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The American Psychiatric Association has classified certain voyeuristic fantasies, urges and behavior patterns as a paraphilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) if the person has acted on these urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.The diagnosis would not be given to people who experience typical sexual arousal simply by seeing nudity or sexual activity.This is a reversal from the historical perspective, moving from a term which describes a specific population in detail, to one which describes the general population vaguely.One of the few historical theories on the causes of voyeurism comes from psychoanalytic theory.Voyeurism was initially believed to only be present in a small portion of the population.The voyeur does not normally interact directly with the subject of his/her interest, who is often unaware of being observed.The essence of voyeurism is the observing but may also involve the making of a secret photograph or video of the subject during an intimate activity.This is particularly surprising considering the increase in use of the term voyeur and the group of people it can encompass.
Psychoanalytic theory proposes that voyeurism results from a failure to accept castration anxiety and as a result a failure to identify with the father.
Voyeurism has high prevalence rates in most studied populations.
In order to be diagnosed with voyeuristic disorder the symptoms must persist for over six months and the person in question must be over the age of 18.
While there has been more research since then, there is still little information on the topic.
However society has accepted the use of the term voyeur as a description of anyone who views the intimate lives of others, even outside of a sexual context.
This term is specifically used regarding reality television and other media which allow people to view the personal lives of others.