Psychosexual Disorders and Their Types

Sexual problems can be physiological and psychological or a combination of both in origin. Psychosexual disorders can also vary in severity and intensity, some will be temporary, others more long-term.

Up to 54% of women and 35% of men may experience sexual problems, and yet many can find these issues difficult to talk about. Suffering from a sexual disorder can have a very detrimental effect on relationships and on self-esteem, and become the source of anxiety, depression, and stress, so it is important to seek treatment wherever possible.


The causes of a psychosexual disorder can lie in feelings of guilt, stress, nervousness, fear, anxiety, or in previous emotional or physical trauma.

Other factors based on psychosocial and cultural aspects, such as ignorance or improper sex education, conflicts of values to do with family or religion (for example, the attitude that sex is dirty or sinful) can also be a cause of psychosexual disorder symptoms.


There are three main categories of psychosexual disorder: sexual dysfunction, paraphilias, and gender identity disorders.

Sexual dysfunction is characterized by a lack of sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, painful sex, lack of sexual enjoyment, sexual addiction, and sexual aversion.

Paraphilias are unusual or abnormal sexual behavior, including sexual attraction to unusual objects or activity, such as fetishism, exhibitionism, sadism, and voyeurism, amongst others.

Gender identity disorders manifest as a variation between a person’s biological sexual identity and their own sense of sexual identity, causing difficulties in adjusting to a normal lifestyle and a desire to alter sexual orientation by becoming a member of the opposite sex.

Clinical Findings

Three major groups of sexual disorders in detail are as follows:

Paraphilias. In these conditions, formerly called “deviations” or “variations,” the excitement stage of sexual activity is associated with sexual objects or orientations different from those usually associated with adult sexual stimulation.

The stimulus may be a woman’s shoe, a child, animals, instruments of torture, or incidents of aggression. The pattern of sexual stimulation is usually one that has early psychological roots.

When paraphilias are associated with distress, impairment, or risk of harm, they become paraphilic disorders. Some paraphilias or paraphilic disorders include exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism, pedophilia, incest, sexual sadism, and sexual masochism.

Exhibitionism is the impulsive behavior of exposing the genitalia to unsuspecting strangers in order to achieve sexual excitation. It is a childhood sexual behavior carried into adult life.

Transvestism consists of recurrent cross-dressing behavior for the purpose of sexual excitation. Such fetishistic behavior can be part of masturbation foreplay.

Voyeurism involves the achievement of sexual arousal by watching the activities of an unsuspecting person, usually in various stages of undress or sexual activity. In both exhibitionism and voyeurism, excitation leads to masturbation as a replacement for sexual activity.

Pedophilia is the use of a child of either sex to achieve sexual arousal and, in many cases, gratification. The contact is frequently oral, with either participant being dominant, but pedophilia includes intercourse of any type.

Adults of both sexes engage in this behavior, with exact prevalences unknown, but likely far less common among females.

Incest involves a sexual relationship with a person in the immediate family, most frequently a child. In many ways, it is similar to pedophilia (intrafamilial pedophilia). Incestuous feelings are fairly common, but cultural mores are usually sufficiently strong to act as a barrier to the expression of sexual feelings.

Sexual sadism is the attainment of sexual arousal by inflicting pain upon the sexual object. Much sexual activity has aggressive components (eg, biting, scratching). However, forced sexual acquiescence (eg, rape) is an act of aggression.

Sexual masochism is the achievement of erotic pleasure by being humiliated, enslaved, physically bound, and restrained. It may be life-threatening since neck binding can lead to asphyxia.


Talking is a key part of treating a psychosexual disorder – in the first instance to identify the problem and the history of the patient. If the patient is in a relationship, talking to the patient’s partner can also play a key part in these discussions.

Once the nature and characteristics of the problem have been identified, a personalized treatment plan for the patient can be agreed upon.

This may include psychotherapy which can help establish ways to deal with stressful or painful issues or behavioral therapy such as CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) which is used to help ‘unlearn’ automatic behaviors displayed in specific situations.

Often a combination of these will be used to help the patient overcome their psychosexual issues.

Contact us if you need urgent help either suffering from sexual aggression or sexual disorder.