According to the DSM- IV, the diagnosis manual for psychiatric disorders, necrophilia is defined as a sexual attraction to dead bodies. It is classified as paraphilia, which is a mentally unhealthy sexual attraction to something. The attraction has to disturbing to the patient in order for a diagnosis of a paraphilia. The sexual attraction also has to be present for several months in order to be classified as necrophilia and not just a passing phase. People who have necrophilia do not necessarily have intercourse with dead bodies; they can also fantasize about the act or role play with a partner.

There is a broad range in the types of behaviors necrophiliacs engage in. On the most mild end are those that simply fantasize about having intercourse with a dead body. There are also people who have never thought about intercourse with a dead body but engage in a sexual act with a body in a single instance. Those that actually have intercourse with a body also have a range of what sexual acts they perform on the corpse. The one common thread between all types of necrophilia is that having intercourse with a dead body is more sexually arousing to a necrophiliac than having intercourse with a living partner.

The most serious form of necrophilia takes the form of a necrophiliac either stealing corpses or committing homicide to procure a body. This is called “necrophilic homicide.” One study conducted in 1988 found that 42% of the necrophiliacs interviews had committed homicide in order to procure a body for sexual gratification. However, subsequent studies have not found such a high correlation between necrophilia and homicide. Studies have shown that most of those who suffer from necrophilia take jobs that gives them access to dead bodies, so by no means do all necrophiliacs commit homicide to obtain bodies.

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