Is Voyeurism a Mental Health Disorder?

Is Voyeurism a Mental Health Disorder?

It is natural that a person observes people or watch people to learn. Observation is a common habit where a person employs its senses to matter, human beings and events. But when this habit is used to spy on people engaged in sexual activity, does this sound normal or probably a disorder?

The interest of a person to observe and spy people with their intimate actions such as undressing or while having sexual activity is called Voyeurism. It was coined from a French word voir which means “to see”. This habit of “seeing” sexual actions which are private in nature that may affect social behavior and mental behavior of one’s being is not a normal manner. So how could we say if this is a mental disorder?

Diagnosing Voyeurism

According to The American Psychiatric Association, certain behaviors with urges, voyeuristic fantasies, and behavior patterns from observing and spying on sexual activities which may cause distress and interpersonal difficulty is classified as Voyeurism Disorder. Diagnostic criteria were set forth from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as DSM-5 302.82 (F65.3). The diagnostic criteria are as follows:

  • A person is at least 18 years old.


  • An individual becomes persistently and intensely aroused from deliberately observing a person that is naked, in the act of undressing or having sexual activity, for a period of six months.
  • Clinically significant distress to a person’s behavior is shown from the sexual impulses which may cause impairment and malfunctioning to his social and occupational relationships .

Risk factors

At the age of 18 years old, Puberty kicks in, and elevated sex hormones such as Estrogen and Testosterone may affect a person’s sexual behavior. This may effect to sexual urges due to such physiological changes. Therefore, a person 18 years and above is at risk to voyeuristic disorder when curiosity becomes uncontrolled. This disorder however is uncommon to females. Other risk factors may contribute to this disorder such as sexual abuse in childhood, drug abuse, and hypersexuality.

Mental effect and its treatment

Voyeurism as a form of paraphilia, involves extreme or dangerous activities as it affects a person’s behavior mentally. There has been no documented root cause medically for this disorder. However, it can be treated by Behavioral therapy, Cognitive therapy and Psychoanalysis. These treatments modify the existing patterns behavior of a voyeur, and can be proven successful if accomplished. Medications for depression or for other preemptive mental illness may be given upon the evaluation of a Professional Psychiatrist.

Controlling sexual urges

Humans need intercourse. Sex is one of the biological requirements for human survival. It is classified in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as one of the Physiological needs and if not satisfied, the human body may not function optimally. However, like all the basic needs a person requires, there’s a limitation. This includes the sexual urges. Early interventions for a person at risk to Voyeurism are important. Parents hold the big responsibility upon controlling and teaching their kids to of this act. A healthy social interaction between their kids is essential as they teach lessons to respect other’s privacy, sex education and awareness of the illness.

We are naturally curious of one another. That is being a human. However, a thin line separates curiosity from intrusion. So, it is very important that we are able to handle curiosity and observation well, for too much of everything can be fatal.

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