Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sex addiction is a diagnosis-worthy disorder, study suggests

Is sex addiction a real disorder— or just an excuse for bad behavior?
The condition—now labeled “hypersexual disorder”— is up for consideration as a diagnosis to be included as a research topic in the next edition of psychiatry’s diagnostic manual, the DSM-5. A new study provides support for its inclusion.
In a paper published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine researchers studied 207 people who had visited outpatient clinics and reported problematic sexual behavior.  The clinics offered either specific counseling and treatment for sexual addiction or more general treatment for drug addiction or psychiatric problems. The participants were randomly selected among those seeking admission whose problems included at least some compulsive sexual behavior.
sex addiction may threaten health and social relationships: 28% of those diagnosed contracted an STD at least once, 39% had lost relationships and 17% had lost jobs because of their condition


The authors used the criteria proposed for DSM-5 to make the diagnosis.  So for at least six months, a person must suffer from a preoccupation with sex or sexual fantasies and repeatedly engage in related behaviors to the point where it risks causing harm and significantly impairs normal functioning in work and relationships. In addition, the behavior must occur not just while the person is drunk or high, and the potentially addicted person should have tried and failed repeatedly to change their behavior without success.  The compulsive behavior must also occur either in response to stress or negative emotional experiences or both.
That rules out the average case of cheating, primarily because it isn’t associated with such repetitive, compulsive behavior. “[C]ommon behaviors such as brief sexual encounters with unfamiliar partners, multiple [adulterous] affairs or frequent pornography consumption do not satisfy the symptom criteria unless they are concurrently associated with a broader spectrum of pathological expression for a period of at least 6 months,” the authors write.
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