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.
Paraphilias. Last reviewed 12/31/1969
- American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fourth Edition, Revised.
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