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Sex addict or just a cheat?

NY Daily News

NY Daily News

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,

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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