Voyeurism, or the “peeping tom” disorder, is when someone has a sexual interest in spying on someone that is engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity or any other activity that’s usually considered to be private.

Voyeurism is considered to be a psychosexual disorder and is a form of paraphilia, which is a group of mental disorders defined by abnormal sexual activity. A person who has voyeurism is called a voyeur. For a voyeur, the act of spying on someone is to achieve sexual excitement. The person who is being looked in on usually has no idea that someone is watching them and the voyeur usually does not come into contact with that person, although they may have a fantasy of coming into contact with them. In fact, the voyeur is usually hidden from view while they are looking in on someone. In some states Voyeurism is considered a crime, but since there is a broad definition of the disorder, the laws and statutes can vary from state to state.

Signs or symptoms of voyeurism:

  • Feeling the urge to watch strangers undress or engage in sexual activity
  • Achieving sexual excitement or gratification from watching unsuspecting individuals undress or engage in sexual activity
  • Feeling like you need to look in on strangers to achieve sexual excitement
  • Having intense, recurring sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors from watching a person undress or engage in sexual activity
  • These fantasies, urges or behaviors last for at least six months and cause significant distress in your life.

Causes of Voyeurism

It is hard to measure Voyeurism. It is an act that is done in complete privacy and usually a voyeur sees nothing wrong with their behavior. Also, since this disorder does not affect anyone else besides the voyeur, it has no negative effects on society and most often goes relatively unnoticed. To be diagnosed with Voyeurism, the act of looking in on unsuspecting people must be a preferred or exclusive means of achieving sexual gratification.

Treatment of Voyeurism

Treatment of Voyeurism can vary depending on the individual. For treatment to be successful, a voyeur must realize that they have a problem and want to change. This need or want for change usually comes from a court order. Behavior therapy is the most common form of treatment for voyeurism. Through behavior therapy, a voyeur learns to control the impulse to watch non-consenting people and achieve sexual gratification in other ways.

If you feel like you suffer from Voyeurism and it is negatively affecting your life then it might be time to seek professional help. Seeking help from a professional psychologist or psychiatrist will help you better understand yourself and your disorder. Treatment will help you cope with your Voyeurism and better your way of life.

View Resources

Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders – Information on voyeurism.

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