What’s Paraphilia?

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Paraphilia is sexual arousal in response to abnormal objects or situations. What is considered normal changes over time, making it difficult to diagnose. Treatment includes chemical and non-chemical methods, and therapy can help change attitudes towards the object. Arousal from taboo situations is generally considered a mental illness.

Paraphilia is a term used in psychology to describe sexual arousal in response to objects or situations considered abnormal in a certain period of time. Given that what constitutes normal sexuality changes over time, paraphilia is a term that is best considered in a historical context. Not only does what is considered abnormal change over time, but what is considered normal changes as well. The arousal, in this case, can come from seeing, thinking about, or being close to an object or situation. Most diagnoses occur when a specific person feels that her arousal in relation to the object is troubling, leading her to seek help.

From the point of view of the person suffering from paraphilia, situations involving the sexualized object cause intense sexual desire and arousal. Since the experience is typically pleasurable, the person with paraphilia may obsessively seek arousal from this source. He or she may have intrusive thoughts about the object in question and may not even be able to achieve arousal except in the presence of the eroticized situation.
When discussing sexual arousal in response to an object, the term object is broadly defined and can include body parts, classes of objects, and even situations. Actions, both traditionally sexual and harmless, can also be sexualized. Essentially, paraphilia refers to a sexual response that is felt to be inappropriate for a certain amount of time given the stimulus. Arousal is different for different people, making it difficult to truly determine when a sexual response occurs other than by self-identification.

Many different forms of paraphilia are recognized in medical traditions, and treatments for this disorder have also been varied. Several chemical treatments, including chemical castration, have been used to treat this disorder in severe cases. When the individual is able to control their arousal or the situation is not dangerous to anyone, therapy and other non-chemical treatments can be used. Whether or not the arousal a person feels is actually abnormal, if the person feels that it is worrisome or abnormal, they may benefit from therapy to change their attitude toward the individual and possibly resolve the arousal as well.
In different time periods, many different objects have been considered inappropriate for sexual arousal. Paraphilia, when used as a psychological diagnosis, is currently used primarily when arousal causes social or ethical problems. Arousal from situations involving children or animals, for example, is generally considered taboo enough to be considered a mental illness. Paraphilia involving shoes or a member of one’s sex is usually not diagnosed as a mental illness.

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