Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD
What is OCDOCD SubtypesI watched incest porn. Is there something wrong with me? What therapists say

I watched incest porn. Is there something wrong with me? What therapists say

10 min read
Elle Warren

By Elle Warren

Reviewed by April Kilduff, MA, LCPC

Oct 31, 2023

Possibly related to:

Any sex therapist or specialist will tell you, backed by plentiful research, that fantasies do not necessarily indicate something you want to happen in your real life. Esther Perel, sex therapist, researcher, and author, explains that most of us struggle to discuss our sexual fantasies because they’re often considered “forbidden, immoral, perverse—a line not to cross, something not to do.” 

Our imaginations are unlimited and have the ability to run away from us, both within and outside of a sexual context. Many people enjoy horror movies, for example, but that doesn’t mean they want to run away from a masked, chainsaw-wielding predator. 

The fact that you’re worried something could be wrong with you is a good indicator that you don’t desire what you watched in reality—but that alone is unlikely to make you feel better. If you’re still worried, keep reading for why that might be and what you can do about your anxiety and discomfort.

Can’t stop thinking about the fact that you watched incest porn?

Are you having repeated, distressing thoughts to the tune of, Am I a horrible person? Do I really want this? Am I a pervert? Am I secretly attracted to a family member? If so, it’s possible you’re experiencing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). If that’s surprising to you, it’s probably because the way OCD is commonly portrayed is pretty misleading—let’s go over what OCD really is. 

What is OCD?

OCD begins with unwanted intrusive thoughts, fears, urges, images, sensations, or feelings, known as obsessions. Obsessions are ego-dystonic, meaning they’re out of alignment with the sufferer’s values, beliefs, and actual desires. The worry that you could be into incest? That’s an example of an obsession.

Dr. Nicholas Farrell, licensed psychologist and Regional Clinical Officer at NOCD, explains that something is ego-dystonic when “a person recognizes that the nature of their thoughts run counter to their worldview.”

Everyone has intrusive thoughts, but people with OCD feel unable to dismiss them as strange and untrue from who they are. They worry that the thoughts “mean something” about them, and are unable to move on.

The second component of OCD is compulsions. Compulsions are any actions, mental or physical, done to relieve yourself of the distress or discomfort that comes from your obsessions. In this case, something like avoiding your sibling out of fear that they could trigger distressing thoughts would be an example of a compulsion.

OCD can latch onto anything that we value. There are a couple of common subtypes, or themes, of OCD that might be behind your distress surrounding incest porn.

The first is scrupulosity OCD. This subtype focuses on perceived failings or trespasses against one’s moral, ethical, or religious code. Your intrusive thoughts might sound like:

  • I watched incest porn, so that must mean I’m a horrible person who wants to commit incest.
  • What if I’m actually a pervert?
  • What if I’m a sexual deviant who needs to be in prison?
  • I can’t be a good member of the church and watch any kind of porn, let alone incest porn.
  • Porn is usually unethical, and I pride myself on being ethical, so if I watch it, does that mean I’m not who I say I am? What if everything I think about myself is a lie?

Naturally, because these thoughts that won’t go away are causing you to question your character, values, and beliefs, you become desperate to “solve” them, to find relief. This is where compulsions come in. Compulsions could look like:

  • Conducting excessive research online to attempt to “get to the bottom” of whether or not you’re immoral.
  • Seeking reassurance from yourself or others. Repeating to yourself, I am a really good person or asking a friend, “Do you ever watch weird kinds of porn?”
  • Mentally reviewing past memories and scenarios to look for evidence of you being immoral/unethical.
  • Consuming media about people you perceive as immoral and comparing yourself to them, noting all the ways you’re similar or different.
  • Watching incest porn again to prove to yourself that you don’t like it.
  • Those who are experiencing the religious side of this theme may compulsively pray, asking to be forgiven, for their thoughts to go away, etc.

The other theme of OCD that this could be tied to is sexual OCD. This theme latches onto taboo or inappropriate sexual fantasies or ideas, often about people that you do not want to think about in a sexual context, including family members. Intrusive thoughts involved in this theme, with a focus on family members, could sound like:

The compulsions may be similar to the ones listed before, but with a focus on trying to “prove” to yourself that you are not sexually aroused by or interested in a family member. 

You might mentally review past experiences with family members to look for any evidence of attraction or desire. You might repeat to yourself, I am not attracted to my family member. This is crazy. You might consume true crime media about people who committed incest and take note of all the ways you differ from them.

A common phenomenon among those with themes that are sexual in nature is something known as the groinal response. Dr. Farrell explains this as “a perception of psychological reactivity or arousal in the groinal region.” The OCD sufferer will “misappraise this as an indication of genuine sexual arousal or desire,” he explains.

The groinal response can start as an intrusive sensation, and then become part of a compulsion. For example, you might turn on incest porn and then “check” to see if you have a groinal response, using that as a marker of whether or not you “really like it” or “really want it.” 

In reality, however, our bodies are not accurate indicators of how we truly feel or think. Have you ever heard someone talk about lice and then, all of a sudden, your head starts itching? Just typing the word lice made my head itch. It’s a common phenomenon that when we think about or anticipate a physical sensation, we actually provoke that sensation—especially when feelings of anxiety are triggered. 

When we have an itch on our head, we probably don’t typically assume that we have lice. When someone with sexual OCD experiences a groinal response, though, they assume it has to indicate true desire or arousal. 

World-class OCD treatment covered by insurance

NOCD Therapists accept most major insurance plans to help you access the care you need.

How can you get help?

All subtypes of OCD—even the ones that feel the hardest to talk about—are effectively treated with exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP). To start, you and your therapist work together to identify all of your obsessions and the situations that trigger them. Then, you will continue to work together to develop a hierarchy of therapy exercises, which are exercises you come up with to confront your triggers one by one. You’ll start with those that bring the least distress and work your way up to the most difficult ones.

Exposures for someone worried that they morally or religiously “bad” or “corrupt” could include:

  • Watching a movie about someone who goes against your moral or religious code
  • Writing down your fear and reading it back to yourself repeatedly, such as, “I am a bad person” or “I may or may not be sexually devious”
  • Watching a YouTube video discussing incest
  • Not praying or confessing an excessive amount

Exposures for someone worried they could have a desire incest could include (some overlap with the above examples):

  • Reading a book where a character is interested in or engaging in incest
  • Reading news articles about incest cases
  • Writing down and repeating back to yourself, “I might want to commit incest” or “I could be attracted to my [family member]”
  • Watching a YouTube video about incest—perhaps by an incest survivor

The second essential component of ERP is response prevention, and it’s absolutely crucial for recovery. This means resisting the urge to engage in compulsions before, during, and after exposures. Your therapist will give you tools to practice response prevention, such as:

  • Mental noting. This technique provides separation between you and your thoughts. When you experience an intrusive thought, you can say to yourself, “I am noticing that I’m having this thought.” This disrupts your connection between the thought and the emotional response that leads you to engage in compulsions.
  • Attention vs. awareness. This technique helps you practice the difference between attention and awareness. Specifically, you can learn to simply notice your thoughts, without giving your attention to them. There’s no point in trying to not be aware of your thoughts, as trying not to think about something often makes them come back stronger. Rather, say to yourself, “I am aware of this thought, and it can be with me as I go about my day, complete my normal tasks, and direct my attention to things that matter.”
  • Non-engagement responses. This technique works by not giving OCD the influence it craves, and not fighting back against distressing feelings. Rather, you give yourself permission to not engage with the thoughts at all. Think of it like standing up to a bully. If you shout back at a bully, the conflict is likely to escalate. If you shrug your shoulders and say, “yeah, okay,” they don’t have much to work with. If OCD tells you, “you are a bad, devious person,” you can try saying back, “okay, whatever.” This way, your brain has not sounded the alarm and made your intrusive trigger feel meaningful. Remember: obsessive thought patterns, like worries about being into incest, don’t actually mean anything about who you are or what you desire in life. Non-engagement with these thoughts can help your brain learn this lesson.

Though you won’t be perfect at resisting compulsions overnight, you will get better over time. You’ll learn to accept discomfort and uncertainty, and to recognize intrusive thoughts for what they are. Trust the process that has brought so many others relief from the distress and impairment of OCD. 

If you feel like you couldn’t possibly share your intrusive thoughts out loud, even to a trained professional, Dr. Farrell says that he validates this concern while also making sure people know that intrusive thoughts are a “universal experience.” He says, “There isn’t anything distinct about folks with OCD in terms of the content of their obsessions.”

In other words, there are other people who have the same exact intrusive thoughts as you, whether they have OCD or not. This is one of those cases where it’s a wonderful, true thing to say: you’re not special! Your thoughts aren’t unique, or even uncommon—OCD just puts a spotlight on them. 

Moreover, when working with a mental health professional who specializes in OCD, rest assured that they have heard it all. Nothing will shock them, and they know the true nature of OCD—that it’s ego-dystonic, and the theme of your obsessions says nothing about you. They can separate you from your OCD.

Where to go for help

No matter how gripping your fears about watching incest porn feel, you should have hope for feeling better in the future. OCD is highly treatable with the right form of therapy.

If you’re interested in working with a trustworthy, understanding, and specialty-trained OCD therapist, I recommend learning more about NOCD’s evidence-based approach to ERP therapy. Even if your worries feel unbearable right now, please know that you can recover from OCD—just as so many people before you—even when your obsessions focus on a highly taboo theme like incest.

NOCD Therapists specialize in treating OCD

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Taylor Newendorp

Taylor Newendorp

Network Clinical Training Director

I started as a therapist over 14 years ago, working in different mental health environments. Many people with OCD that weren't being treated for it crossed my path and weren't getting better. I decided that I wanted to help people with OCD, so I became an OCD therapist, and eventually, a clinical supervisor. I treated people using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and saw people get better day in and day out. I continue to use ERP because nothing is more effective in treating OCD.

Gary Vandalfsen

Gary Vandalfsen

Licensed Therapist, Psychologist

I’ve been practicing as a licensed therapist for over twenty five years. My main area of focus is OCD with specialized training in Exposure and Response Prevention therapy. I use ERP to treat people with all types of OCD themes, including aggressive, taboo, and a range of other unique types.

Madina Alam

Madina Alam

Director of Therapist Engagement

When I started treating OCD, I quickly realized how much this type of work means to me because I had to learn how to be okay with discomfort and uncertainty myself. I’ve been practicing as a licensed therapist since 2016. My graduate work is in mental health counseling, and I use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy because it’s the gold standard of OCD treatment.

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