When I'm around children I get this intense feeling of paranoia and fear

I'm a male in my early 20s. Lately, my paranoia about being around kids is causing me too breathe heavy and sweat a lot. I then start to act weird because I'm trying to fight my paranoia. This leads to people starring at me because they don't know that I'm suffering from panic attacks and paranoia. They just notice me acting scared around kids and they think I'm a threat because of it.

I'm not a pervert or predator. I would never hurt a kid. I like kids and don't know why I'm so scared to be around them.

I don't understand why I feel like this. Am I a bad person? How do I make this stop?

Martin Hsia, Psy.D.
Martin Hsia, Psy.D.
OCD, Anxiety, and Insomnia Specialist

In our practice, many people we see have unwanted thoughts of doing harm to children - physically or sexually. As you said, these are intrusive and unwanted thoughts - not genuine desires to harm them. This is a form of OCD we often call Harm or Pedophilic OCD. What you are describing here as "paranoia" sounds similar to this, and is so demoralizing because you are dealing both with the distress of these unwanted thoughts and feelings, as well as the fear and uncertainty about your own character as a good person.

If this is really what is going on (further assessment by the right professional would determine this), the current gold standard approach to addressing OCD is Exposure with Response Prevention - in this case, confronting the feared situations, thoughts or images on purpose, rather than avoiding them, until they lose the fear and shame associated with them.

Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

Your question is written in a very sincere tone.   This, together with the fact of searching for self-understanding, sound more like someone who is unsure and puzzled, not someone who is "bad".

What was your own childhood like?

The sensations you describe feeling sometimes occur in people who are reminded of very deep hurts from during their own childhood.

Is it possible what you're feeling is from being reminded of great distress you lived through when you were at a similar age as the kids around whom you feel this sudden and great paranoia and fear?

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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