Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts, impulses or mental images that often cause significant anxiety, stress and impairment within an individual’s ability to function. These thoughts may surround the fear of committing an act one consider to be harmful, violent, immoral, sexually inappropriate, or sacrilegious. There is no intent to act on these thoughts (although your OCD may attempt to persuade you that there is that chance) and these thoughts bring no pleasure, causing extreme distress.

Sexual Intrusive Thoughts consist of unwanted sexual thoughts. This may include sexual orientation fears, such as the fear of being or becoming LGBTQ. It may also contain intrusive, unwanted mental imagery of sexual behaviors or actions that the individual does not desire, the fear of committing a harmful sexual act or being sexually aggressive. Individuals with OCD may also be plagued by unwanted intrusive thoughts/images that they may commit a sexual act to a child. This is not the same as having a sexual fantasy or being homophobic.

Examples of sexual intrusive thoughts:

            • Recurrent fear of molesting a child
            • Recurrent fears that one might be homosexual, when in fact he/she is not
            • Repetitive thoughts of possibly touching someone inappropriately on impulse
            • Unwanted sexual thoughts or images involving animals, religion, etc.


DISCLAIMER: The content found here is intended to serve as educational content and is not intended to replace therapy. For treatment-related questions, please be sure to work with your local provider or contact a local clinician.


Additional Resources:

Psychology Today Article 

Videos: Sexual Intrusive Thoughts

Choose a title below to view related OCD videos

Chad Wetterneck, PhD, discusses sexual intrusive thoughts and how they occur in a variety of ways. Common ways include doubting whether or not your sexual orientation is what it really is and imaging yourself acting on what you consider an unwanted impulse.

Chad Wetterneck, PhD, discusses the fears associated with sexual intrusive thoughts. One of the fears is wondering whether or not you would act on an unwanted impulse. Another fear is wondering what type of person does this make you if you are thinking this way.

Chad Wetterneck, PhD, provides an example of a sexual intrusive thought. It is important to practice exposing yourself in order the alleviate symptoms.

Chad Wetterneck, PhD, discusses the stigma around sexual intrusive thoughts. This condition often becomes under-diagnosed, and there is a double layer of stigma associated with sexual intrusive thoughts. The first layer is mental health, and the second layer is a topic that is not frequently discussed in culture, such as sex.

Chad Wetterneck, PhD, discusses the difference between sexual intrusive thoughts and fantasy. sexual intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts. Fantasy thoughts bring pleasure.

Chad Wetterneck, PhD, discusses a treatment known as exposure and response prevention (ERP). Slowly exposing yourself to more triggers can reduce the amount of sexual intrusive thoughts.

Chad Wetterneck, PhD., discusses sexual orientation OCD, the different aspects of this subtype and the treatment goals.

Chad Wetterneck, PhD., discusses what pedophilia OCD is and how the thoughts present.

Chad Wetterneck, PhD., discusses how pedophilia OCD is very different from being a Pedophile. Pedophilia OCD can be distressing to the individuals dealing with these thoughts and often includes avoidance behaviors.

Chad Wetterneck, PhD., discusses how professionals determine the correct exposures for individuals with pedophilia OCD. Examples of specific exposures can vary from person to person depending on what that individual needs.

Chad Wetterneck, PhD., discusses how friends and family members can support those with sexual obsessions. Support can look different for every person depending on where they are in their journey.

Chad Wetterneck, PhD., discusses how an individual with taboo intrusive thoughts can communicate their thoughts with therapists, family member and friends. It is important to communicate these thoughts with a mental health provider to properly treat the OCD.

Chad Wetterneck, PhD., discusses the fear that some individuals with OCD feel when considering having a child.