Paraphilic Disorders: Symptoms, Types and Treatment

Paraphilic Disorders: Symptoms, Types and Treatment

Paraphilic Disorders

It is very normal for us as human beings to have a need for sex in life and it is a very normal part of everybody’s life. It is also very common for people to have unconventional thoughts about their sex life and sexual fantasies. However, when these feelings or urges become so intense and dominating that it starts to affect the daily functioning of an individual, it can be termed a ‘paraphilic disorder’.

What are Paraphilic Disorders?

These disorders are a group of mental health conditions that lead to intense and recurring sexual arousal of deviant thoughts, fantasies and behaviors. People with paraphilic disorders also experience clinically significant impairment in functioning and significant distress as well.
Recurrent, powerful, sexually stimulating fantasies, desires, or actions that are upsetting, involving inanimate objects, kids or nonconsenting adults, or the person’s or a partner’s suffering or humiliation, and that have the potential to be harmful, are known as paraphilic disorders (Brown, 2023).

Also Read: The psychology behind Necrophilia

There is a difference between paraphilia and paraphilic disorders. The former one has sexual interests and urges that are unusual but the latter one actually shows the symptoms that put such people in the category of paraphilic disorder. There are two criteria that are considered to put paraphilias in the category of pathological disorders:

  • The unconventional patterns of sexual arousal are persistent and intense.
  • They cause distress and impairment in occupational, social, personal and other areas of functioning and might harm others like children or non-consenting adults.

Their emotional and personal adjustment might suffer as well because people with paraphilic disorders tend to have negligible capacity for affection, sexual intimacy, and reciprocal emotions.

Identification of Paraphilic Disorders

As we discussed above, it is important to know that there is a difference between paraphilia and paraphilic disorders. If one is not causing any harm or distress, but with such unconventional sexual thoughts, they can be said to have paraphilia. Such people are harmless and do not cause any harm to themselves as well as others. On the other hand, if there is any risk of harm or if someone shows the tendencies to harm themselves or others, they are said to have paraphilic disorder. It is seen that cases of paraphilia appear to be more in men than women. According to DSM-5, to be diagnosed with a paraphilic disorder, the following criteria need to be met:

  • Experiencing difficulty resulting from your sexual desires, wants, and actions on a personal level as opposed to only in society.
  • Having a sexual desire that can put someone else in danger physically or psychologically.
  • A desire to have intercourse with someone who is unable to give consent or with non-consenting parties.

What Causes Paraphilic Disorders?

Although causes of paraphilic disorders are unclear as of now, there are few studies done on it. According to some psychologists, a person who has paraphilia is either repeating or going back to a sexual behavior that they developed when they were younger. Behaviorists propose that paraphilias develop via conditioning: nonsexual items might develop a sexual arousal if they are consistently linked to enjoyable sexual experiences. Few particular sexual acts such as peeping, which provides some kind of erotic pleasure can encourage an individual to prefer that particular behavior. According to behavioral learning models, a youngster who witnesses or experiences inappropriate sexual behavior may grow up to replicate that behavior.

Also Read: Sexual abuse, types and related disorders

Physiological models concentrate on how hormones, behavior, and the central nervous system interact; they are especially interested in how male sexual hormones and aggression function. Research suggests that there is a connection between pedophilic impulses and specific brain abnormalities in the frontal and temporal lobes. The brain region that processes sensory data from the feet is located next to the part that processes sensory data from the genitalia, which leads to one theory regarding foot fetishes. In addition to pure sexual pleasure, some research suggests that sadistic sexual activities may also be motivated by a need for sensations of dominance and power.

Types of Paraphilic Disorders

There are eight types of paraphilic disorders according to DSM-5:

1. Fetishism Disorder

With fetishism, a person has recurrent and intense sexual arousal from inanimate objects or non-genital body parts. Fetishism can be harmless.

2. Frotteuristic Disorder

When someone has fetish inclinations, they get thrilled when they caress or rub their genitalia against another person’s without that person’s permission. It’s a rare kind of paraphilia, and further study is required to fully comprehend it. The DSM-5 states that an individual must have had an acute and persistent impulse to rub their genitalia against a non-consenting party in order to attain sexual fulfillment for at least six months in order to be diagnosed with frotteuristic disorder. Either the person acting on this urge or this had to have seriously upset or impaired them.

3. Sexual Sadism Disorder

In order to obtain sexual fulfillment, sexual sadism entails causing another person bodily or psychological suffering. It’s critical to distinguish between sadistic sexual conduct, which is not the same as sexual sadism condition, and a paraphilic disorder. For two consenting individuals, mildly sadistic sexual conduct is not abnormal. When someone has sexual sadism disorder, their sadistic impulses must cause them great discomfort or disability for at least six months, or they must have been indulged with a non-consenting partner.

Also Read: Disruptive Behavior Disorders: Causes, Impact and Treatment

4. Exhibitionistic Disorder

Exhibitionistic disorder involves intense arousal from exposing one’s genitalia to an unsuspecting person, leading to distress and impaired functioning. It is not a paraphilic disorder, merely a desire for sexual arousal.

5. Pedophilic Disorder

    Child sexual attraction is known as pedophilia. A person diagnosed with pedophilic disorder must have experienced strong, persistent sexual fantasies, impulses, and acts toward prepubescent children for a minimum of six months, according to the DSM-5. A crucial aspect of the illness is that the individual who has it must experience severe distress or disability. It’s crucial to remember that it is illegal to act sexually attracted to minors.

    6. Sexual Masochism Disorder

    One could consider sexual masochism to be the opposite of sexual sadism. Being beaten, humiliated, or mistreated will satisfy a sexual masochist’s need for thrill and fulfillment.

    7. Voyeuristic Disorder

    A person with voyeuristic disorder experiences strong, persistent desires to watch someone who is not consenting have sex. Significant anxiety and functional limitations might result from voyeuristic disorder. Men experience voyeuristic disorder at a higher rate than women do.

    Also Read: Behavioural Disorders in Children

    8. Transvestic Disorder

    Cross-dressing can lead to sexually aroused individuals with transvestic disorder, requiring recurrent, intense, and persistent urges for at least six months, causing significant distress or impaired functioning.

    Treatment for Paraphilic Disorders

    Paraphilic illnesses require very personalized treatment. It relies on a number of factors, such as the kind of paraphilic conditions you have and the person’s individual objectives. Paraphilic diseases are often treated with a variety of therapies and drugs. For the best outcomes, a mix of psychotherapy like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication is frequently advised.


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