I Have Obsessive Thoughts About Pornography

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Reader’s Question

I have suffered with OCD since childhood. The things that bothered me ranged from fear of getting diseases, to religious thoughts. I would also fear that I was molesting my baby sister when I changed her diaper. Now I have become a mother, and the fear of touching my children inappropriately has been plaguing me.

I have been reading books on it this week and believed I had beaten it. Then another intrusive thought came to me about child pornography. I was afraid that I would like it if I watched it; this is so appalling to me that all I can do is cry. I was doing better last night until I remembered that I watched pornography when I was 19 — I watched barely legal episodes about people and their first time. Then I got scared, thinking that I could be capable of something that bad and enjoy it. I was so naive at the time, and I can’t remember exactly what they were, but I know I enjoyed it.

I know that I would never watch anything that involved an innocent child, but now my mind keeps making me think about what I would do if I did watch a younger one and liked it. Since I can’t remember it, my mind keeps playing tricks, making me believe that I did watch a child, even though I know I would never do anything like that. But because I can’t remember, I am doubtful because of my thoughts.

I know that my OCD thoughts about molesting my sister when I was younger were OCD, because I had never watched pornography. Up until this point, I felt like it was OCD. Now I am afraid that I am just a horrible individual, and that I need to be put away and have my kids taken from me. Is this still OCD, or am I what I fear?

Psychologist’s Reply

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder exemplified by extreme thoughts and fears (obsessions) that can lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions). As I’m sure you know, it is a very distressing disorder because the thoughts can be very difficult to manage.

One of the treatments for OCD is cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT). The strategies involved in this method include ones that help you manage your thoughts. One technique I think can be helpful is called reality testing. This is accomplished by going over the feared thought and then checking to see if it is true. For example, you feared the thought of molesting your baby sister. You would then ask yourself if you ever had molested her. If the answer is no, then you engage in thought substitution (replacing the feared thought with a less stressful one) and move forward.

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Right now it seems like your feared thoughts are about pornography. When reality testing, you need to know that watching pornography is pretty common. While some people debate the morality of such a form of entertainment, the truth is that many people enjoy it and this enjoyment doesn’t make them horrible people. Indeed, if I had a dollar for every person I know who has watched pornography, I would be a rich woman! As such, given that your viewing and enjoyment of pornography years ago didn’t lead to anything unpleasant, replace the thought and move on. Similarly, if you cannot remember watching child pornography, then I would assume you never have, and move on.

I understand that the thoughts you have are quite disturbing to you but you need to keep in mind that they are just thoughts. While I think you will feel better once you learn how to manage them better, the thoughts themselves cannot hurt you. People’s thoughts get them in trouble only when they lead to action.

The description you gave of your OCD sounds like it has made you miserable for quite a long time and I wonder if you’ve ever sought treatment. If not, perhaps it is time to give either medication or a good psychologist a try.

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