Sex Addiction A Real Disorder, Study Finds

By Amir Khan on October 10, 2012 1:13 PM EDT

The concept of sex addiction is controversial, but according to a new study, the disorder is very real, and researchers are now deciding what the criteria for diagnosis should be.

Hypersexual disorder, the formal name for sex addiction, is being considered for inclusion in the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), considered to be the bible for diagnosticians of mental disorders.

Researchers are now trying to agree on a definition for the disorder. One proposed definition would not simply qualify anyone who has frequent sex as an addict, but would require the person have "excessive" sex, use it to frequently cope with stress and have it interfere with their daily lives to qualify.

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Researchers stressed that the diagnosis would not make people who watch pornography sex addicts, but would only affect people who classify their sexual habits as "out of control."

"They might consider the consequences momentarily, but somehow feel their need for sex is more important, and choose sex even in situations where such choices might cause significant problems or harm," Rory Reid, study author and an assistant professor and research psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told LiveScience.

Researchers interviewed 207 people who were referred to a mental health clinic. One-hundred and fifty-two people were referred for sexual problems, 20 for substance abuse and 35 for a psychiatric condition. The researchers were unaware what the patients were referred for, but after applying their diagnostic criteria, 134 of the patients referred for sexual behavior problems were diagnosed with sex addiction.

Future research is needed to determine whether people with sex addiction have actual changes in their brain similar to other addictions, but researchers said they will continue to study the behavior.

If the addiction is included in DSM, it will be included in the appendix, which is reserved for provisional disorders that require further research.

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