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Zoophilia: causes, symptoms and treatment

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Passion, flame, desire, attraction... these words refer to the experience of sensuality and sexuality.

This experience or the absence of it is a very important aspect of the human being. Even at the academic level, authors like Sigmund Freud have investigated the importance of libido as one of the fundamental elements (in their case the most important) of the human psyche and behavior. Human sexuality is broad and complex, with great diversity in the type of stimuli that provoke the desire of individuals. We may like one person or another, awaken the desire for certain characteristics that others like dislike or may even motivate us to try to maintain relationships in ways other than the ones we use usually.

Regardless of it, As a general rule, the object of desire or what we are attracted to is a human being with enough physical and mental capacity and maturity to establish relationships. However, there are people whose experience of sexuality includes an atypical object of desire, in some cases even illegal and harmful to themselves or others. Within this group we can find people who have carnal relationships with living beings of other animal species different from humans:

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people who practice zoophilia.

Recalling concepts: paraphilias

As we have mentioned, sexuality is a complex and varied dimension. But there are people whose object of desire is strongly restricted to one aspect, wanting or performing sexual practices with living beings or inanimate objects that either do not consent or do not have sufficient capacity or maturity to make the decision to consent, or whose sexual activation depends on the presence of pain or humiliation of one's own or of the other person. These people suffer from the type of disorders known as paraphilias.

This type of disorder occurs continuously over time and causes a high level of discomfort in the person, by have recurrently strong sexual fantasies that include acts or actors that the subject or society denies. And even in the cases of paraphilias in which people do not present discomfort, the fact of having a restricted object of desire causes them to see part of their life limited.

Some of these paraphilias they also involve harm or abuse towards other beings, as occurs with pedophiles or, in the case at hand, zoophiles. That is why, although they do not pose a harm to the person who expresses this behavior, they are considered paraphilias, problems that must be treated with professional help.

Zoophilia as a paraphilic disorder

One of the best known paraphilias is zoophilia or bestiality. This disorder of sexual inclination assumes the existence of a consistent sexual attraction over time towards other non-human animals. Also called bestiality in cases where the subject consumes his fantasies, This disorder has serious effects on those who suffer from it. Specifically, they are usually subjects who are ashamed of the acts they commit, causing feelings of anxiety and discomfort (which can provoke the recidivism of the act as a method to alleviate said anxiety), in addition to facilitating continued deterioration at the social level and even labor.

The level of attraction and being the object of desire can be highly variable. There are zoophilic people who have a fixation with a specific species and others who are attracted to different species. It must be borne in mind that some zoophilic practices are carried out in a substitute way due to the impossibility of accessing the object of true desire, this being the people. However, the zoophilic subject does tend to have a greater preference for non-human beings.

In addition to this, it must be taken into account that zoophilia is a practice punishable by law in multiple countries (including ours, Spain), due to the abuse committed with the animal in question. The maintenance of sexual relations with animals can also cause the transmission of severe diseases, appearing infections of sexual transmission such as lymphogranuloma venereum and other disorders that can cause great problems in the quality of life of the person. Likewise, physical injuries can be caused during the act both in person and in animals, as well as behavioral alterations after copulation.

Possible causes of zoophilic behavior

Although its exact prevalence is not known (those who have a paraphilia usually do not admit it), this disorder classified as unspecified paraphilia is not frequent in the general population. The mechanism that causes a human being to establish his object of sexual desire in beings of other species is not yet known..

As with the rest of paraphilias, it has been proposed that it may be due to a casual association between sexual arousal and animal. This association would be the product of chance or the sublimation of sexual affective needs, and before repeated practice, it could become a disorder and a fixation on the other being, that would culminate identifying it as an object of desire.

Zoophilic practices tend to occur in isolated areas with difficult access, generally in rural areas. In these types of environments, human contact can be very limited, while access to livestock and other animals is relatively easy. This is one of the common characteristics among people with zoophilia: loneliness and isolation. Another common characteristic in these subjects that could help explain the problem is the presence of a low level of social skills, causing a high level of frustration and that in some people can cause the need to vent the unfulfilled desire and the emotional discomfort.

If to all this is added the emotional bond that exists between a domestic or farm animal and their owner or the person who cares for them, it is possible that the person feels a special connection that can lead to a beginning of sexual desire, and even humanize the animal. This theory would be supported in this case. In addition, many individuals with this problem indicate that animals give them a higher level of affection and loyalty than other people.

Apart from this, some cultures and beliefs may facilitate the presence of this disorder, and in certain mental disorders Behaviors of this type may appear secondarily.

Treatment of zoophilia

The treatment of a paraphilia such as zoophilia is complex and is subject to debate. Many of these patients consider that zoophilic practices do not harm anyone, equating their situation to that of other historically persecuted groups, alleging an alleged misunderstanding based on prejudices. However, in the case of zoophilia, the animals in question do not have the ability to give or deny consent to copulation, with which in practice zoophilia is a violation of them.

Another reason why treatment is complicated is that most subjects with zoophilia hide this fact, due to shame or fear of social judgment. Simply accepting therapy means acknowledging that you have a problem in that regard.

One of the best ways to treat this problem would go through psychological treatment. Taking into account that people with zoophilia are generally lonely individuals with little social contact, an effective treatment would be based on helping the subject to increase their self-esteem and relational skills with humans, the analysis of their fantasies and what elements of these are palatable and induce arousal sexual. From all this it would be possible to focus and redirect the subject's drives.

It is a complex process but possible through psychotherapeutic work, attending to the behavioral and cognitive sequences of the individual and working both in enhancing normative sexual arousal and in de-eroticizing the hitherto object of desire.

Bibliographic references:

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
  • Belloch, Sandín and Ramos (2008). Manual of Psychopathology. McGraw-Hill. Madrid.
  • Cáceres, J. (2001). Paraphilias and rape. Madrid: Editorial Síntesis.
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