A traumatic experience involving an infant or child may cause pedophobia, a fear of small children. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or mysophobia (fear of germs) may be more at risk. You may get anxious or fearful when you see children or are around them. Exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you overcome pedophobia.
People with pedophobia develop an irrational fear of babies and small children. The word pedophobia stems from “paida,” the Greek word for children. “Phobos” is the Greek word for fear.
Someone who has pedophobia may take extreme measures to avoid being around small children. Even the thought of being near children can cause anxiety and fear.
A phobia is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to become unreasonably fearful of something that won’t harm them. Pedophobia is a specific phobic disorder. A person becomes afraid of, or anxious around, something particular. In this case, it’s babies and small children.
It’s hard knowing exactly how many people have a specific phobia disorder like pedophobia. Many people may keep this fear to themselves or may not recognize they have it. We do know that about 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives, though.
It can be easy to confuse these two phobias, which have similar spellings. Pediophobia is a fear of dolls or inanimate objects that look real, and pedophobia is a fear of actual children.
People can suffer from both phobias, so someone who fears children (pedophobia) may also fear the childlike features of dolls (pediophobia), and someone with pediophobia may also have pedophobia.
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) who need things to be neat and orderly may develop specific phobias, like pedophobia. They may view children as messy and disruptive. They fear the chaos that often comes with being around small children.
Certain factors increase your risk for developing a specific phobic disorder:
Having more than one phobia is common. Phobias are often tied together. For instance, someone with a fear of germs (mysophobia or germaphobia) may view children as tiny germ carriers and develop pedophobia. And someone who fears young children may also develop a fear of teenagers (ephebiphobia).
A harmful or negative experience with an infant or child might cause you to fear children. That bad experience could happen during childhood or adulthood.
You may have a direct experience or witness an event, such as:
Pedophobia affects everyone differently. You may be:
Phobia symptoms range from mild to severe. You may recognize that fear of children is irrational, yet still be unable to control your physical responses.
Pedophobia symptoms may include:
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) helps mental health professionals like psychologists diagnose phobia disorders based on symptoms and how the symptoms impact your quality of life.
Healthcare providers use these criteria to diagnose a specific phobic disorder like philophobia:
A mental health professional can help you overcome the fear of being around small children. Psychotherapy (talk therapy) often works for people with pedophobia.
Treatments may include:
An extreme fear of children can make it difficult to function in society. You may miss out on social events, struggle at work and develop depression. Some people have panic attacks, which feel a lot like a heart attack. Your heart may race, and you may have noncardiac chest pain.
Anti-anxiety medications will help you to cope while you work on ways to make the fear less intense.
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Children are everywhere: in grocery stores and neighborhoods, on buses and sidewalks. It’s almost impossible to avoid seeing these youngsters. Having a fear of infants and small children can make it difficult for you to shop, travel, socialize, attend gatherings and do things most people enjoy. Avoiding children altogether isn’t realistic or healthy. A mental health professional can use psychotherapies like exposure therapy and CBT to help you overcome pedophobia.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/15/2022.
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