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Dr. Steve
Dr. Steve, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  19 years conducting therapy; book author; newspaper columnist; former co-host of radio show
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I am very nervous and a little embraced to put this out

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Hello there, I am very nervous and a little embraced to put this out there. I'm not sure if it is going to make much sense. I was raised very religiously and was taught at an early age that everything was a sin. I was told by my father who was also my pastor that to even think a bad or negative thought was a sin. I grew up afraid of everything! My thoughts, feelings, desires, etc.... Whenever I would experience joy from anything, if it was not somehow linked to religion, I was told that it was sinful. I even felt and was taught that playing baseball was a sin because it did not link to the things of God! When I got into my teens it was hard for me! Going through puberty, suppressing sexual feelings, afraid to have a sexual thought, etc... Everything seemed so sinful. Later in my teens I picked up this way or habit that if I someone touched me or rubbed against me (in a non-sexual manner) and I thought a bad or sexual thought, then I felt and thought that I sinned. I would be tormented with guilt, condemnation, and anger because of this. It grew to the point that I was afraid of touch period, I did not want to sin, which means not going to heaven or worse hell! As I got older this continued and got very strange. It has come to a point that if i am touched or brushed against, I try to control my body (I tense up big time) I am paranoid if there is a slight movement in my penis (I know it's strange) and if there is then I feel like I sinned. So now when I'm touched (by anyone or anything) I'm paranoid and quickly become conscious of any negative thoughts or movement of my penis. If there was a bad thought or movement, I am filled with great guilt and depression! It has come to the point that when I'm touched,hugged, handshake, etc.... that I tense up, become anxious, and my penis gets somewhat of an erection (even if I don't want it). It freaks me out, because I'm not wanting this reaction yet it happens. My God, even when my own mother touches me or hugs me this happens and I hate it. I feel like such a weirdo and a sinner. This next part is really hard for me but I do need to share it. A few years ago, I was visiting family outside of the country. The trip down to our destination was about 6-8hrs from where I live in the states. I was so uptight on the car ride because I was sitting next to people in a crowded vehicle and certainly I'm going to have physical contact with them. I was tormented, conscious of any penis movement whatsoever, paranoid to get touched. When we arrived, I was very drained and tired. I was sitting down on a chair saying hello to everyone. This is really hard to share.. My Cousin told his little girl to say hello to me, as she was walking over, I began to get very nervous, because I knew that there was going to be some type of physical touch. I smiled and was very polite, and shook her hand. When I did, I got a slight erection and started to really freak out (This took place within less than a minute with her parents right there and my wife right in back of her). I tried to find some way to get this thought or feeling (whatever it's called) and desperately wanted it to pass and than thought how can I distract myself from this. As I was shaking her hand I noticed my fingers near her chest. So, I thought the way to get this to stop is to touch her chest (Weird, I know, it doesn't make any sense). I shook her hand a little aggressively as to attempt it. Than I had a thought that said you didn't do it so this reaction of yours is not going to stop until you do so. So a little more aggressively I attempted and did (there was nothing there to touch, I'm not trying to be funny either) she was very very young. I thought, now hold your hand as close to her chest as possible until you are done with the handshake, so that is what I did (I don't remember if I was close to her chest or actually touching at this point) . Please now that this happened in less than a minute and my wife was right in back of her and her parents a few feet away. After the hand shake I got this thought, now you have done it, you are a pedophile, a child molester, you are going to lose your wife, your going to go to prison or get killed. It has been a few years now, and I'm so tormented by that trip and worse, the thought of being a pedophile. (Now that I think about it it does not make much sense what took place) Can you please help!! My body is so sore especially my internal organs from being so stressed and tensed up. I am tormented daily for years now because of this. And even more scared of children. Now I have a son of my own and I am afraid to love on him or show any type of affection. Please Help!! Thanks


Geez... there is no way I can give you a "quick hit" of help here except to urge you to seek therapy for the (unnecessarily) extreme level of anxiety you are experiencing. It is going to require a fair amount of work to "undo" many of the messages regarding sexuality, sin, and religion that have been burned into your mind. In fact, you story does make sense because one thing we know about "thought suppression" (i.e. trying to NOT think about something) actually makes that thought worse - it grows stronger and more repetitive. So, as you describe trying desperately to NOT think about sex as a boy and an adolescent, it began to snowball on you until you arrived at an untenable spot. Now mix in the excessive guilt associated with rigidly religious parents (and probably a bit of genetic anxiety), and you have the recipe for the torment you describe.

Honestly, it is going to probably take at least a stretch of some medicine to help you take the edge off the anxiety and repetitive thoughts, in conjunction with at least 6 months to a year of therapy to help unhitch you from these torturous thoughts.

I wish I could just shake you like an etch-a-sketch and start over with the development of your self concept and sexuality, but your trajectory has been set. Now it will take time to re-wire your mind toward peace.

When you seek a therapist, look for one who specializes in treating folks with sexuality issues. Here is a link to finding a therapist near you... you can search by zip code, and then narrow your search by looking for someone who treats BOTH anxiety and sexual issues. I think there is hope, although it will take a substantial amount of work for you. Still, working hard and achieving a better quality of life is a superior alternative to continued suffering.

I wish you well. If you are satisfied with the response, please hit "Accept." That is the only way I can receive credit for my answer. Thanks-

Dr. Steve

Dr. Steve and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I appreciate your help, thank you. I will do what it takes.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Thank you for your help. One of the things that is keeping me conscious of this is thinking that I am a pedophile or a sexual pervert. when I have told myself that I'm not, I seem to do fine. But when I think about the situation mentioned I start thinking God forbid I am, I then become depressed, condemn, etc... and began to go through the weird things already shared above. I pray to God that I'm not. What are your thoughts?

Hello again:

I don't think it is even possible to know what you are all about sexually until we clear away some of the debris left over from your childhood. However, I will say this: It does not sound as though you are a pedophile... but rather a biologically anxiety-riddled man who has been forced to completely succumb to unrealistic standards of rigidity regarding the natural tendencies we have toward sexual expression - both internal and external. Sexual thoughts, masturbation, and sexual enjoyment with partners are completely normal experiences.

It's too bad that some kiddos are taught that having sexual thoughts, whether occasionally or somewhat regularly, condemns us to Hell. If that was true, Heaven would be a lonely, sparsely populated place. I do wish you well. Make that appointment and begin the long road to healing. If you are satisfied with the response, please hit "Accept." That is the only way I can receive credit for my answer. Thanks-

Dr. Steve

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