What is Frotteurism?
Frotteurism is the term used for the intentional rubbing up against or touching of another, usually unsuspecting, person for the purpose of sexual arousal. It is also classified as one of the "courtship disorders".
The diagnostic criteria of the DSM-IV-TR are that the individual has experienced intense sexual urges, arousal or behaviour involving rubbing against or touching unsuspecting persons, for at least six months. The individual must experience either personal distress over the behaviour and/or social or occupational impairment.
The behaviour usually begins in adolescence with puberty and involves sexual arousal from the touching or rubbing against unsuspecting victims. While the rubbing or touching may be on any part of the body, the breasts, legs and buttocks are the most common areas. The individual may touch the victim with his hands or rub his genital area against the victim.
Most individuals with this paraphilia are male and in most cases the victims are females.
The incidents usually occur in crowded settings where it can be interpreted or disguised as inadvertent behaviour. Setting include elevators, escalators, buses, trains, subways, or crowds in general. Victims may be unaware that they have been so accosted.
Prevalence is difficult to determine in the general public, particularly given the tendency of the individual to "disappear" in the surrounding crowd. Individuals may present for treatment spontaneously if the condition is causing them sufficient distress but, in general, they come to the attention of mental health professionals only if they have come into contact with the criminal justice system as a result of their behaviour.
As with most paraphilias, frotteurism is usually concurrent with other paraphilias and, in this case, other courtship disorders.
Treatment options would be similar as for other paraphilias and include both cognitive behavioural therapy psychopharmacological options.
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Laws R. & O'Donohue, W. (eds) Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment. New York: Guilford Press
Therapy for Sexual Impulsivity: The Paraphilias and Paraphilia-Related Disorders. Martin Kafka, MD, Psychiatric Times (on-line)
© Stephen Hucker, MB,BS, FRCP(C), FRCPsych 2003,2004,2005
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