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Is Sex Addiction Real?

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Updated March 04, 2010

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Is Sex Addiction Real?

Real addiction or natural sexual appetite?

Image (c) Israel Papillon
Question: Is Sex Addiction Real?
Sex addiction has become a household term, due in part to press coverage about celebrities like Tiger Woods and David Duchovny seeking treatment for this condition. TV shows like Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew also explore the subject of sex addiction. But is sex addiction real?
Answer:

Sex addiction is not currently recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edition), and there is no agreement among experts on whether it should be included in future editions. However, that doesn't mean someone can't have a problem when it comes to sex.

Hypersexual disorder is a new disorder that has been proposed for inclusion in the next edition of the DSM-V, and reflects a recognition of what is commonly referred to as "sex addiction." Whether hypersexual disorder is included in the DSM-V will depend on feedback from the public, and further consideration by the manual's developers.

It is clear that whether it is called "sex addiction," "compulsive sexuality," or "hypersexuality," it shares many features of other addictions, including spending a lot of time thinking about, planning, and repetitively engaging in the behavior, even when it becomes harmful; having difficulty controlling the behavior; and experiencing distress or disruption to other areas of life as a result.

Keep in mind that sex addiction is only an addiction if it is problematic or harmful in some way, it is not a label that can simply be applied to anyone who enjoys or has a lot of sex.

While "sex addiction" is not officially recognized, there are several treatments that help. Effective treatments include individual therapy, group therapy, marital and couples counseling, family therapy and art therapy. In some cases, medication might help, particularly if the behavior is stemming from mania related to bipolar disorder. Research is still emerging, so in the years to come, we can expect approaches to treating excessive sexuality more effectively.

The bottom line: While sex addiction isn't officially recognized as a disorder, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. If you or someone you know has "sex addict" like behavior, help is available.

Sources

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (4th edition - Text Revision). Washington DC, American Psychiatric Association. 1994.

American Psychiatric Association. "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Eating Disorders (Proposed Revisions)." 18 Feb 2010.

Carnes, P. Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction. Third Edition. Center City MN, Hazelden. 2001.

Orford, J. Excessive Appetities: A Psychological View of Addictions. Second Edition. Chichester, Wiley. 2001.

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