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Sex Addiction Gains Scientific Traction

February 11th, 2013 by

The results are in. Sex addiction has officially been recognized as a legitimate psychiatric disorder.

Well, close, but not exactly. A recent field trial conducted by a research team led at UCLA, however, did indicate that the DSM-V proposed criteria for Hypersexual Disorder (HD) accurately captured the reported HD symptoms of patients seeking treatment for out-of-control sexual behavior.

DSM-V and Hypersexual Disorder

That’s great, but what is the DSM-V and what is Hypersexual Disorder? DSM-V stands for The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) fifth and upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This is what mental health professionals use to diagnose and classify psychiatric disorders. Every so often the APA conducts a laborious process to update the DSM in order to more accurately reflect the state of psychiatric diagnoses. Hypersexual Disorder is the new disorder that has been proposed for the Sexual Disorders section of the upcoming DSM-V. HD involves repetitive sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors that lead to distress and impairment in important areas of functioning.

The Study

What makes this study stand out is the fact that researchers attempted to determine the inter-rater agreement between clinicians regarding the HD symptom criteria in actual clinical settings. Prior to this study, self-report measures were the main and exclusive method used to determine the existence of symptoms of HD. 207 patients participated in the study and were drawn from outpatient clinics that treated out-of-control sexual behavior, mental health issues, or substance-related problems. They were administered questionnaires and interviewed by clinicians who had been trained to assess psychopathology and to detect HD.

The Results

Inter-rater reliability was significantly high, indicating that the proposed DSM-V criteria for HD accurately reflected the HD symptoms for which people were seeking help. There were other interesting findings as well. Pornography consumption, which was usually done in conjunction with masturbation, was found to be the prevailing behavior associated with hypersexual patients. Patients who had sex outside of their monogamous relationship had an average of 15.4 sex partners in the previous 12-month period. And 27.5% of hypersexual patients indicated that they had contracted at least one STI as a result of their hypersexual behavior.

Data also suggests that hypersexual patients who used sex to self-medicate their distress experienced greater levels of emotional dysregulation and susceptibility to stress. For most hypersexual patients the disorder began in adolescence or early adulthood, tended to be episodic or continuous, and showed a path of long-term progression.

But the bottom line is that the criteria for HD can be reliably applied to people seeking clinical treatment for symptoms of HD. In other words, there’s very good evidence from a field trial that Hypersexual Disorder exists. In all likelihood, the proposed criteria for HD will be placed in the appendix of the DSM-V for further research.

The science is slowly catching up with something that sex addiction treatment professionals have known for many years now.

Sex addiction is real.


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