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Fantasy management

So you have identified which of your sexual fantasies are inappropriate. But how do you stop having them?

  • For some people this will be easy, but for others it will take time, hard work, a lot of willpower and heaps of self-control. You are not alone if you feel it is too hard to control these fantasies, but YOU ARE IN CONTROL of your thoughts and feelings and you can make a choice as to how much attention you choose to give to them.
  • Although thoughts and emotions do influence actions in both positive and negative ways, they do not automatically lead to behaviours. Inappropriate thoughts and fantasies can be managed, stopped and/or changed to appropriate ones. By stopping and changing inappropriate thoughts to appropriate ones you are less likely to engage in concerning behaviours. It is also important to be aware of what triggers your inappropriate thoughts e.g. being in contact with children.
  • There are people who have inappropriate sexual thoughts and feelings regarding children but who never go on to abuse. This is largely because they have recognised this and have sought to manage these thoughts and feelings in some of the ways described below, so that they do not progress to behaviour.
  • Many individuals use fantasy management techniques to help stop having these harmful sexual fantasies. Next time you have an inappropriate sexual fantasy, try and use one or more of these to help you stop.



Have a read through the techniques below. Next time you have a harmful sexual fantasy, you need to try and use one of these to help you stop. The more you use these, the more you will learn what works more effectively for you. It may be that you need to rehearse them or use a combination of these to get it just right.




What do I do if my sexual preference is children?

We understand that some people have no sexual interest in adults. They often report an exclusive and life-long sexual interest in pre-pubescent or pubescent children. If this is true of you, then we understand that asking you to replace a child in a fantasy with an adult may not work for you.

Rather than try and change your sexual interest, your task is to learn how best to manage your sexual thoughts, feelings and fantasies. Of course there are no easy answers but the aim is to try and reduce both the frequency of your sexual fantasies and their intensity. We hope the suggestions and advice below are helpful:

  • Try to avoid sexual fantasies about children when masturbating. Of course this can be difficult, especially if you are not attracted to adults. To help, try focusing your attention exclusively on the physical sensations you experience while masturbating. Experiment with different sensations e.g. use of lubricants.
  • Reduce the amount of time spent thinking or fantasising about children in a sexual way. The more time you spend having sexual fantasies about children, the more these thoughts will govern your mental and sexual life. So, the less time you spend thinking about children in a sexual way, the better.
  • Develop a busy day-to-day lifestyle with a range of activities and interests that hold your attention. The more our minds are focused on things that we find engaging and rewarding, the less time we spend thinking about sexual things. This helps people feel more in control of their sexual thinking. And, of course, it helps people feel better about their lives more generally.
  • Try and spend time with others. People tend not to day-dream, or have sexual fantasies, when they are interacting with others, for example, at work or when socialising. Their minds are otherwise occupied.
  • If you are aware that you use sexual fantasies as a way of coping with other things in your life e.g. an escape from things that are worrying you or as a way to relax, find other ways of coping with these things. This will help you reduce the frequency of your sexual fantasies.
  • Self-care is important too. If you feel OK about yourself, you are less likely to use sexual fantasies as a prop for your emotional health. Mindfulness ( is a technique that has been shown to improve people’s mental health and resilience, as is good ‘sleep hygiene’ (see below).
  • Don’t beat yourself up. For many people, it simply does not feel realistic to never have sexual fantasies about children or to never masturbate. That’s just how it is. Mindfulness can help people come to terms with their feelings about this. Compassion and self-acceptance is a better mind-set than one of despair and resignation.


Sleep hygiene

Most individuals report that good quality sleep is important to their general sense of wellbeing. Many individuals who have problems related to fantasies about children, sexual preoccupation and problematic pornography use report that these difficulties can be especially difficult at night time, often disrupting sleep patterns. Furthermore, problematic sexual fantasies may be more readily triggered in the bedroom, last thing at night, if this has become your routine.

It can help to follow routines and practices that facilitate good quality sleep patterns, sometimes referred to as ‘sleep hygiene’. These include:

  • Sticking to a regular wake and sleep pattern, by aiming to wake up and go to bed at the same times every day of the week. Some people choose to stay up and wake much later during the weekends, which tends to disrupt the sleep pattern into the following week.
  • Avoid daytime napping. If you do nap, it is best to avoid napping for longer than 30 minutes.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine and food consumption too close to bedtime. Most people know that tea, coffee and cola drinks contain caffeine (except the de-caffeinated varieties, of course), but not everyone is aware that chocolate contains caffeine and can disrupt sleep if consumed in the evening.
  • Regular exercise can promote good sleep.
  • Get some daily exposure to natural light, as this helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
  • Use your bed for sleep, rather than as a place to read, watch TV, listen to the radio, or use your phone, laptop or tablet. That way, bed becomes associated with sleep rather than with these other activities.
  • Consider aspects of the bedroom environment which may be contributing to sleep difficulties (e.g., temperature, uncomfortable bed, inadequate curtains or blinds).
  • Try to avoid mentally engaging activities close to bedtime. It can take some time for the mind to ‘switch off’ and if you are feeling alert you are less likely to fall to sleep.

Be aware that it may take some time before the positive changes you make to your sleep routines take effect. If you regularly find you are having problems with your sleep-wake cycles or are feeling sleepy during the daytime, you should take advice from your GP.


Continue to Module 6: Recognising and dealing with feelings