Medical Definition of Paraphilia

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Paraphilia: One of several complex psychiatric disorders that are manifested as deviant sexual behavior. For example, in men, the most common forms are pedophilia (sexual behavior or attraction toward children) and exhibitionism (exposing one's body in a public setting). Other paraphilias include compulsive sexual behavior (nymphomania), sadism, masochism, fetishism, bestiality (zoophilia), and necrophilia. Treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, behavior modification, use of antidepressant medications, and use of medications that alter hormone production, particularly of testosterone. However, the cause and treatment of paraphilia are poorly understood, and treatment is rarely effective. In addition, many professionals prefer not to pathologize sexual behavior that involves only willing adults, even if the behavior might be deemed deviant in mainstream society. In cases where the behavior is potentially criminal, as in pedophilia, treatment is usually delivered within the penal system.

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Reviewed on 12/12/2018

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