Sex Addiction / Over-active Sexual Desire (Hyperactive Sexual desire disorder)

Hypersexuality

Over-active Sexual Desire is also known as ‘Hypersexuality’.  It a condition defined as an extremely frequent or suddenly increased libido. It is currently controversial whether it should be included as a clinical diagnosis used by mental healthcare professionals. ‘Nymphomania’ and ‘satyriasis’ were terms previously used for the condition, in women and men respectively.

Hypersexuality may be a primary condition, or the symptom of another medical disease or condition, for example, Klüver-Bucy syndrome (bilateral lesions of the medial temporal lobe) or bipolar disorder (previously known as manic depression). Hypersexuality may also present as a side effect of medication such as drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Clinicians have yet to reach a consensus over how best to describe hypersexuality as a primary condition, or to determine the appropriateness of describing such behaviors and impulses as a separate pathology.

Hypersexual behaviours are viewed variously by clinicians and therapists as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or “OCD-spectrum disorder”, an addiction, or a disorder of impulsivity. A number of authors do not acknowledge such a pathology and instead assert that the condition merely reflects a cultural dislike of exceptional sexual behavior.

Consistent with there not being any consensus over what causes hypersexuality, authors have used many different labels to refer to it, sometimes interchangeably, but often depending on which theory they favor or which specific behavior they were studying. Contemporary names include compulsive masturbation, compulsive sexual behavior, cybersex addiction, erotomania (delusional disorder), “excessive sexual drive”,  hyperphilia, hypersexuality, hypersexual disorder, problematic hypersexuality, sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, sexual dependency, sexual impulsivity, “out of control sexual behavior”, and paraphilia-related disorder.

Hypersexuality is known to present itself as a symptom in connection to a number of mental and neurological disorders.

Adapted from:  https://psychcentral.com/lib/hypersexuality

Sexual Addiction

Sexual addiction, which is also known as hypersexual disorder, has largely been ignored by psychiatrists, even though the condition causes serious psychosocial problems for many people. A lack of empirical evidence on sexual addiction is the result of the disease’s complete absence from versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

However, people who were categorized as having a compulsive, impulsive, addictive sexual disorder or a hypersexual disorder, reported having obsessive thoughts and behaviours as well as sexual fantasies. Sexual addiction/ hypersexual disorder is used as an umbrella construct to encompass various types of problematic behaviours, including excessive: masturbation, cybersex, pornography use, sexual behaviour with consenting adults, telephone sex, strip club visitation, Chem-sex, and other behaviours.

The adverse consequences of sexual addiction are similar to the consequences of other addictive disorders. Addictive, somatic and psychiatric disorders coexist with sexual addiction. In recent years, research on sexual addiction has proliferated, and screening instruments have increasingly been developed to diagnose or quantify sexual addiction disorders.

The diagnosis of “sex addiction’ is surrounded by controversy.  It’s been excluded from the fifth edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5), but it’s still written about and studied in psychology and counseling circles.  It can still be diagnosed using both DSM-5 as “Other specified sexual dysfunction”.

Dave Wells believes that ‘sex addiction and sexual complusion’ has been neglected as a serious health condition because many address the condition from a values and moral perspective, as well as this, more work and discussion has been invested on what to call the condition, rather than supporting the people who live with it.

The term ‘sex addiction’ has become a term that many have heard largely due to famous people who use it to excuse their infidelities.  This is not to say that all of them do not have the condition, however media often sensationalise the condition by highlighting it as a scandal, and focusing on their marriage breakdowns, and who the person has cheated with, rather than explaining how the condition effects people.

Unfortunately, ‘sex’ is often a loaded word that triggers several different reactions and points of view.  It is often received with embarrassment, or viewed as naughty, rude, or inappropriate; however, we are all born and die with a sex-being, including a sexuality.   It is natural, no different than any other part of being human. The only difference between our sexual health and any other human function are the messages that we receive (socialization) which frame our thoughts about sex.  For example in western culture if a person has been sexual with another, we usually describe it using a negative terminology, e.g. “have you been getting up to no good”, or “mischief”, “did you get lucky” (meaning if you don’t have sex you’re unlucky).  Often with sexual behaviour comes ‘judgments’, ‘values’, and even ‘persecution’.  Can you think of another natural function of being human that draws as much attention, opinion, or views, on what is right or wrong?

When it comes to a person who has multiple partners, especially when in a committed relationship, many feel that the term ‘Sexual addiction’ is an excuse for poor behaviour.  This is not to say that the behaviours should be celebrated, but if the condition was better understood outside of placing judgement, then they would realise that the condition controls the sufferer, and not the other way around.  Because sex addiction also comes under the term ‘paraphilia’ which encompasses abnormal sexual desires, many also mistakenly place sexual addiction with pedophilia which is not that case.  Although, people with sexual addiction will commonly place themselves at risk with the law by; accessing illegal sex workers, having sex in environments that are classed as loitering or public, or being too obvious in their sexual interest towards  others, etc.  Most with sexual addiction do not have the intention of harming others and will usually seek some type of privacy when sexually engaging, and only engage with consenting adults.  Dave Wells only works with people who have a sexual addiction that does not include pedophilia.  Referral can be made for those people who are attracted to people who are under the legal age.

Addiction is more commonly related to substances such as drugs, including alcohol and cigarettes:  AOD, or problematic behaviours, food, gambling, etc.  In the case of sexual addiction, the strong and often overwhelming urge to have sex is rarely about the sexual engagement itself, and more about the search to find the sex.  When we focus on the benefits that we receive from sex it is not just about reproduction and orgasm.  It also includes; ego stimulation by feeling attracted by another, the chase and challenge – conquering, curiosity.  All of the other benefits of a sexual engagement combine and release sexual endorphins in the body.  For many with addiction, the substance is the end result and often it is the journeys to attain the substance that releases the stimuli and endorphins that lead to their addiction.  In fact, when the sex addict completes the sexual engagement, they quite often start of process of looking for the next partner.  This doesn’t mean that they do not enjoy the sex, but rather they enjoy the challenge of finding it again and the endorphins that this process releases in their bodies.  This can be similar for many with AOD addiction who find the journey of purchasing the substance and its preparation can be just as, if not more addictive then physical reactions to the substance.

Because much of the focus of sexual addiction sufferers is placed the sexual activity, many people will take initiatives that avoid sexual engagement, however they will still explore the usual avenues that they utilise to find sex.  Over time the sex addict will seek a broader range of sexual experiences and activities and take risks such as unsafe sex, because they become desensitized to their regular sexual activities and are looking to enhance and satisfy their sexual urges.  If viewed in correlation to substance abuse, the more you use, the more you need to have the same effect.

The question often arises; how much sex is too much sex?  Of course, you cannot put a number of how many times you have sex is unhealthy.  Too much sex is when the sexual engagement is problematic and takes a person away from their responsibilities, or when the sex that they have is detrimental to their lives, either socially, hurting others, or placing their physical and mental health at risk of harm.

What are the symptoms of sex addiction?