The psychology behind Necrophilia

The psychology behind Necrophilia


The psychology behind Necrophilia

This article might be disturbing for some individuals

The term Necrophilia has been derived from the Greek words “nekro” which means dead body and the word “philios’ ‘ which means love and attraction. Keeping these two definitions in mind, necrophilia can be simply described as the attraction to a dead body. It is morbid to think about. So necrophiliacs exist or are they just fictions of imagination to make stories darker? Necrophilia, today, has been categorized as a type of paraphilia.

Paraphilias refers to when an individual experiences sexual arousal to any unusual object or has unusual sexual fantasies. Necrophilia is a paraphilic disorder as mentioned by the World Health Organization, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorder as well as the International Classification of Diseases. Today, in this article we delve into the history of necrophilia and try to understand the concept in depth.


Records of necrophiliacs are not recent and their mentions have been found in such a kind of behaviour that existed during ancient times, particularly in Egypt. Accounts have been found in “The Histories” written by Herodotus. He writes about Egyptian families’ fears that the corpses of women would be used by necrophiliacs and therefore to prevent this they used to let the dead body of the women decay before they could be sent to be persevered by the embalmers.

Herodotus also refers to Periander who was a Greek to have engaged in necrophilic acts. Not only this but there are many more records of necrophilia throughout the world. In the Bronze Age, around West Asia, Hittites belonged to a civilization that had a law to permit the act of sexual intercourse with a corpse. One recent example of necrophilia could be Jeffery Dahmer, who was an American mass murderer, like David Fuller, and Dennis Nelson.

Why Does Such Attraction Exist?

One of the common motivations behind why a necrophilic is sexually attracted to a corpse is the notion that they own an object or sexual partner that does not resist or reject them. Ellis (1903) who wrote the book titled “Studies of Psychology of Book ” claimed that necrophilia and algolagnia (sexual pleasure derived from pain, especially around erogenous areas) were interrelated. Both acts refer to how negative effects like fear and disgust are transformed into feelings of arousal and desire. One of the studies that is a prominent whole understanding of necrophilia is the one done by Rosman and Resnick in 1989. These researchers looked at 123 such cases in depth and detail.

Out of the 123 cases, it was found that 92% of them were of the male gender and 8% of them were of the female gender. These Necrophiliacs (about 57% of them) had an occupation that gave them open access to dead bodies. Some of the most common jobs that fit this criteria were morgue attendees, workers at the cemetery, and people working at the hospital.

Aside from this, the research also managed to study what incidents precede a necrophiliac’s life that lead them to such attraction. According to this research, people engage in necrophilia because of their low self-esteem and they just like being with someone without the prospect of getting rejected. Additionally, necrophilia also arises because of the fear of death and the dead. Individuals use reaction formation (the defence mechanism in which an individual turns anxiety or unacceptable thoughts, feelings, or actions into accepting ones) to turn the anxiety and fear into the opposite — arousal and desire.

The Motivations of a Necrophiliac

Based on research, people are primarily aroused by corpses and hold a strong desire to initiate intercourse with them because —

  • The need to reunite with a beloved lover or partner is that it is long gone.
  • Being with someone who does not reject or object.
  • They simply are sexually aroused by the sight of the corpse.
  • They wanted to defeat their loneliness and seek comfort.
  • They liked having power over someone.

Aside from these motives, other motives were less prominent and common. Amongst them, some are their fear of the opposite gender, having command hallucinations, wanting complete power, etc. According to Erich Fromm, necrophilia arises because an individual wishes to compensate for the absence of self-identity. This also arises as the individual tries to overcome the lack of authenticity.


Cases of necrophiliacs are not reported enough and are difficult to document, which makes it difficult to research them and find a specific treatment. Necrophilia is treated like any other paraphilic disorder. Based on the available information, it is important for the clinician to first clear out whether the individual is genuinely suffering from necrophilia or not. Many necrophiliacs often have other pathologies like personality disorders. It is important to treat those as well. Desensitization can also be used to help individuals get rid of their sexual fantasies about corpses and dead bodies. Moreover, male individuals who have a high sex drive and are necrophiliacs can be given anti-androgens.


In conclusion, the psychology of necrophilia is a deeply disturbing and complex phenomenon that continues to challenge our understanding of human behaviour. It raises many ethical, legal, and psychological questions, all of which are difficult to answer and need deep critical thinking.

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