It seems that in recent years, anytime there is a high profile sex scandal, the term sex addiction is used. It has become so common that I couldn’t help but wonder, is sexual addiction a disease or just a convenient excuse? In researching this topic, I found that while the term sex addict is very popular in the media, it isn’t well accepted within psychiatry. There is a lot of debate, about what really constitutes sexual addiction formerly known as hypersexual disorder because there are no clearly defined or agreed upon criteria for this condition. Despite recent strides in sex addiction research, the condition does not make the cut as an official psychiatric disorder.
The latest version of the DSM-5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the official mental health handbook released by the American Psychiatric Association; guidance for diagnosis or treatment of sexual addiction is not included. In part, this is due to the fact that the APA feels that there are many questions that still need to be answered about this condition and that the research conducted expands to the general population and is not just focused on people who were already seeking help for a mental health condition.
Sex addicts are not people who crave a lot of sex; they are people who have underlying issues which are not being addressed. A true hypersexual disorder is one where the man or woman spends most of the day consumed by sexual urges, fantasies and excessive amount of time engaged in sexual activities, to the point that it interferes with their life and activities of daily living. This is usually driven by impulsive or compulsive behavior and it is noted that people with impulse control problems have an inability to make good decisions. Those with sexual compulsions, on the other hand, constantly think and plan about their next sexual encounter and often suffer from anxiety or depression that may be relieved by sex. Some of them include stress, anxiety, depression, shame and guilt and it is these feelings that drive their often risky sexual behavior.
A full evaluation should include screening for a range of problems like the ones mentioned above, problems that frequently accompany hypersexuality and mood disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders and past physical or emotional traumas. Frequently, it is a crisis that convinces them to seek treatment; they’re caught in the act by a spouse, fired from their job or arrested for soliciting sex from prostitutes. For some the crisis brings relief from distress caused by their behavior and constant fear of being discovered. While there are no reliable estimates of how many people have this disorder some studies suggest that it is more common in men, gay men in particular than in women.
Treatment is often multi-faceted. It can include psychiatric medications, mood stabilizers, and therapy which are key. Often people start with group therapy and while the cause is not pathological, treating an underlying mental disorder help get to the true root cause of the problem.
By Being Latino Contributor, Maria G. Rodriguez, RN, BSN, CHHC, www.connectmymindbodyandspirit.com