Compulsive Sexual Behavior is Now Classified as a Mental Health Condition
Though some have struggled with compulsive hypersexuality since the dawn of time, compulsive sexual behavior has only recently been acknowledged as a compulsive disorder. Very recently, the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), included compulsive sexual behavior, a condition to be categorized as an Impulse Control Disorder. The IDC-11 list defines compulsive sexual behavior as “a persistent pattern or failure to control intense, repetitive impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior.” While advocating efforts are underway for the inclusion of compulsive sexual behavior as a treatable disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5), there is unfortunately still much misunderstanding around the constitution of compulsive sexual behavior, or as some may refer to it, a sex addiction. It’s important to understand that compulsive sexual behaviors and sex addiction is not about the number of sexual partners someone has or the frequency in which they engage in sexual behavior. Sex addiction is apparent when a person’s sexual behavior consumes their life, causing them to neglect their health, self-care, finances, personal relationships, career, hobbies, and/or responsibilities.
The psychological foundation of compulsive sexual behavior is similar to drug or alcohol addiction in the sense that an individual addicted to sex will continue to participate in compulsive sexual behaviors, despite the consequences those behaviors may have. Much like a drug addict indulging in pain killers to numb their emotional pain, sex addicts often cope with their life stressors and traumas through sexual behavior. This form of escape from uncomfortable negative emotions has served as a primary way of coping and mitigating emotional distress that, in turn, creates a cycle of more problems, increasing desperation, and shame, according to a 2006 study on understanding and managing compulsive sexual behaviors (Fong, 2006).
This recent inclusion of Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder is a step in the right direction for those struggling with sex addiction. Like many struggling with substance abuse, it can be difficult for a sex addict to acknowledge the negative effects their behaviors are having on their lives. It can also be incredibly difficult to make the decision to seek help for compulsive sexual behavior, identify treatment for the addiction and reclaim control of their life. Despite the strides in research and treatment, addiction often carries with it a stigma. When stigma prevails, it can be difficult to empathize with the powerlessness of someone suffering from compulsive behavior or an addiction, especially when the compulsion is of a sexual nature.
Living with a sex addiction can be debilitating, and recovery challenging, especially for those struggling with compulsive sexual behavior, as our current culture displays sexual imagery constantly in media, advertisements, and more every day encounters. Recovering from any addiction is no easy feat, but this is especially true when it comes to sexual behavior, because humans are innately sexual creatures, and our survival depends on physical and emotional connection. However, recovery from a compulsive sexual behavior disorder or sexual addiction, is entirely possible. It’s important for someone who takes the steps to treat their compulsive sexual behaviors to work with a mental health professional that is specifically trained in treating the nuances of sex addiction, so a healthy relationship with one’s sexuality can be foraged. There exists a rapidly growing community of mental health professionals specifically trained and certified to treat compulsive sexual behaviors. A directory of providers within this community can be found at https://www.iitap.com/therapists-search/. The competent staff at Triune Therapy Group can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 933-4088.
Fong, T. W. (2006). Understanding and Managing Compulsive Sexual Behaviors. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 3(11), 51–58.
Posted on behalf of Triune Therapy Group