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Fetishistic disorder

Scott F Martin, MD
Stephen B Levine, MD
Section Editor
Murray B Stein, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
Richard Hermann, MD


Fetishistic disorder is characterized by a distressing and persistent pattern of sexual arousal involving the use of nonliving objects or specific, nongenital body parts. In clinical usage, the term “fetish” delineates an object, such as a partner’s foot, which is used by an individual to attain sexual arousal and orgasm. Persons with sexual fetishes may need to be touching, smelling, or looking at their unique object, or engaging in fantasy about it, to become or stay aroused, either alone or with a partner.

In the revision of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnosis and Statistical Manual (DSM) from the fourth to fifth edition, fetishism was renamed fetishistic disorder [1]. The diagnosis was broadened to include partialism, in which patients attain sexual arousal through the use of specific, nongenital parts of the partner’s body. There has been relatively little research on fetishism/fetishistic disorder. In the absence of clinical trials, treatment is based largely on clinical experience and published case reports.

This topic addresses the epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical characteristics, course, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of fetishistic disorder. Evaluation and management of other sexual and gender identity disorders are discussed separately. (See "Evaluation of male sexual dysfunction" and "Treatment of male sexual dysfunction" and "Sexual dysfunction in women: Epidemiology, risk factors, and evaluation" and "Sexual dysfunction in women: Management".)


The incidence and prevalence of fetishistic disorder in the general population are not known. It is not clear whether the rarity of fetishistic disorder as a presenting complaint represents a low prevalence or a lack of reporting by people with the condition.

Fetishism is typically not investigated separately from other forms of paraphilia. Across numerous studies, voyeurism and fetishism are often described as the most common paraphilic interests among men [2]. A community survey of 1040 people selected randomly and demographically representative of the general population in Quebec studied fetishism (not necessarily associated with distress or impairment, ie, not a fetishistic disorder) [2], finding:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 13, 2016.
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