Commonly known as POCD, this is a very common and very misunderstood form of OCD. I’ve never suffered from it but I truly believe it to be one of the most horrific type of OCD – it’s difficult enough to seek help for a mental health problem, but admitting to your GP, who may have little knowledge of OCD (but that’s another post in itself!), that you worry that you might sexually molest your children? Can you imagine how hard that must be?
I think that out of the people that I’ve met with OCD, people with this form of intrusive thoughts tend to ask for the most reassurance. It’s natural really – not only are they terrified of the thoughts themselves, but also repulsed by the idea that they may be the very thing that society despises the most. There is such a huge amount of hate directed towards paedophiles, and this is just one more thing for the person with OCD to endlessly beat themselves up about.
Let me get this straight – in people with OCD, these thoughts are ego-dystonic – the sufferer finds them utterly repulsive. These thoughts, which are perfectly normal, are hated more than anything and yet the harder they push them out of their head, the stronger they become. It’s the same process as with any sort of obsession. People with OCD who worry about being a paedophile will never act on these thoughts.
One of the other problems is that of arousal – people with these intrusive thoughts often find themselves in a hyper-alert state, checking that they aren’t aroused and questioning every sensation. As we all know, if you concentrate on an area hard enough, you will end up feeling what you’re looking for. Can you feel your socks right now? Probably not, unless they’re too tight or itchy, but if I asked you to sit for a minute and think of nothing else but whether you can feel them, you’ll probably start to feel the fabric touching your skin, the elastic around your ankle. In the same way, when people are constantly monitoring their genitals for any sign of arousal, they often misinterpret the inevitable awareness.
As with other forms of OCD, cognitive behavioural therapy can help. To read a good article that includes an example of CBT with a person suffering from these types of intrusive thoughts, click here.
Obsessively compulsively yours,