Understanding the ‘disease’ of paedophilia

Paedophilia is the sexual attraction some adults harbour for prepubertal children. A person with paedophilia is called a paedophile.

Since there exists many misconceptions about this condition, this article attempts to provide readers with basic information about paedophilia and those afflicted by it.

Paedophilia and child molestation

Paedophilia is defined as an adult’s intense and ongoing sexual orientation with children, generally age 13 or younger, both boys and girls. There is a higher number of men with paedophilia than women.

People usually confuse paedophilia with child molestation. While child molesters are defined by their acts, paedophiles are characterised by their desire.

It is scientifically estimated that about half of confirmed child molesters are not in fact sexually attracted to their victims.

On the other hand, a paedophile may not engage in any sexual act with a child. In fact, many pedophiles do not molest children, and consider engaging in any type of sexual contact with one, against their morals.

Paedophilia is not a choice

Recent studies show that paedophilia may have neurological origins. It has been suggested that this condition could be the consequence of the brain’s failure to identify the environment stimuli that arouses a sexual response.

A finding also claims that men with paedophilia are three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous.

Other evidence shows that the disruption of neurological development while the child is in the mother’s womb or in early childhood can contribute to the increased risk of a person developing paedophilia.

When taking tests on visual-spatial ability and verbal memory, men with paedophilia on average, have lower scores than normal men.

What is Paedophilic Disorder?

Paedophilic disorder occurs when paedophilia becomes a mental disorder that causes a paedophile specific distress or interpersonal trouble.

In order for an individual to be diagnosed with Paedophilic Disorder, the following conditions must be detected:

• At least a six-month period in which the individual experiences frequent, strong sexual fantasies and urges involving sexual activity with a specific prepubescent child.

• The individual has acted on urges or suffers from significant anxiety or faces trouble with social and job functions, or other aspects of life.

• The individual is at least 16 years old and five years older than the child.

Living with Paedophilic Disorder may lead to many other psychological problems such as depression, anxiety and alienation.

Paedophiles diagnosed with this disorder usually experience feelings of frustration, isolation, and difficulty in achieving their personal goals.

Treatment for paedophilia

Most experts believe it is impossible to cure paedophilia. However, therapy may help a paedophile get their feelings under control and refrain from acting on them.

A combination of dynamic psychotherapy, behavioural techniques, chemical approaches, and surgical interventions can work if the paedophile is willing to admit and accept his problem, and participate in treatment.

For those at a high risk of committing sexual offences, medication can be prescribed to reduce the intensity of the patient’s sex life.

This article first appeared in hellodoktor.com and was reviewed by Dr Duyen Le. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.