Are pedophiles sick?

So since I didn’t do too good of a job explaining the study I was looking, I thought I would take the time to redeem myself now. The paper I was looking at was entitled “Pedophilia is accompanied by increased plasma concentrations of catecholamines, in particular epinephrine” by Maes et al. It has been found that pedophilia can be considered somewhat of an impulse control disorder and that catecholamines (“fight or flight” hormones – epinephrine and norepinephrine – that are released in response to stress) and serotonin play a role in the pathophysiology of pedophilia. Furthermore, a deficiency in MAO – an enzyme that breaks down catecholamines – has been observed in people with impulsive aggression and attempted rape. So the goal of the researchers was to look at meta-Chlorophenylpiperazine (mCPP) which is an agonist of serotonin, and see if it suppresses the activity of epinephrine and norepinephrine in the blood stream. What was interesting was that they found that there was a significant effect of mCPP in lowering epinephrine in pedophilic men, but not in normal men, and that the pedophilic men had significantly higher levels of epinephrine in the blood stream before receiving mCPP.

After reading the other article about differences between pedophiles and normal men in brain activity of the limbic system, I found myself thinking about how these two articles were related. The limbic system consists of the hippocampus and amygdala, two important structures related to processing our memories and emotions, and in relation to emotions – how we respond to stress. So I’ve theorized 2 possible ways in which why pedophiles are the way they are, biologically that is.

1. During childhood, a kid could get molested by a pedophiliac. This traumatic experience could cause alterations in the wiring of the limbic system, when the brain is still developing and creating new connections, therefore “messing up” the wiring of their amygdala and hippocampus. As such, this alteration could cause adrenal glands to excrete excess epinephrine, as observed in the first study.

2. My second theory is that in response to being molested, a child could secrete a ridiculous amount of epinephrine would could alter the neuroactivity in the limbic system of the brain. This second theory could also be true for pedophiles who were never molested, but just have a mutation or “falty” adrenal gland that excretes high levels of epinephrine, altering the limbic system activity as well.

I feel like there may be some truth to these theories… However these are purely biological explanations, that could influence the psyche, but it’s possible that I now need to look at a psychological standpoint of this disorder. Needless to say, with this disorder and the research done on the catecholamines, I find myself asking whether or not it may be possible to CURE pedophilia?

9 thoughts on “Are pedophiles sick?

  1. I think that you propose some very interesting ideas about how this could manifest based on biology. I also believe (and maybe this is just me watching WAY too much SVU) that these pathologies could be related to a need for the individual (the pedophile) to control another individual. Perhaps they were controlled as a child (you mention possibly molested, but maybe it could just be that they were ignored or bullied) and thus they feel the need to reconcile that pain by inflicting it on others. Since it is difficult to do so to an adult who will fight back and be able to identify you, perhaps they prey on children because of the ease. Just a thought.


    1. Every single human action and experience has a neurological explanation. As for this topic, look into the effects of lingering cortisol around the amygdala.


  2. I’m just thinking out loud here, but could pedophilia be a sort of reverse Oedipal complex, in which the individual acts on his/her (but apparently mainly his) otherwise suppressed feelings towards his/her son or daughter? I mean it sounds a little ridiculous, but so did Freud’s psychosexual stages when I first heard them. I think we are leaving in such a sexually repressed society (you can’t even be naked in public?!) that sexual disorders are bound to pop up. I mean some of the most sexually repressed men, priests, have thousands of cases on child molestation. Coincidence?


  3. Lia, great point-not so sure about the reverse complex, but I think there is something there about repressed libidos. I think the important factor that Natasha mentioned is that pedophiles have an inability to inhibit inappropriate behavior. I wonder what chemicals are released/blocked that gives pedophiles a high and the idea that it would be exciting to molest a child. I think it would be “cool” to see a scan of a pedophiles brain or watch what areas are abnormally functioning when pedophiles are presented with pictures or situations.

    I wonder how similar the brains/chemicals are of pedophiles and people with obsessive compulsive disorder. I believe it is worth looking into because of the lack of inhibitory behavior.


  4. I think this is a particularly good example of an overtly ‘psychological’ phenomenon that can be hard to think about biologically. As opposed to something like depression where, for me at least, I spend so much time thinking about the biology that I sometimes lose sight of the psychology. Cultural influences on biology? Neat. Meanwhile, I’m not sure if anyone has scanned pedophiles but I’d be surprised had they not. But there are papers where brains of folks with other kinds of “proclivities” and there are some intriguing patterns. I can’t remember them, except that they were intriguing :). There are the scans of homosexual and straight men and women. That’s pretty interesting. And they measure physical arousal along with the scan and link them.


  5. I wonder if this lack of inhibition is applicable to any other areas of sociology in pedophiles or manifesting in some other lack of socially unacceptable behavior. How is pedophilia different from bestiality? I wonder what differentiates different deviant behavior and even different sexual deviants. Is it biology or environment?


  6. I really like what Jen said about this behavior being about exerting control. Isn’t that theorized to be one of the reasons for rapists behavior, so it would make sense for there to be some similarities between the two. Pedophile could be seen as a more extreme version of rape.


  7. Coming from a victim of molestation and remembering every single thing I can say the may be theories and concepts but at the end of the day these sick bastards are just self pleasure seekers who have no morality and a high need to control as they are so out of control – being that they are morally the scum of the earth and hide in societies standards. These people deserve death – don’t look for solutions and answers take it purely at face value. They don’t give a fuck about anyone but them selves. Most of which are so screwed that they need to do it to children who do not pass judgement. They act the part therefore they know what is expected and thus what is right or wrong.


  8. Most of which are sadistic and enjoy causing pain – physical, sexual AND/or emotional/psychological – hence most predators seek virgins so they can feel powerful when they hurt their prey. Also to groom the young into what they like as no one else would stand for their desires.


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