Vol. 9, No. 1, 2003 Page 2

Response to SSRI treatment indicates serotonin system role in pedophilia in females

Several years ago, researchers reported laboratory evidence that pedophilia involves a disturbance of the serotonergic system (see related article, Crime Times, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 3, Page 7). A recent case study supports this finding, by showing that treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) can dramatically reduce pedophilic urges in women.

Eva Chow and Alberto Choy treated a 23-year-old single mother who was convicted of sexual assault and sexual interference after confessing to molesting two young girls while babysitting them. The woman also experienced bouts of rage, and was an impulsive shopper. She felt extreme shame over her pedophilic acts, and expressed concern that if she ever had female children, she might hurt them.

The doctors treated the woman with sertraline, an SSRI, and report that she experienced a gradual decline in her urges to commit pedophilic acts. "Although her pedophilic interests did not completely disappear at the end of one year of treatment," they say, "she reported only infrequent sexual thoughts of children. When she had such thoughts, she stopped or resisted them easily." In addition, she experienced fewer bouts of rage or impulsive shopping.

These changes, the researchers say, "are consistent with the treatment success of serotonergic agents reported in men with paraphilia, and in patients with aggression and anger management difficulties or other impulse control disorders."

The researchers say the case "provides further support that serotonergic system dysfunction is implicated in paraphilic and impulse control disorders."


"Clinical characteristics and treatment response to SSRI in a female pedophile," Eva W. C. Chow and Alberto L. Choy, Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 31, No. 2, April 2002, 211-15. Address: Eva W. C. Chow, Law and Mental Health Program, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Clarke Site, 250 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5T 1R8, eva.chow@utoronto.ca.

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