What are Paraphilic Disorders?

Sexual Disorders

Definition of Paraphilic Disorders

Paraphilia disorders are abnormal sexual behaviors or urges that keep coming back. These urges and behaviors may involve unusual objects, activities or situations that are not usually considered sexual arousing by others or acceptable in some cases.

Most people with different sexual interests do not have this disorder, to be diagnosed with a paraphilia disorder an individual must:

  • Have a sexual or behavioral desire that involves another person causing the other person injury, psychological distress or death. This also included individuals who are involved unwillingly or are unable to give consent.

  • Feels distress about their behavior and interests, and not just distress because of what society says about it.

Examples of Paraphlic Disorders


This is when an individual has sexual urges with non-living objects. This could be with a pair of women’s underwear and the individual gets aroused by either wearing or touching the object.


Individuals with this disorder have behaviors, urges and fantasies that involve illegal sexual activities with a child. This can include undressing the child, have the child watch, touching the child or performing sexual acts with the child.


Individuals with frotteurism have the urge to either touch or rub their genitals up against the body of an unfamiliar, non-consenting individual. This is an illegal practice and is usually done in a crowded area where a male is rubbing up against a female.

Sexual Sadism

Individuals with this disorder experience excitement sexually through mental or physical suffering of another person. This does not include minor acts of aggression, like rough sex. It does however include extreme cases like rape, torture and even murder, though not all cases of rape include sexual excitement through the suffering of the other person.

Sexual Masochism

This disorder is the act of being humiliated, beaten or suffering in order to achieve sexual excitement. An individual can do this to themselves or have someone else do this to them. Examples of this are cutting, piercing, bondage, spanking or simulated rape.


This disorder is usually practiced by heterosexual males who dress in womens clothing to produce or enhance sexual arousal. They do this by either wearing on item of clothing usually underwear or by completely dressing as a woman. They get their sexual arousal by fantasy and this usually doesn’t include a partner.

Voyeurism ("Peeping Tom")

This disorder is when individuals are observing another person without their knowledge while the person is undressing, nude or engaging in a sexual activity. They do not seek out sexual contact with the person they are watching, they get their excitement through watching.

Exhibitionistic disorder

This disorder centers around an individuals need to expose their genitals to other people, who are usually strangers, in order to obtain sexual satisfaction.

What Causes Paraphilic Disorders?

While it is not clear what causes paraphilia disorders some experts believe that it could be caused by a childhood trauma, such as sexual abuse. It can also be a learned behavior because they more an individual becomes sexually aroused by a repeated behavior than the brain can then associate what is being done with pleasure.

Paraphilia disorders usually begin when an individual is an adolescent and continues into their adulthood. The intensity and amount of time given to an individual’s disorder varies from person to person but usually decreases as a person ages.

Treatment Options

These options vary depending on which type of disorder you have and the severity of it. Treatment options can include psychotherapy, individual psychotherapy, group therapy, as well as pharmacotherapy. Medications can be used to decrease the compulsiveness associated with these disorders and to help reduce the fantasies and behaviors.

A licensed Psychologist can treat an individual with this type of disorder is it imperative to understand that not all do treat these individuals, so you need to ask before seeing someone.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Paraphilic Disorders. In http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/Paraphilic%20Disorders%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

Brannon, MD, G. E., & Bienenfeld, MD, D. (2013, November 18). Paraphilic Disorders . In http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/291419-overview. Retrieved December 12, 2014.

McManus, M., Hargreaves, P., Rainbow, L., & Alison, L. (2013, September 2). Paraphilis: definitions, diagnosis and treatmen. In http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3769077/. Retrieved December 15, 2014.