Exhibitionism

Exhibitionism involves exposing the genitals to become sexually excited or having a strong desire to be observed by other people during sexual activity.

Exhibitionistic disorder involves acting on exhibitionistic urges or fantasies or being distressed by or unable to function because of those urges and fantasies.

  • Most exhibitionists do not have exhibitionist disorder.
  • Medical professionals diagnose exhibitionist disorder when individuals feel greatly distressed or become less able to function well because of their behaviour, or they have acted on their urges with an individual who does not consent.
  • Treatment, which usually begins after exhibitionists are arrested, includes psychotherapy, support groups, and certain antidepressants.

Exhibitionism is a form of paraphilia.

Exhibitionists (usually males) expose their genitals, usually to unsuspecting strangers, and become sexually excited when doing so. They may be aware of their need to surprise, shock, or impress the unwilling observer. The victim is almost always a woman or a child of either sex. Actual sexual contact is almost never sought, so exhibitionists rarely commit rape.

Exhibitionism usually starts during adolescence. Most exhibitionists are married, but the marriage is often troubled.

About 30% of male sex offenders who are arrested are exhibitionists. They tend to persist in their behaviour. About 20 to 50% are re-arrested.

Exposure of genitals to unsuspecting strangers for sexual excitement is rare among women. Women have other venues to expose themselves: dressing provocatively (which is increasingly accepted as normal) and appearing in various media and entertainment venues. Participation in these venues of itself does not constitute a mental health disorder.

For some individuals, exhibitionism is expressed as a strong desire to have other people watch their sexual acts. Such individuals want to be seen by a consenting audience, rather than to surprise people.

Individuals with this form of exhibitionism may make pornographic films or become adult entertainers. They are rarely troubled by their desire and thus may not have a mental health disorder.

Most individuals with exhibitionistic tendencies do not have a disorder.

Exhibitionists may have a coexisting personality disorder (usually antisocial) or conduct disorder.

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