Causes and Symptoms of Exhibitionistic Disorder

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( — October 6, 2020) — 

What do you think might happen if you had an intense urge to expose yourself to strangers? Every sex crimes lawyer in Los Angeles can tell you this is a surefire way to land yourself in some hot water, but what you might not have known is that it might also be caused by a very specific disorder. It’s known as Exhibitionistic Disorder (or exhibitionism), according to Psychology Today, and it’s described as the “urge, fantasy, or act of exposing one’s genitals to non-consenting people, particularly strangers.”

Medical experts note that this disorder can cause serious disruptions to one’s life and wellbeing. Meanwhile, legal experts like Tsigler Law, an NYC law firm that handles Federal Crimes, note that exhibitionism is a rather gross offense of the law. 

No matter which perspective you examine it from, this is a serious disorder, and it’s best to know the signs and causes so that you can recognize it when you see it and get help for anyone you know who has been exhibiting the symptoms.

Symptoms of Exhibitionstic Disorder

While the urge to expose oneself is the overarching general symptom of Exhibitionistic Disorder, there are several specific criteria that often play into a diagnosis:

  • The urges occur over a period of six months
  • The urges are repeated and coupled with extreme sexual arousal
  • The behavior disrupts the individual’s everyday life

A health professional can use these criteria to make a diagnosis, and may further break the behavior down into one of several subtypes (whether exposure is mainly to prepubescent children, adults, etc.), based upon specific actions of the affected individual.

While the exact numbers are unknown, some experts place the portion of the population that displays symptoms of Exhibitionistic Disorder at two to four percent. It is more likely to occur in men than in women, and it is usually coupled with a preoccupation with sex.

Causes of Exhibitionistic Disorder

Experts have noted that this disorder is often coupled with other abnormalities, such as overindulgence in alcohol, and interest in pedophilia, and antisocial personality disorder. Exhibitionists are often hypersexual, and, in many cases, have experienced emotional abuse and childhood sexual trauma.

Exhibitionistic disorder often begins around early adulthood, and may persist well throughout adulthood. What’s more, exhibitionism, in this context, is often a precursor to individuals committing more severe acts such as rape. 

Because most who have exhibitionsitic disorder do not seek treatment of their own volition, it’s important to intervene if you know someone who may be suffering, and helping them get the behavioral therapy they’ll need to cope with their condition.