Paraphilic Disorder: Signs, Symptoms, and Causes

paraphilic disorder
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Paraphilic Disorder

Voyeurism, Sexual Masochism, Sexual Sadism, and Pedophilia are some uncommon sexual behaviors that are considered sexual deviants. Sexual behavior in humans is partly the expression of basic biological needs driven by internal hormonal conditions. There are relatively few individuals who seem to have particular sexual interests that are unusual, significantly deviating from the phenotypical normal. These sexual desires are typical in nature often explored from acts other than natural genital stimulation. And that is what is Paraphilic Disorder.

“Paraphilia” is a Greek word that means, “around or beside love” (para: around or beside; philia: love). It is described as intense sexually arousing fantasies and behaviors developed from any inanimate object, children, suffering and humiliating humans or nonconsenting adults. These unconventional urges are often recurring and intense in nature resulting in significant biological and psychological distresses.

Types of Paraphilia:

  • Voyeurism: Voyeurism is defined as sexual satisfaction derived from watching other people disrobing, naked, or engaged in sexual activity. It involves purposely spying or peeping into someone’s private space like a dressing room and bathroom. Forms of voyeurism can be also seen in forms of public masturbation and sexual harassment.
  • Exhibitionism (Flashing): Exhibitionism is a type of paraphilia which involves exposure of one’s genitals to strangers or a nonconsenting individual. People with the exhibitionistic disorder is sometimes called, ‘flasher’ who have desires to surprise or impress others with their sex organs. Though this indecent exposure rarely turns into actual sexual contact, the person may masturbate in public while exposing themselves.
  • Frotteurism: Frotteurism is the act of sexual gratification derived from touching or rubbing against a nonconsenting person. It showcases recurrent and intense sexual urges to rub one’s pelvic area or any sexual organs against the victims’ body. Public transportation, concerts, or any other crowded places are common for individuals with frotteurism disorder to exhibits their sexual behaviours.
  • Sexual Masochism: Individuals with this form of paraphilia use acts to be humiliated, beaten, inflicted with pain, or otherwise made to suffer to achieve sexual excitement and climax. Activities with a partner may also include bondage and stimulated rape to gain desired sexual arousal. Few autoerotic procedures or practice of asphyxiophilia may put masochists at the risk of accidental death.
  • Sexual Sadism: Sadism is a type of paraphilia in which sexual urges are satisfied by punishing others by inflicting pain. It is the recurrent desire and intention to hurt others either physically or psychologically, simply to gratify one’s sexual desires. Sadism may also include the use of rope, chains, handcuffs as restraints implying imprisonment with whipping, beating, and spanking.
  • Pedophilia: People with pedophilia have recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies and behaviors involving sexual acts with children generally of age 13 years or younger. The pedophilic behaviors include undressing the child, touching or fondling a child’s genitals, or forcing the child into sexual activity.
  • Fetishism: Sexual arousals, fantasies with relation to any non-living object is considered under fetishistic behavior. Fetishism includes an erotic attachment to any inanimate object or any asexual part of the human body necessarily used to achieve sexual gratification. Articles of clothing, olfactory sensations, body blemishes required for sexual stimulation are also considered under fetishism.
  • Transvestism: The recurrent practice of adopting dressing and manners traditionally opposite to one’s consistent gender is called transvestism. Transvestism is not necessarily related to individuals’ sexual orientation hence is distinct from transsexualism and homosexuality. Transvestism is often seen in heterosexual males and females who cross-dresses privately to express their inner femininity and masculinity respectively and achieve sexual satisfaction from it.

Causes of Paraphilia

Scientific studies are inconclusive regarding the causation of paraphilia, but researches have pointed towards many behaviouristic theories. People with fetishistic behaviors are said to be conditioned by nonsexual objects to cause sexual stimulation.  Some experts believe that exhibitionist individuals may have narcissistic personalities who admire themselves and their sex organs excessively can also develop frotteurism behaviours.

People with substance abuse, anger issues, and trouble empathizing with others may develop masochistic and sadistic behavior to feel sexual gratification by inferring harm onto other. Possible risk factors such as childhood sexual abuse, preoccupation with sex, hyper sexualism are often associated with voyeurism.

Signs and Symptoms (to be observed over a period of 6 months): –

  • Any type of paraphilia must be intense and persistent.
  • It must cause significant distress and problems in personal, social, and occupational functioning.
  • Sexual activities with a partner do not give pleasure and are often conflicted by the exclusion of certain acts or accompanying urges.
  • Obsessive and compulsive paraphilic fantasies and behaviors.

Improving the Situation

People with paraphilic disorder may develop an impaired capacity for affection, reciprocal emotions, and sexual intimacy with consenting partners which may cause significant harm to their relationship. The addictive cycle of paraphilic behavior may result in anxiety, guilt, lack of sleep, and sadness often leading to depressive mood. With help of psychologists, people may adopt a discourse for the treatment in the following ways:

  • Covert conditioning: A behavioural technique to eliminate undesirable behaviour by making it less desirable. In the case of paraphilias, clients are asked to imagine any family member while engaging in any paraphilic behaviour. This enables them to keep moral standards and values in sight to dismiss the intensity of undesirable behaviour.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: A common form of talk therapy which focuses on the cognitive restructuring of thought patterns by challenging personal beliefs and broadening thinking process, while activating positive behavioural patterns. Psychologists use CBT to confront paraphilic thoughts and behaviour and help the clients to reduce their intensity and frequency.

Dr.R.K.Suri is an expert Psychologist in treating Paraphilic Disorder. He is available at Psychowellness Center for face to counseling and online at Talktoangel

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