Exhibitionistic Disorder is a mental disorder that causes a person to expose his sexual organs—or genitals–to other people, usually people they’ve never met and are not expecting it, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The exhibitionist gets sexual enjoyment from the behavior.

Exhibitionistic Disorder is under the classification of the paraphilic disorder. The word paraphilia means an extreme sexual interest that’s not normal genital stimulation. A paraphilia is an extreme and continued sexual interest, such as ongoing fantasies, desires and behaviors that are sexual. They can center on children, animals or things. Sometimes the person’s focus is based on his own sexual activities.

Most exhibitionists are men, and individuals with the disorder may intentionally arrange for other people to watch them while they’re having sex with other people. The disorder may begin in late adolescence or early adulthood.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5)*, although all individuals who have the disorder have a pattern of sexual conduct called exhibitionism, not all exhibitionists are classified with the diagnosis. The DSM-5 wants to make sure the definition for Exhibitionistic Disorder is not the same as the definition of exhibitionism.

*The DSM-5 is published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Causes of Exhibitionistic Disorder DSM-5 302.4 F65.2

Some of the risk factors for developing Exhibitionistic Disorder include antisocial personality disorder, alcohol abuse, and interest in pedophilia. Additional factors that may be related to the disorder include sexual and emotional abuse during childhood, as well as being consumed with sexual thoughts during childhood.

The prevalence rate for the disorder in unknown, but estimates show it to be found in between two and four percent of the population.

Symptoms of Exhibitionistic Disorder DSM-5 302.4 F65.2

The DSM-5 provides the following symptoms of Exhibitionistic Disorder.

  • The behaviors occur over a time period of six months.
  • The behavior is repeated and the result is extreme sexual arousal when showing the genitals to strangers.
  • The behavior makes the individual very distressed.
  • Social, career and/or everyday life is disrupted.
  • When the person is examined, other mental and physical illnesses are ruled out.
  • The check-up must take into account if the individual is abusing substances.
  • The degree of distress the individual feels about his behavior, as well as his feelings about the victim of his behavior, must be considered.
  • The person displays his exhibitionistic behavior to a person who inability to control the behavior is geared to a person who does not permit or agree to it.

The health professional must determine if the exposure is specific to children or adults and the surroundings in which it’s likely to occur.

The Affects of Exhibitionism on Daily Life

Exhibitionistic Disorder occurs throughout an individual’s life and has a high rate of relapse. The behavior is found to be hard to modify and/or control. Family members and others close to the person can assist him by helping to keep him on a routine and in surroundings that don’t have substances, as well as ensure the Internet is used for only short periods of time.

Treatment of Exhibitionistic Disorder DSM-5 302.4 F65.2

People with Exhibitionistic Disorder don’t usually seek treatment on their own and don’t think they have a problem until they’ve ended up in trouble with the law. When they’re sent to court and told they must get treatment, it’s usually the first time they think about treatment.

It’s crucial for the individual with Exhibitionistic Disorder to attend therapy sessions on a routine in order to learn how to cope with the disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective for the person to identify things that cause his urges, as well as teaching skills to deal with those urges in healthy ways. This usually includes cognitive restructuring (identifying and changing the thoughts that cause the behavior), relaxation training (to lessen the exposure to impulses) and coping skills training (various ways to behave when feelings of arousal begin to happen.)

While the disorder is considered to have a lifelong presence, an individual who’s been functioning on the job, socially and clinically without acting on his feelings and doesn’t display evidence of the urges may be recognized as in remission.

Treatment usually involves both psychotherapeutic and pharmacological choices based on each separate case. Individual and group therapy, as well as marital and/or family therapy, are the most common.

  • Group therapy for adults centers on social skills. One of the most beneficial aspects of group therapy is the person finds that he isn’t alone and has others to help support him.
  • A twelve-step support group program can help an individual learn from and even be mentored (or sponsored) by others who’ve successfully stopped participating in the behavior.
  • Several types of medications can be used in order to lessen sexual desire. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that are used for depression and other mood disorders can also be used. They can lessen the sexual desire that’s felt.
  • Clinicians can also specify if the disorder is in a controlled environment, which means people who are living in institutions or other places where they are monitored and don’t have the chance to expose their genitals. If an individual is in full remission, he has not acted on his urges and hasn’t been in distress for at least five years while he’s been in an uncontrolled—non-institutional—environment.