In this blog we will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatment of Pedophobia.
Pedophobia is an intense fear of children and infants that arises due to hereditary factors or also could arise due to obsessive thoughts.
Children are a source of love and joy in every culture, they are the very reason couples’ mate and also the very reason parents spend a lifetime working and making a life for them. Children love us unconditionally, not expecting anything in return other than our love and attention.
To raise kids and teach them values all that is required is patience and attention. But there are people who see children as a threat to such an extent that they develop a serious fear of them. Avoiding them in every possible way becomes the motive of their existence and if it cannot happen then the person suffering from Pedophobia undergoes a full-blown panic attack.
Pedophobia is even triggered by even thinking of children when they are not present. It is an emotional state that brings with it an aversion. There has to be a reason as to why children are a source of anxiety. As Susan Sarandon, the famous Hollywood actress says, ‘children reinvent your world for you’. So, a cause might lie there of one’s own childhood trauma that now haunts them yet again in the form of other children.
Pedophobia is an irrational fear of children and infants that could arise due to factors that are beyond a person’s control.
Symptoms of Pedophobia
- Sweaty palms
- Hot or cold flashes
- Constricted breathing
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Muscle tension
- Compulsion to escape
- Fear of losing control
- Feeling unreal or detached
Causes of Pedophobia
Pedophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no known cause. These types of phobias can be a result of a number of factors such as biological (genetics) and or environmental (past experiences or social learning).
Genetics refers to the genes and neurotransmitters in our body. Someone with a family history of a phobia/mental disorder has a higher chance of having the same or different disorder in the future. This is because the genes of the parents are transferred to their children, thus any alteration in the genes of one’s parents is inherited by the child.
This genetic tendency to develop a mental disorder/specific phobia can also be referred to as a Diathesis-stress relationship. According to this, one with a genetic predisposition will not develop symptoms of Mysophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of germs.
As mentioned earlier, one can develop Pedophobia as a result of OCD. Thus, someone who is already diagnosed with this disorder is more likely to have this irrational fear of children.
An environmental trigger event can be for example, a traumatic childhood experience with infants or children. It could have happened that an accident occurred in the presence of a child or maybe due to an item related to a child, this left a fear of children in general. The root cause is still embedded in a personal experience and can be ousted with therapy.
Another reason to develop Pedophobia could be a miscarriage or a lost child in an accident. To avoid the psychological and physical pain the woman may develop Pedophobia as a reaction formation. This in turn will ease her pain of not having a child but at the same time will make her anxious in the presence of children. In short, taking one pain to avoid another pain.
Adults with Pedophobia firmly believe that children are messy and noisy, leaving behind their fingerprints, and in general create nuisance. Some have the fear that kids know more than them, for instance about sex, drugs, violence, technology etc. This can also be a cause for Ephebiphobia.
Some Pedophobes suffer from Pediophobia, a fear of dolls and relate them to infants or young children.
Thus, pedophobia is caused by both a genetic predisposition and environmental trigger events.
Treatment of Pedophobia
Pedophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it. Like all the other specific phobias, Pedophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Exposure Therapy, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) and or medications that lower downs the anxiety or other physical symptoms.
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is one of the most frequently used treatments for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders. Pedophobia is defined as the irrational fear of children or infants. Thus, the therapist helps the patient in replacing these irrational thoughts with more rational ones.
The patients are helped out in analyzing and justifying the way they feel about children. Therapists assist them in uncovering the reasons behind their fear and later they provide them with alternate, pleasant thoughts.
The patient is told to maintain a thought diary (with ABCD column) which provides them a replacement for every irrational thought they have, when thinking about a particular situation. The ABCD stands for:
i. A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.
ii. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.
iii. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought
iv. D (dispute) alternate, rational thoughts provided by the therapist in an attempt to dispute/challenge those irrational beliefs.
This last section of the thought diary is what really plays a role in helping the person feel good/less anxious.
• Exposure Therapy
It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Pedophobia (or any other kind of specific phobia). In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his fear over a certain span of time. To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a picture of a child.
As the therapy progresses and the patient is able to control his anxious feelings, imagery can be used to take the treatment a step further. In this part of the treatment the patient is asked to visualize/imagine a situation in which he is touching a child or playing with one. During this process of imagery, one actually feels being in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.
Once the person successfully, without feeling anxious clears this step of the therapy, he is then exposed to a child physically.
While the patient is being exposed to different intensities of stimuli during the various stages of therapy, the therapist simultaneously teaches them coping exercises. These include, breathing techniques or muscle relaxation methods to lower their anxiety, when in an actual fear/anxiety causing situation. This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to the fear stimuli.
Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patient’s fear, as to deduce whether they will be able to undergo this treatment, without any physical or psychological harm caused to them during the exposure processes.
However, these steps desensitize one to their fear of children, by exposing them to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.
• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR is a meditation therapy, used to manage stress or anxiety. It is an 8-week program which includes group sessions. Mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga are practiced in these sessions. Lectures and group discussions are also done to talk about mental health and increase interactivity.
In mindfulness meditation the person is told to, for example, to focus on the sensations felt while breathing or the rhythm of the chest rising and falling during the process. This distracts the person’s attention from something stressful to something which is neutral and soothing.
For quick and effective treatment, patients are also given a set of home works, for example 45 minutes of yoga and meditation sessions for 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15 minutes a day.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Pedophobia. It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of specific phobias. Coping skills are taught in the DBT group which lasts for about 6-months and can have a number of people (depending on how many join the group).
i. Half-smiling is the first module of DBT. It is a technique that is used with patients who are distressed because of their irrational thoughts. The technique is known as ‘Half-smiling’ because the person is first advised to think about the stimuli that fears or upsets them, and while doing so they are told to lift the corners of their mouths by subtly smiling. Smiling is not that will help one get rid of these unpleasant thoughts, it is the person’s ability to constrain itself from thinking about those thoughts while half smiling.
ii. Mindfulness, the second module, is another technique used in DBT groups which helps the individual in getting rid of those negative thoughts. Individuals are told to focus on the present and be attentive to what is going on around them at the moment. This helps in breaking the link between their mind and any negative thought that might come to them then.
iii. The third technique or module of the DBT is distress tolerance skills. This module teaches people to calm themselves down in healthy ways when they are distressed or emotionally overwhelmed. Individuals are allowed to make wise, rational decisions and take immediate action, rather than being captured by emotionally destructive thoughts that might make the situation worse. Reality acceptance skills are also learnt under this model so that people fully accept reality and later make plans on how to address the problem.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Pedophobia, instead they are one of the most common ways of relaxation used by many people. Yoga tends to stimulate the meditative state of one’s mind while the person is in a particular yoga posture. Through yoga/meditation the mind is diverted towards something more productive and calmer, allowing the person to escape the negative, distress causing thoughts.
Out of a number of yoga types, one can benefit from any yoga type/pose they like. Hatha yoga is one of the different types of yoga. The breathing techniques or the imagery one creates while in a yoga posture are the real factors that makes the person feel less anxious and diverts their mind, away from the thoughts about germs.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Pedophobia. Drugs are very quick in effectiveness, as they start showing progress in the patients’ health at least 2 weeks after the medicine is taken.
This type of biological treatment is usually more effective if the cause of the phobia is only genetic. However, these drugs/medicines are not to be taken without a doctor’s prescription or consultation.
Two types of drugs are used in the treatment of this phobia:
i. Anti-anxiety Drugs
Medicines like Klonopin are anti-anxiety drugs. They are most commonly used with patients who experience panic attacks and also lowers their anxiety by binding to receptor cells of the brain that cause these unpleasant symptoms.
ii. Antidepressant Drugs
These drugs, as the name suggests don’t only treat depression but are also very effective in treating phobias. Medicines like Paxil reduce the anxious feelings of a person and makes him feel calm. They need to be taken on a daily basis but not without a doctor’s advice.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What does Pedophobia mean?
Pedophobia is an irrational fear of children and infants.
- Is it scary to have a baby?
It is not scary to have a baby, but one can be apprehensive for the first time as to what might happen during child birth or how would I be able to care for the baby.
- What causes baby fear?
Fears are caused by real or imaginary stimuli. There are times that people fear babies due to an event that took place involving babies.
- How do I overcome my fear of babies?
The fear of babies can be overcome through a combination of therapies.
Titles to Read From
- Fear and Gendering: Pedophobia, Effeminophobia, and Hyermasculine Desire in the Work of Juan Goytisolo
- Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks Fast
by Barry McDonagh and BMD Publishing
- Overcoming Anxiety, Worry, and Fear: Practical Ways to Find Peace
by Gregory L. Jantz Ph.D. and Ann McMurray
- The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day
by Andy Puddicombe