The Psychology of Pedophilia

PedophiliaChildren are the essence of purity and innocence in our world. Forming a disturbing mental image where your young ones are vulnerable and exposed to the dangers of child abuse and molestation is indeed a frightening thought.

The cases of child molesters committing criminal acts are increasing at an alarming rate. Many such criminals are suffering from a psychosexual disorder known as pedophilia in which they have sexual fantasies about young children with adults. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a typical pedophile molests an average of 117 children many of which are never reported. Among these cases of child abuse two-third of the children are aged below 10.

What is pedophilia?

Pedophilia is a paraphilia that can be described as an unnatural attraction towards prepubescent children. A person suffering from this psychosexual disorder exhibits an abnormal sexual attraction towards children of either sex.

Pedophiles satiate their sexual urge by fantasizing or physically engaging in sexual acts with young children. It is more common in men than women. Most mental health professionals have labelled this condition as a mental disorder while most countries consider the offender’s actions as a criminal offense.

A pedophile can easily be diagnosed if the sufferer has indulged in a sexual abuse act aimed at children or has been experiencing persistent sexual thoughts about children. The state may reach to such a severe level that the thoughts begin to hinder their life pattern and the person starts to experience interpersonal difficulties.

The term pedophilia does not restrict itself to forceful physical acts of sexual abuse aimed at children. It covers a broad horizon of sexual acts such as, exposing themselves, having genital contact with children or urging them to do so, undressing a child, engage in sexual talk, oral sex or exposing them to pornography.

How to diagnose pedophilia

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders the following characteristics and behaviour indicate the likelihood of this condition:

  • A person experiences disturbing sexual desires and thoughts about children for a recurrent period of 6 months.
  • The sexual urges begin to hamper the flow of every day events and shape into serious feelings of distress and social isolation.
  • The sexual feelings begin to impair social, personal and professional life setting.
  • The person exhibiting such behaviour is at least 16 years old and experiences sexual attraction for a child 5 years younger than him.

It is also essential in the diagnosis stage to assess where the pedophilia is exclusive or nonexclusive. Exclusive pedophilia is defined when the offender is sexually attracted to children while nonexclusive sufferer will have sexual urges for children and adults.

The major problem associated with the diagnosis of phedophilia is ignorance. The sufferer may be unwilling to approach professional help or may feel uncomfortable sharing such troublesome thoughts due to the massive social stigma associated with being labelled a pedphile.

Pedophiles often justify their negative acts by considering the whole sexual abuse as a part of child’s development. They often assure themselves that the child is seeking pleasure in the acts and there is no harm in continuing such actions. The offenders are usually relatives or family friends and thus are easily able to deceive the trust bond they share with the children whenever they get an opportunity to do so.

What is the profile of a pedophile?

  • Pedophiles are often male and over 30 years of age
  • Follow a socially isolated lifestyle of living
  • Showing an abnormal interest in children
  • Volunteering at organizations and institutions that cater to the age group 5 to 15 years.
  • Exhibit a friendly nature towards children
  • Easily able to establish a relationship of trust with young children
  • Blaming the children for their dark sexual abuse acts on the principle that they are too attractive or sexually appealing.
  • They describe children through pure terms such as innocent, angel and divine
  • May share a child-like hobby like collecting rare expensive toys

It should be understood that these are merely indicators of a pedophile and any person showing the characteristics may or may not be an offender.

What Causes Pedophilia?

The exact cause of the psychosexual disorder is unknown, however some researchers have associated genetic factors with its occurrence while others consider it to be a learned behaviour.

A disturbing child hood may contribute towards the development of a disturbed mental state that aggravates such thoughts in the offenders personality. A child exposed to inappropriate sexual behaviour may tend to learn it and reinforce it later on in life. Pedophilic individuals crave for social sexual contact and fill the deprivation gap by indulging in sexual behaviours frowned upon by the society.

Certain structural abnormalities of the brain signify the pedophilic disorder. The individuals may experience poor judgement, recurring thoughts and urges. The onset of this disorder can be a resultant of early neuro-developmental perturbations. The offender’s brain shows a decreased volume of grey brain matter, which effects the cerebellum and orbital frontal cortex which are responsible for the addictive behaviour. It is for this main reason that the condition falls in the range of obsessive compulsive spectrum.

It’s a common myth that pedophiles are homosexual, however research has shown that most pedophiles do not identify as gay and consider themselves as heterosexual, even when there has been male-to-male sexual contact. The large incidence of heterosexual family members and friends committing pedophilic acts supports this conclusion. The pedophile is attracted to the youthfulness of the child, and the gender appears to be less important for many of these people.

What Is The Treatment For Pedophilia?

Pedophilia is a life-long disease that demands a life-long treatment. Unfortunately there is no complete cure for this treatment mainly due to the absence of any confirmed cause associated with its occurrence.

Despite the fact that there is no cure available for this horrendous disorder, efforts can be made to control the negative behaviour and urges. The treatment of the disorder are as follows:

1. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy can help the person understand their urges and learn how to deal with them. This form of therapy is not successful in treating pedophilia if the offender exhibits a denial nature in which he refuses to change or has nil motivation to cooperate with the professional therapist. The therapist can either treat the patient individually or in a group interaction setting, of which the latter produces more positive results. The most common form of therapy used is cognitive-behavioural therapy.

2. Medication

The three groups of medications used to treat pedophilia are:

  • Medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA)
  • Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists
  • This includes drugs like triptorelin (Trelstar), leuprolide acetate, and goserelin acetate.
  • Anti-androgens
  • Drugs like Depo Provera suppress the production of testosterone in males and this is commonly known as ‘chemical castration’. The doctors gives the patient monthly shots and monitors the testosterone levels of the body on a regular basis.
  • Antidepressants like serotonin reuptake inhibitors

 

If you want help with dealing with sex abuse or have experienced sexual abuse, Australia Counselling links you with professional counsellors and psychologists in Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and regional areas of Australia. Just visit our Abuse- emotional, physical, sexual page to see counsellors and psychologists listed in your local area who work with these issues.

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