shifted and changed this is the one that has remained constant – my darkest shadow, my unwanted companion. Even when my OCD has been at it’s most well- behaved it has been there gnawing away at me.

This has been the hardest blog post for me to write  – not only because I’ve had to write the word paedophile over and over again (My CBT therapist would be delighted!) but because even now the whispering voice of OCD is softly saying that I will be getting a call from the police tonight.

I have to write this blog post though. I googled “paeodphile OCD blogs” before I wrote this (you can only imagine the anxiety that caused!) and hardly anything came up. This isn’t because it’s  an uncommon obsession it’s because people can’t bear to say the words out loud – to admit to the darkest thoughts a mind could have. My sister asked me why am I writing it now? And the answer to that is simple. Because I am getting better. I have been taught that these thoughts are just intrusive thoughts that have no substance and that the reason that I have suffered with it so much is because the idea is so abhorrent to me. I have learnt that people with OCD definitely do not act on these thoughts, in fact as my examples show we usually go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that everyone is safe. I cannot bear for a 15 year old to google their worries and find nothing and thus seal their fate for the next 15 years. I didn’t have google back then or anyone that I could ask and so simply put this post is for my 15 year old self.

I am also writing this post for OCD awareness week to raise awareness of one of the lesser spoken about obsessions that people with OCD have.

Finally I would like to send a message to those who are marketing products as ‘OCD’. You really need some awareness training. Yes Tesco I’m talking about you and your “OCD” chopping board and Obsessive Compulsive cosmetics with their whole range of ‘obsessive’ products. So think about this when you’re all sitting around your board room table patting yourselves on the back for coming up with the OCD tag line. It’s really not that clever, in fact it’s lazy marketing with an inaccurate sentiment at its’ core. And if that doesn’t help you then think about this when you’re considering using it…. a chopping board that worries obsessively that it’s a paedophile – doesn’t seem so hilarious now does it?

Emily x

More info about Paedophile OCD: http://www.ocduk.org/ice-breaker

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/culturally-speaking/201212/could-i-be-pedophile-the-worst-kind-ocd

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/aug/31/pure-ocd-the-naked-truth

29 thoughts on “I’m soooo (paedophile) OCD – OCD Awareness Week October 2013

  1. Oh my goodness, I thought it was just me! I have had the intrusive thoughts about so many things… Suicide, harming others etc, even though I know that in a million years I would never hurt anyone, especially a child. The more anxious I became about having the thoughts, the more they invaded my daily life. I worked through it on my own, but what a dark time it was… Thank you for this, I don’t feel so alone now. I didn’t even think OCD was a possible cause until now.

    • Hi Jay, I’m really glad you came across this post! It’s horrible when you think you’re the only one so I’m glad that you know now that you’re not 🙂 Thanks for commenting and well done for working through it on your own, that’s not an easy thing to do so credit to you! Emily x

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  3. So brave of you to write about your intrusive thoughts in this way Emily. I suffer in a similar way (though my OCD has been kind enough to give me a whole range of distressing intrusive thoughts to choose from!) and I’m sure there will be many people who read this blog who breathe a huge sigh of relief and think ‘it’s not just me’. The media shies away from highlighting pure OCD, and it’s such a shame as it strengthens the taboo around harm/sexual OCD. We need to do more to break this taboo and your blog is a perfect example of how to start. People need to know that OCD is not just excessive cleaning. So give yourself a huge pat on the back and I hope it gives you a real confidence to continue raising awareness in such a courageous style!

    I’ve learnt so much about dealing with pure OCD, and just as a recommendation yoga nidra guided meditations are tremendous for relaxation. Cognitive defusion techniques are very good too. And in the end it comes down to standing up to OCD as much as we can – extremely painful as it may be but ‘running towards the roar’ of anxiety rather than away is the best motto to live by.

  4. Hi David, I just replied to your other comment so I’ll keep this short but thanks for your comments, it is very reassuring to know that there are other people who are fighting the same battle (though of course I would never wish this on anyone!). I’m glad you’ve learnt a lot about dealing with OCD. If you want to share please feel free to do so on here 🙂
    Emily

  5. Your story is identical to mine, just substitute “homosexual” (THAT was hard to type) for “paedophile”. I am so sorry for the pain you’ve been through, but I am very happy you are getting better. Thank you for your brave article. It helped me tremendously to not feel so alone.

    • Hi, thank you for your comment and well done on writing the word ‘homosexual’! I’m glad my blog post was able to help – this particular post has had the highest number of views of any of my posts so we’re really not alone 🙂 Thanks again for commenting. Emily x

    • Hi, welcome to my blog. Glad you found it although obviously would prefer it that you didn’t have it at all! Yep intrusive thoughts suck, it’s been good ‘meeting’ other people who have had same experiences. I hope you’re finding ways to manage your own OCD 🙂 Emily x

  6. Thanks Emily – beautifully written and much of what you says really resonates with me. Have had many of the same thoughts/experiences.
    Hope you continue to put your OCD bully in its places.
    Ellie

    • Hi Ellie,
      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. Sorry to hear that you’ve had many of the same experiences, hope you’ve been able to receive treatment too and start recovery from OCD.
      All the best
      Emily x

  7. Hi Emily, this is a really inspiring article and it’s wonderfully written. I’m sorry you had to go through all that on your own! I actually started suffering from POCD a month or two ago after watching a movie about pedophiles. It sucks. Do you have any advice on how to overcome it? Thank you for your courage,
    Gary

  8. Hi Gary,
    Thank you for bravely leaving a comment here. As you will see, you are definitely not alone in all of this (this is my most commented on post) which I think says it all 🙂 In terms of advice, the first thing I would say is to seek professional help. Whilst, of course there’s lots of legwork you can do yourself it doesn’t beat the help of a good, qualified therapist. The NICE guidance suggests that for OCD Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) combined with ERP (Exposure Response Prevention) is the most successful at treating it. I don’t know where you’re based but if you’re in the UK you can access it on the NHS. Alternatively, you can do it privately but make sure that they’re accredited and registered with the right professional bodies etc and that they have experience of working with people with OCD.
    The other helpful thing to do is have a think about what your compulsions are e.g. do you seek a lot of reassurance, maybe you avoid looking at children etc. Once you know what they are it will be easier to start challenging them and start overcoming OCD. A lot of CBT therapy works at exposing yourself to what you fear but without doing any of your compulsions. Its’ aim is to get you to tolerate uncertainty and the anxiety which unfortunately seems to be the best way to silence OCD. The reason I think it’s better to do this with a qualified therapist is because this can be quite daunting to do and they can guide you through this and make sure you’re doing it at a good/suitable pace and not overwhelming yourself. They tend to set you weekly homework which you can then feedback on the following week. To give you an example I had to write a ‘script’ all about my fear taking it through to its worst outcome – this is quite a good article about imaginal exposures but again I would say do it with the support of a trained therapist who can make sure you are doing it correctly. http://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/72634/gillihanexrppitfals2012.pdf

    I hope that’s been of some help, it does get better I promise. If you have any other questions, please leave another comment here. I try to answer them fairly quickly.
    All the best 🙂 Emily

  9. I actually do not have the words to tell you what an amazing person you are to have written this. Such a distressing form of OCD. I too suffer from this and your bravery is so inspiring. You will have helped (and continue to help) so many people who suffer in silence. Thank you. Christine

    • Hi,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad you came across this blog post so you can see you are not alone, this is honestly my most read blog post (by a long way) which just shows that it’s more common than anyone would ever think – it’s just a shame it never gets spoken about.
      I hope you’re doing well on your recovery journey.
      Sending you all my very best thoughts
      Emily x

  10. Wow. What a relief to know other people have had the same fears and guilt. This is one of the fears that is definitely affecting what I choose to pursue as a career. I would love to be a doctor or work with kids in some way but until I overcome this fear it’ll have to be put on hold.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your bravery both in writing about this and in facing your fears is inspiring. 🙂

    • Hi, thank you so much for commenting on this post. You are definitely not the only one to have these fears – as you can probably see it’s one of my most commented on posts and is definitely the most read (by far!). I’m sorry to hear that it’s impacting on your career choices, I wish you well in pursuing recovery and your dreams as a result 🙂 Emily x

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  12. Thank you thank you thank you for writing this! I have personally come a long way with my POCD/OCD in general, but I struggled for years with POCD and I still find it hard to talk to others about it because of the nature of my obsessions. Just discovering that it’s one of the more common facets of Pure-OCD and reading about others having the exact same experience was immensely helpful to me, so I’m glad you wrote this because I know it will help someone out there struggling with the same awful thing 🙂

    • Hi Ali,
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting on this post. As you can see it is commented on so frequently (and there were we thinking we were the only people to have these thoughts right?!). I’m so glad you found your way to the blog and are able to see that there are many others in the same position. I’m also happy to hear that you’ve come a long way, it’s great to hear 🙂 Emily x

      • Funny story: I spent so many years in the throes of POCD, thinking I was mostly alone — come to find out, not only was I not alone, one of my SO’s best friends who I hung out with pretty regularly was struggling with the same thing! Now we’re support buddies 🙂

  13. Thank you soooo much for this post. I to suffer from this type of ocd (among others). Dealing with it over the years has gotten much easier but when i was a teen it really messes with me. I’m gay (which was already something i couldn’t come to terms with back then) and every time i would hear people talk about homosexuality and the dangers of it they would link pedophilia and being gay together. I became paranoid that i was probably attracted to kids and didn’t know it yet. I always wanted to be a teacher ( still do) and was afraid that subconsciously it was because i want to sexually harm children. I would do that thing i talked about where if i looked at a child check to see of my body reacted. It drove me crazy, still does sometimes. and thought that if i had a kid especially a daughter being that i am a lesbian what if i became attracted to her. I know now that i just don’t want kids because i just don’t and that i don’t want to harm children its just the ocd. Sorry for the post being so long and all over the place. Thanks again. Taya.

    • Hi Taya!
      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your own experiences. It sounds like you’ve had a lot to deal with over the years with your OCD but it sounds like you’ve made great steps in recognising it just for what it is – the OCD monster! I hope that you make it to being a teacher, if it’s what you’d love to do 🙂
      Thanks again for your really thoughtful comment.
      Emily x

  14. Thank you so much for this post. I am 14 and have been suffering in silence with this for so long. I can’t get therapy and though it’s been getting better, it’s been absolute hell. It’s especially nice to know someone about my age had suffered with it. The few people that I had read about who had it, were adult males. So I figured because I had started worrying about it now, before I had any kinds of real relationships-It must be true and not OCD. My love for children suddenly turned to fear and I was constantly in distress, checking myself and worrying. I feared I would never be happy again, but i’m starting to have hope again that I CAN get back to normal. Thank you Emily.

    • Hi ‘anon’,
      Thank you so much for being brave enough to comment on this post. It was written for people like you who are struggling with the same thoughts I struggled with so I’m so glad you found it. I’m sorry to hear you can’t get therapy, I don’t know where you are based or your circumstances but there are things you could try. If it’s location that’s preventing you from accessing therapy there are some therapists who do skype appointments. Of course there are financial costs to that so if that’s a problem perhaps you could try working your way through some of the workbooks that are out there to help deal with OCD. One of my favourites is called “Mindfulness workbook for OCD” It has a chapter specifically devoted to this type of OCD and gives you exercises you can do to help overcome it. You can see it here: http://www.bookdepository.com/Mindfulness-Workbook-for-OCD-Jon-Hershfield/9781608828784
      You definitely CAN overcome it and get through it all. Please let me know how you get on 🙂 Emily x

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