Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD

I can’t stop thinking about molesting a child family member

By Amber Samson, LCPC

Oct 21, 20224 minute read

Reviewed byPatrick McGrath, PhD

It may be OCD

If you are experiencing thoughts about molesting a child family member, it may be a sign that you have Postpartum OCD, Harm OCD, or Pedophilia OCD. These OCD subtypes exist to help you conveniently understand a common set of OCD symptoms, but they are more alike than they are different. They all involve obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are intrusive thoughts, urges, mental images, and doubts that are unwanted and distressing. Compulsions are behavioral or mental rituals done to help relieve anxiety: this can include reassurance-seeking, avoidance, and checking. It is common to develop OCD immediately after becoming a new parent, but OCD can develop at any point in someone’s lifetime. It is not commonly known that OCD symptoms can include unwanted sexual obsessions about children as well as concerns about causing harm to others. These concerns may make you want to avoid being around your family, even your own children, or any children whatsoever. You may feel the need to constantly reassure yourself. You might experience symptoms of depression because these fears cause you to lose trust in yourself. You likely do not understand why you are having thoughts that you have never experienced before.

What if my fears are legitimate? What if I’m a bad person?

If you are experiencing these thoughts about molesting a child or family member and they are distressing to you rather than pleasant or expected, this is an indication that the intrusive thoughts are contrary to your real desire.

OCD often latches onto the things that we value the most, like the safety of our children and family members. Intrusive thoughts caused by OCD are ego dystonic, meaning these thoughts are not in line with who you are, what you believe, or what you want to do. People with OCD who experience these unwanted thoughts about molesting a child or family member are no more likely to act on these thoughts than anyone else. Instead, they try to do anything within their power to prevent themselves from acting on these thoughts or even thinking about them.

The risk of acting on these fears is very low, but the OCD causes you to experience obsessional fear and anxiety about even the smallest shred of uncertainty. Having these thoughts does not mean anything about you as a person—it just means that the OCD is latching on to the fact that you care so much about children and would do anything to ensure their safety. OCD is attempting to protect you and your values; it just does it in a very ineffective manner that creates intense anxiety and fear, rather than actually keeping anyone safe.

How to treat molestation OCD fears

If fears about molesting a child family member are causing you to suffer, you can get better by seeking therapy with a licensed mental health professional who is trained in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

ERP is the most effective form of treatment for OCD. Treatment involves facing and challenging your obsessional fears through a series of gradual exposures, or situations designed to provoke uncertainty and anxiety. ERP teaches you how to face anxiety-provoking thoughts and situations (such as the fear of molesting a child or family member if left alone with them) without doing compulsions in an attempt to relieve the anxiety

By doing these exposures, you will learn to tolerate the anxiety caused by intrusive thoughts and gradually stop relying on compulsive behaviors. You may fear sharing these thoughts out loud with anyone, but a trained ERP professional understands that these thoughts are not representative of your identity or desires, and knows how to treat them. You are not alone in what you are experiencing, and there is help available to you

If you’re struggling with OCD, you can schedule a free 15-minute call today with the NOCD care team to learn how a licensed therapist can help. At NOCD, all therapists specialize in OCD and receive ERP-specific training. ERP is most effective when the therapist conducting the treatment has experience with OCD and training in ERP.

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