Formerly Known As Sexual “Fetish”: Understanding Paraphilias

by | Apr 21, 2022 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

What we once described as sexual “fetishes” are now known as “paraphilias.”

Researchers regularly study and learn about these sexual paraphilias, but much of the general population remains ignorant.

It is important to understand paraphilias for several reasons. Paraphilias are, by definition, harmful to romantic and familial relationships. In order to protect yourself from the damage of paraphilias, you must first understand the psychology behind them and learn to recognize the signs.

Below, I discuss paraphilias in greater detail.

What Exactly Are Paraphilias?

As indicated above, “paraphilia” replaces what we as a society once identified as a sexual “fetish.” Paraphilia is a condition in which sexual arousal and satisfaction are brought about by atypical, extreme, or unusual sexual behavior.

Unusual sexual interests in and of themselves are not paraphilias. Paraphilias are classified as such when they also cause “distress” or harms or threatens to harm at least one other person. Someone who enjoys a strange or even distasteful sexual experience within the walls of their own home or with another consenting adult could not be diagnosed with a paraphilia. Paraphilias are unique because they must be distressing or directly capable of harming another person.

What Are Examples of Paraphilias?

There are a variety of paraphilias in existence. However, researchers commonly see the same handful of paraphilias in society.

The most common examples of paraphilias include:

  • Paedophilia — A sexual interest in children
  • Voyeurism — Sexual arousal achieved through viewing unsuspecting people (often strangers) in the nude or in sexual acts
  • Frotteurism — The act of moving or rubbing one’s genitals against another, non-consenting person to experience sexual pleasure
  • Exhibitionism — Exposing one’s genitals to non-consenting, unsuspecting individuals

Other less-commonly diagnosed paraphilias include sexual masochism and sexual sadism.

How Do Paraphilias Develop?

Society generally considers paraphilias to be distasteful, disturbing, irregular, or abnormal. The behaviors associated with paraphilias are inappropriate and unwanted by the recipient — yet the behaviors often persist. Paraphilias can destroy marriages, workplace relationships, and familial bonds.

Researchers are beginning to learn more about paraphilias and how they develop.  Paraphilias typically come about as a result of abnormal developments during childhood and before puberty. Those who struggle with paraphilias also consistently tend to have an impaired compactly to connect romantically and sexually in ways that would be considered “normal” by society.

Biologically, emotional traumas or anxieties early in life seem to alter psychosexual development. When young children experience an emotional trauma, it may affect their sexuality later in life. 

What Are the Symptoms of Paraphilias?

Many paraphilias are simply regular sexual preferences or behaviors carried out in extreme ways in order to achieve sexual satisfaction. Paraphilias are different from regular, healthy sexual preferences because paraphilias cause the sufferer to become psychologically dependent. Additionally, paraphilias either hurt or have very real potential to hurt other people.

To the average person, paraphilias may be difficult to spot. However, if a paraphilia is impacting your romantic relationship, you will know it.  Paraphilias are obsessive in nature. Someone who is reliant on a sexual paraphilia cannot achieve sexual climax without the act or object of their affection.

Statistically, paraphilias affect men much more regularly than women. If you have noticed a romantic partner repeatedly focusing on a harmful or disturbing sexual at or fantasy, this may be a sign of paraphilia.

How Can I Help If a Loved One Has a Paraphilia?

There are different options available for treating paraphilias. These methods include hypnosis, behavioral therapies, and even medications. Treatment of paraphilias will depend greatly on the individual and their unique circumstances.

I have been treating sexual disorders for many years. If you have a loved one who is struggling with a paraphilia, contact my Houston, TX counseling office to learn more about how professional treatment may be able to help.