What is fetishism? Can it be treated?

What is fetishism? Can it be treated?

Fetishism is a type of paraphilia that occurs when a person is sexually aroused by an object or body part that is not usually considered sexually exciting. (The object itself is called a fetish.) Some of the most common fetishes include:

  • Clothing, such as shoes, gloves, underwear
  • Materials, such as leather and rubber
  • Body parts, like feet and hair
  • Bodily features, like tattoos and piercings

Fetishes are more common in men than in women. Experts aren’t certain what causes them.

Having a fetish doesn’t necessarily mean a person has a disorder. In fact, fetishes may not be a problem at all. Many people incorporate fetishes into their sexual routines. For example, a person with a fetish might ask a partner to wear leather clothing. Or, they might hold a silk stocking while masturbating. Incorporating the fetish adds some spice to the encounter.

However, fetishism becomes a problem when a person needs the object in order to be sexually aroused and feels distress over the situation. In some cases, fetishes interfere with a person’s daily life.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM5), a person with a fetishistic disorder may have the following behaviors:

  • They cannot become sexually aroused or reach orgasm without the object or body part.
  • They are not sexually aroused by other types of sexual stimulation.
  • They feel distressed and embarrassed about the fetish.
  • They are unable to maintain their arousal or participate in relationships.
  • They feel unable to control their need for the fetish.

Fetishistic disorder may be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of talk therapy and drugs. Some healthcare providers prescribe antidepressants to patients with fetishistic disorder.



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