Pedophobia or Pediaphobia is the excessive fear of children, infants, toddlers, or babies. The word Pediaphobia is derived from paidia meaning children and phobos meaning aversion or fear. The words Pediaphobia and Pediophobia are often mistaken for each other. The former is a fear of babies or children while the latter is a fear of dolls.
A person with Pedophobia will go out of his/her way to avoid kids. They believe that kids are messy, noisy, and in general a nuisance. The mere thought of coming in close contact with a child can cause full blown panic in them. Needless to say, the phobia can negatively impact several areas of the phobic’s life.
Causes of Pedophobia
If you are dealing with Pedophobia, you might be concerned about the root cause of your problem. You probably often ask yourself: ‘What caused this phobia?’, ‘Is it hereditary?’, ‘Why do I have obsessive thoughts?’ and ‘Why am I so afraid of something that I know is not dangerous?’.
In reality, there is no single cause for anxiety disorders or phobias and the causes vary on the level of the individual’s phobia. Here is a list of possible causes:
Your genes can sometimes be responsible for causing excessive worrying. If your parents have displayed chronic worrying and anxieties, it can manifest in you as well.
Your caregivers, older siblings, or parents might have warned you about the ways of the world, in the process, painting things too negatively. Over-critical parents can also cause this anxiety to manifest as various phobias. Parents and caregivers unknowingly caused emotional insecurity and dependence. They did not allow you to express your feelings and self-assertiveness. A sibling may have scared you with small dolls or stories about evil babies.
The physiology of anxiety and panic attacks can lead to embarrassment, which can exacerbate the fear. The individual starts worrying that his/her reaction to babies or kids will cause them to embarrass themselves, leading to a vicious circle of fearful thoughts about avoidance of the panic situation, which again causes the panic attacks. Certain underlying medical conditions can also lead to the fear. Generalized anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders can manifest as Pedophobia.
Short-term stress like significant job change or change in life circumstances can also cause Pedophobia. A personal loss or tragedy can trigger it. Stimulants and recreational drugs can precipitate panic attacks.
Maintenance of the fear
Certain factors can lead to the maintenance of anxiety: negative self talk, lack of self-assertiveness, muscle tension, stimulants and other dietary factors, lack of meaning or sense of purpose, and withheld feelings.
Adults with Pedophobia firmly believe that children are messy and destructive. They will get noisy, leave 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 fear dolls and babies owing to their stare or glassy eyes. This might stem from the general fear of being stared at.
Symptoms of Pedophobia
Like all phobias, Pedophobia starts with negative self talk. ‘Oh, no, here comes a child. I am going to lose control. I cannot stand this. What will others say? I will lose it.’ This causes both physical and emotional symptoms:
- Racing heart or palpitations
- Sweaty palms
- Hot or cold flashes
- Constricted breathing
- Butterflies in the stomach, nausea, distress
- Muscle tension
- Compulsion to escape
- Fear of death or dying
- Fear of losing control
- Feeling unreal or detached
Treatment for fear of children
Most of us feel afraid of or fear certain situations or things. But if the fear is excessive and interferes with your day-to-day life, then you should seek help for it. In case your fear of children is not impacting your daily life, then you may not need to seek professional treatment for it. In such cases, self-help methods can also work.
Self-help strategies can be highly effective in treating Pedophobia. You can journal about your fear and write down your thoughts or feelings. Make a list of frightening situations related to your phobia. It could be things like ‘kids are messy’ or ‘a child might hurt me’ or something else. Next, arrange the items on your list from least scary to most scary. The idea here is to think about the end goal: facing a baby or child without having a panic attack. The longer you think about the scary situation, the lesser your fear will be each time. This exercise should ideally be done daily.
You can also meditate and try deep breathing exercises. Practice abdominal breathing when being confronted with your fear. After 3-4 minutes of slow, controlled breathing, you can prevent a reaction that would cause anxiety or panic attacks. Affirmations can also be useful to help increase self-esteem.
Slowly face your fear of children
The next step in getting rid of fear of children is to face your fear. It is very natural to want to avoid kids and toddlers but once you ‘face’ them, you might find that there is nothing to be afraid of. Gradually and repeatedly expose yourself to kids or babies:
- Meet/interact with a baby/child
- Gradually increase the duration of your interaction with the baby/child
Do not rush. Go at a smooth pace. The more you practice, the better you will get. Your feelings are temporary and if you stick with the process, your anxiety will soon fade.
Seek professional help
In extreme cases, you might have to consider professional help. Talk to a therapist who can suggest the right treatment for you, based on the extent or level of your fear. Cognitive behavior therapy is a treatment that is effective in treating many phobias. It involves challenging negative thought patterns until your mind learns to overcome the panic. Hypnotherapy is another line of treatment for Pedophobia. The therapist helps you get to the root cause of the fear so that you can learn to look at it rationally. In some cases, drugs or medication may be administered to manage the anxiety.