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Is the media scared of a little POCD?

Updated: Oct 3, 2019

It is true that POCD or Paedophilia OCD is widely discussed on the internet by sufferers and their carers. As far as I know, in contrast with other sub-types, it has yet to be dealt with in detail by the media. 10 years ago a national TV company shot a documentary featuring a segment on POCD. A young client was filmed talking about his fears of harming children. He was barely more than a child himself.  It was brave for all parties, compelling and ground-breaking. It was also completely cut from the final version.

In terms of media awareness, this sub-type of OCD remains controversial and not because the media understand what it involves, but because they don’t. Those that don’t understand have inferred that sufferers are bombarded with alarming images and thoughts of paedophilia and all that might suggest, i.e., latent paedophilia traits. This isn’t true. People with this subtype are obsessed with the possibility that they could be a bad person of any description and this is their core concern. What happens then, is that the sufferer is bombarded by the graphic, often highly judgmental and influential media reporting of current atrocities which become the focus for people with Responsibility OCD.  And since the press is currently heavily weighted towards paedophilia, in the wake of recent cases, this becomes a focal point for the person with Responsibility OCD. They will fixate more specifically on paedophilia because it is the worst crime they can imagine, the one that will generate most public disapproval and personal self-loathing. They then resort to frantic attempts to not think violent or sexual thoughts whilst simultaneously avoiding children. Naturally such suppression eventually makes the obsessions more frequent and intensive – ironic process theory.

During the last 10 years, being a child-abuser or pervert has become the most commonly presenting sub-set of Responsibility OCD in my practice and has become generally known as POCD. Were the media and society to turn their attention towards animal abuse or tax fraud, the outcome would be the same. In other words, POCD has nothing to do with the sufferer having paedophile intentions, it has to do with them avoiding terrible disapproval, guilt, shame and public vilification – the means to that being irrelevant. Indeed, the ‘P’ or paedophile aspect of POCD is irrelevant and there is no one safer to be with your children since they would rather harm themselves than your child. That is the whole point.

Can you imagine how you'd feel if you were 14 years old & it mistakenly occurred to you that you could abuse children? You might conclude that the world is much better off without you (yes, I've heard that many times). What if you were a father of 3 who couldn't bathe his children or a young mother breastfeeding? How many suicides or self-harms have been prompted by this horrific but entirely erroneous worry? This is a cruel and heartless manifestation of OCD and the media would do just as well to man up and raise awareness since they played their own part in its inception. What are they scared of exactly? Disapproval?

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Robert Hansen
Robert Hansen
Dec 09, 2022

This is an old post, but boy have things changed. Unfortunately, having thoughts of sex with young children is now part of the definition of POCD. And it isn't the media's fault, practices say this explicitly. Unfortunately, this move to give celibate pedophiles a nicer label has made POCD a very dirty word.

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