Paraphilic Disorders

How to live and cope with this condition comfortably!

What is a Paraphilia?

A paraphilia is a condition in which a person's sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme. A paraphilia can revolve around a particular object (children, animals, underwear) or around a particular act (inflicting pain, exposing oneself). Most paraphilias are far more common in men than in women. Paraphilias include sexual behaviors that society may view as distasteful, unusual or abnormal. In descending order, the most common are pedophilia (sexual activity with a child usually 13 years old or younger), exhibitionism (exposure of genitals to strangers), voyeurism (observing private activities of unaware victims) and frotteurism (touching, rubbing against a nonconsenting person), while fetishism (use of inanimate objects), sexual masochism (being humiliated or forced to suffer), sexual sadism (inflicting humiliation or suffering) and transvestic fetishism (cross-dressing) are far less common. Some of these behaviors are illegal and those who are under treatment for paraphilias have often encountered legal situations surrounding their behaviors.

What are the signs?

Although many paraphilias seem foreign or extreme, they are easier to understand if one thinks of those behaviors that, in less extreme versions, are quite common. For instance, having a partner "talk dirty" may be a "turn-on" for some people, but when talking dirty is the only way that sexual arousal or satisfaction can occur, it would be considered a paraphilia. Others want to be bitten, or spanked, or become aroused by watching their partner. Viewing a nude person or watching sexually explicit videos can be arousing for most people. Paraphilias are magnified to the point of psychological dependence.

What causes Paraphilias?

It is unclear what causes a paraphilia to develop. Psychoanalysts theorize that an individual with a paraphilia is repeating or reverting to a sexual habit that arose early in life. Behaviorists suggest that paraphilias begin through a process of conditioning. Nonsexual objects can become sexually arousing if they are repeatedly associated with pleasurable sexual activity. Or, particular sexual acts (such as peeping, exhibiting, bestiality) that provide especially intense erotic pleasure can lead the person to prefer that behavior. In some cases there seems to be a predisposing factor such as difficulty forming person-to-person relationships. Behavioral learning models suggest that a child who is the victim or observer of inappropriate sexual behaviors learns to imitate and is later reinforced for the behavior. Compensation models suggest that these individuals are deprived of normal social sexual contacts and thus seek gratification through less socially acceptable means. Physiological models focus on the relationship between hormones, behavior and the central nervous system with a particular interest in the role of aggression and male sexual hormones.

Treatments

Treatment approaches have included traditional psychoanalysis, hypnosis, and behavior therapy techniques. More recently, a class of drugs called antiandrogens that drastically lower testosterone levels temporarily have been used in conjunction with these forms of treatment. The drug lowers the sex drive in males and reduces the frequency of mental imagery of sexually arousing scenes. This allows concentration on counseling without as strong a distraction from the paraphiliac urges. Increasingly, the evidence suggests that combining drug therapy with cognitive behavior therapy can be effective.