What Causes Voyeurism? (+3 Diagnostic Criteria)

Voyeurism known as a person stimulates his/her self sexually or gets sexual pleasure by means of watching a person or picture of undressed and naked people, taking shower or watching those who are involved in sexual activity to achieve their goal.

If the individual becomes unable to function properly in daily life because of the sexual impulse and fantasies about the act voyeurism that make them feel distress is known as a voyeuristic disorder.

All the voyeurs don’t show the symptoms of voyeuristic disorder.

In this article, we will discuss Voyeurism. 

Voyeurism is a behavior of watching another individual that helps the individual to stimulate his/her self sexually but the important point is that the need for sexual arousal is not related to the person they are viewing secretly such as having sex or taking shower.

Voyeurism is a behavior, which identifies that Voyeurs usually have some complication in understanding the basic law of others’ privacy and it provides the base of observing others secretly.

Voyeurism is usually seen progressively in boys and men but it is also observed that it affects progressively more women.

Adolescence or early adulthood normally considers the age of Voyeurism. 

Voyeurism milder forms are usually considered normal and also age to sexually guide their growing adolescents.

Voyeurism involves a trademark of secretly viewing others but nowadays the unambiguous sexual pictures are easily available on the internet and different shows also promote this kind of stuff.

The behavior of watching these shows and pictures are not considered as Voyeurism because they lack the basic component of Voyeurism (secretly observing). 

Voyeuristic Disorder

Paraphilic disorders are the disorders that go beyond the norms to get sexual pleasure such as sexual unrealities, impulses, likings, discussing sexual interests, and behavior that crosses the limits.

All of the above behavior considered abnormal if a person continues to do such behaviors without taking consent from the viewer eventually generates the unpleasant feeling of guilt and remorse which in turn becomes the reason to damage or harm the individual himself and the people around him. 

Voyeurism is considered a disorder in psychology under the category of paraphilic disorder if the voyeurs are unable to justify their responsibilities and also ignore the significant side of their life because they spend their whole time to grab the opportunity of  Voyeurism.

Voyeurism also includes spending most of their day time or sleeping time observing others as it is considered the most favorite manner for the attainment of sexual preference.

Often the normal people have a tendency to work intelligently with a purpose related to sexual activity or observing others in order to gain sexual arousal.

Voyeur often saves the pictures of undressed individuals or take pictures and make short videos while viewing others as taking showers or involved in sexual activity also save those pictures so that they may use it later to gain their purpose.

Although sometimes individuals observe these kinds of things unintentionally without knowing what was happening in the room it is not considered as the voyeuristic disorder.

“Peeping Toms,” is a term that is specifically used for voyeurs which means that voyeurs often use different ways of staring at others by the means of knot holes and windows such as field glasses, hand mirrors, camera footage.


In order to be diagnosed a person as having a voyeuristic disorder, you have to identify some specific symptoms of voyeurism in that individual such as when a person involved in the behavior of observing others as undressed, doing sex and when fantasize such things he/she may feel strong erotic arousal with the duration of six months at least.  

Voyeurs not only gain the sexual pleasure by just observing people excrete but also prefer to hear and enjoy erotic discussions and it is also discovered that when voyeurs observe someone they also engage in the behavior such as masturbate and sexual imagination but not interested in the sexual activity with the same person they observe.

All of these behaviors actually provide the base of disruption in other areas of voyeur’s life i.e. socially, physically, and mentally.

Adolescents that are involved in voyeurism are often arrested for such behaviors to prevent them but if an adult is involved in such behaviors then voyeurism is considered a criminal act.

Some things which is needed to be considered while making a diagnosis for voyeurism are described below

·         Voyeurs need to be at least 18 years of age in order to diagnose as a voyeuristic disorder

·         The behavior of observing others takes place with the association of a specific element such as secretly watching or the permission of that individual.

 Criteria include:

According to the criteria of DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder -5) in order to diagnose a voyeuristic disorder, these symptoms must be considered.

  • Repeated and passionate erotic stimulation while observing an innocent person who is undressed or having sex with their partner or fantasizes such sexual impulses that cause erotic stimulation in that individual. individual must engage in the behavior for the duration of at least 6 month
  • The individual doing all these behaviors of getting erotic stimulation without taking consent from the viewers and this erotic stimulation also cause the feeling of suffering and stress which directly affects their daily functioning by causing the disruption in social, professional, and personal domains of life.
  • The person who is involved in the behavior of stimulation or act according to their sexual impulses must be 18 years old


After examining the voyeurs there is no specific cause that can be known as providing the foundation of voyeurism.

But some factors can be considered a threat that may cause a normal individual to become a voyeur.

These factors include substance use, a victim of sexual abuse, and also the condition of manically sexualized by someone.

Some professionals claim that every individual has a specific tendency for voyeurism but they don’t confess it because of their feeling of fear and guilt also due to the insult they faced if they ever get caught.

Voyeurism may start due to experience something unexpectedly such as accidentally view someone undressed or having sex.

But if an individual engages in a behavior to view it repeatedly he/she actually reinforces his/her bad behavior that leads them to the extent where it crosses all the norms and moral values and is considered unacceptable in a culture, abnormal and mental problem.

DSM-5 identified some of the risk factors for voyeurism such as sexual abuse in the early phase of life, use of substances, erotic obsessions, and hypersexuality.

However, the relationship with the voyeur is unclear and undefined.

In order to diagnose an individual as having the voyeuristic disorder we must focus on the age of that individual he/she must be 18 years of age or adult but people who are diagnosed as voyeuristic disorder usually engage in voyeurism as adolescents.

When adolescents engage in voyeurism it makes diagnosis difficult because adolescents’ behavior can be considered as reaching the age of puberty changes and are curious to know about sexual activity.

The specific duration for the treatment of voyeurism is unclear because in voyeuristic disorder many factors have an impact on an individual’s personality and to lower the impact or change them either naturally or by receiving treatment.

Consider the following factors known as remorse, embarrassment, strong erotic prevention, mental disorder, hypersexuality, tend to engage in a behavior to watch someone undressed secretly, and the most important factor is the feeling of isolation.

All of the above-mentioned factors make the treatment of voyeuristic disorder as a challenge and also have differences in the duration of the treatment depending on the individual age and severity of the disorder.


It is seen very rarely that a person who is engaged in voyeurism comes to a professional for help.

But once they get caught either by their family members such as father, mother, and sibling or when they get caught by the viewers that report against them and get arrested in case of violating the country law.

They are taken to the professional to receive the best treatment for their problem.

The basic treatment strategies that are used by the therapist or psychologists are described below

·         Medication

·         Psychotherapy

·         Support group

If a voyeur is caught on an early stage of this disorder the preferable treatment is to teach them those behaviors that are socially acceptable and make them behave in a way that is acceptable.

Some of them are described below.

·         Admire other’s privacy rather than breaking it.

·         Avoid all those places and things that attract sexual stimulation and engage you in voyeurism.

Cognitive behavior therapy is also considered as one of the best treatment strategies while dealing with voyeurs.

Cognitive behavior therapy helps people to change their faulty cognition that affects their behavior and destroy their physical and mental health.

Replace all those faulty cognitions with the positive and healthy ones such as cognitive behavior therapy support individuals by teaching them to use their intelligence and hard work in something creative and useful rather than spying on others.

Also, use some different and socially acceptable ways for sexual stimulation rather than violating the rule of others’ privacy.

Medication is also considered a useful way to treat the voyeuristic disorder such as Anti-depressants known as the useful medication in order to maintain the balance of different chemicals in the human brain also decreased the level of thoughtless behaviors.

Anti-androgenic drugs known as having the ability to reduce the ambition for sex and commonly used while dealing with the patients who diagnosed as having sexual sadism disorder.

FAQ about Voyeurism

Is it bad to be a voyeur?

If the word voyeurism attracts your attention then just relax you are not alone in that situation.

It is a normal sexual interest that attracts every human being in order to explore what is hidden.

But it becomes an abnormal behavior if voyeurism becomes a reason for disruption in your different domain (personal, occupational, social) of life or cause the change in your temperament such as you to become more violent and angry.

If at any point in your life you feel that somebody is watching you secretly prefer to call the police and complain against that person.

Why do men become voyeurs?

Although there is no specific reason for voyeurism except that a person may start it accidentally and then become addicted other than that some factors may overlap with voyeurs behavior such as the use of various substances, experience any childhood abuse that enhances sexual curiosity and hyper-sexualization.  

What is a Paraphilic disorder?

In Paraphilia an individual goes beyond the norms to get sexual pleasure such as sexual unrealities, impulses, likings, discussing sexual interests, and behavior that cross the limits.

It also involves non-living objects, children or humiliating other individuals and making them suffer that cause harm to that individual in order to get sexual stimulation.


Psychology Today. (2020). Voyeuristic Disorder. Retrieved https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/conditions/voyeuristic-disorder from

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