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17 Year Old, obsessional fears of being a pedophile, please help.


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Hi, I am a 17 year old boy. For about a year now, I have had intrusive thoughts which I find very difficult to control. I obsess about whether i'm a pedophile, whether I am sexually attracted to children. I have a girlfriend, we have been going out for almost 8 months. I am very sexually attracted to her and we have a great sex life.

Recently though these thoughts have become worse, and when I see young girls I usually question myself about whether I'm attracted to them or not. Then on the few occasions that I can control the thoughts and convince myself I just have a disorder, I then start to obsess about whether all pedophiles start off feeling like how I feel. I find myself noticing that I've looked at a young girl and questioning whether I choose to do it or not. I have also noticed that these thoughts are more frequent when I have allot of time to myself, or at night when i'm trying to get to sleep.

All this makes me extremely distressed, I can't tell my girlfriend because I'm worried what she'll think. She could leave me in disgust. I am generally a anxious person, and my friends and family say I over think things allot. I have stopped smoking weed because I found my thoughts are even more uncontrollable. When I'm stoned my obsessions are only deeper and more consuming. I occasionally have intrusive thoughts about jumping off a cliff, or cutting myself or sexual thoughts about family but I can usually brush past these, dismissing these as stupid. These things to me don't seem quite as horrible as being attracted to young children.

I understand that in order for these thoughts to go away I have to react to them calmly and accept them, but I find this very hard. I find it hard to accept these thoughts because I worry about the effects this might have. If I'm having these thoughts and accepting them, then what is the difference between me and a pedophile.

What I need to know is

  • are there any good techniques for controlling my mind better, making myself act calmly?
  • do I need therapy to sort this out
  • If so, considering I live in the UK is this therapy free and will my parents have to know about it?

I'd really appreciate any help/advice anyone can give me. This is really ruining my life at the moment. I find it hard to sleep sometimes if I can't shut these thoughts out.

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Hey Sid, welcome.

It helps, I think, that you know that the source of your thoughts is obsessional. None of us are pros, so I can't be sure whether you need therapy to beat this or not, but I know that most people with strong obsessions do need help with them, either talk therapy, medication, or a combination. There are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques that can help alter thought patterns, but with OCD, you may just find yourself switching to a different obsession, because the root cause isn't being addressed. And what I mean as a root cause is whatever is making you have intrusive thoughts in the first place, not the subject matter of the thoughts.

You talked about it being easier to ignore intrusive thoughts of suicide than of pedophilia, and that you manage to ignore them because they're "stupid" but not as "horrible". What if the idea of killing yourself due to a passing thought was exactly as horrible and stupid as thinking you're going to harm a child? Honestly, I don't think either thing is going to happen, precisely because of the reaction you have to either thought. But that's up to you, and it makes sense to get as much help as you can with it.

I'm not entirely sure, but I know that the British system provides more free services than we get in the States. As for your parents knowing, maybe all they need to know is that you have obsessional thinking, if that. Do you still live with them? I would hope that medical privacy laws would limit what they would be told, but I'm not sure. It's a question to ask a doctor there, maybe?

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