What Are the Causes of Voyeurism?

Updated November 21, 2016

Voyeurism is a mental disorder under the classification of paraphilia, or sexual disorder, characterised by deriving gratification and sexual pleasure from observing the sexual acts of others or looking at naked bodies and genitalia. Typically, the voyeur observes the acts of unsuspecting persons while hidden from view. Though causes of voyeurism are largely unknown, treatments are available for this type of behaviour.


While the exact cause of voyeurism remains undiscovered as of 2011, several theories address the basis of the condition. A common theory holds that voyeurism in men results from increased testosterone levels. In some instances, the voyeuristic behaviour begins due to childhood abuse or family dysfunction. In other cases, the behaviour may stem from an initial accidental observation of an unsuspecting person or persons engaging in sexual activities.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Voyeuristic activity typically occurs anonymously, making the condition difficult to notice and diagnose. For a successful clinical diagnosis, a person must meet certain criteria, which describe symptoms of the condition. Symptoms include arousal when observing sexual acts of unsuspecting persons, experiencing intense and recurrent sexual fantasies or urges, and sexual behaviours that are disruptive to the individual's everyday functioning and cause significant stress on his social life. These symptoms must occur on a continual basis for more than 18 months for a clinical diagnosis of voyeurism.


The condition of voyeurism is manageable and treatable, provided the patient seeks medical assistance and displays a desire to modify her current behaviour. Treatment commonly involves various types of therapies including behavioural, psychotherapy, cognitive and psychoanalysis. These therapies teach the patients methods of controlling and suppressing their voyeuristic behaviours. Patients also learn to discover more acceptable and healthy means of sexual gratification. In some cases, patients receive medication designed to decrease their sexual hormones --- mainly testosterone.


The prognosis for eradicating voyeuristic behaviours during treatment is poor. In most cases, an individual with a voyeuristic disorder cannot control his sexually deviant urges and may have no desire to do so. Voyeurism tends to be a chronic condition, which typically becomes an individual's main form of sexual gratification.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author