Voyeurism: Symptoms and Description of this Paraphilia

Voyeurism is a paraphilia, or a disorder of sexual arousal. Voyeurism involves the act of observing unsuspecting individuals, usually strangers, who may be naked or in the process of disrobing.

Symptoms of Voyeurism

The symptoms of voyeurism, summarized and paraphrased from the DSM-IV TR (2000: American Psychiatric Association), require both that the voyeuristic behaviour causes some stress or impairment to normal functioning and that the behaviour has been ongoing for at least six months:

  • For a period of at least 6 months, the patient has intense sexual desires, fantasies or behaviours concerning the act of watching an unsuspecting person who is naked, disrobing or having sex.
  • This behaviour causes clinically important distress or impairs work, social or other important areas of personal functioning.

Voyeurism often co-occurs with another paraphilia, exhibitionism.

Caveats About the Symptoms of Voyeurism

As with virtually any mental disorder, most people will recognize some aspects of these symptoms in their own experience and behaviour: it is not unusual, after all, to experience sexual arousal when viewing erotic material! The key point about voyeurism as a mental disorder is that the individual specifically seeks out or fantasizes about the opportunity to observe someone who is unsuspecting, and this behaviour causes distress or impairment.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

Our material is not intended as a substitute for direct consultation with a qualified mental health professional. Please seek professional advice if you are experiencing any mental health concern.

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