Sex addiction, which isn't recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), affects nearly 12 million people in the United States. Three to five percent of the population suffers from sexual compulsion as the demographics for sex addiction has shifted from middle-aged men to young people and women, who are seeking professional help, says The Daily Mail. Also recognized in the medical community as hypersexual disorder (HD), sex addiction has been reviewed by researchers in a field trial published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. The study used criteria for HD from DSM-5, and aimed to capture symptoms, reported by patients who sought rehabilitation for their obsessive sexual behavior. For the study, 207 patients were evaluated to measure their hypersexuality, impulsivity, emotional deregulation and stress proneness in relation to HD. Researchers found that the HD criteria used by the DSM-5 Work Group on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders showed reliability when assessing patients who reported being sex addicts. The bona fide sex addicts reported symptoms that were classified in the criteria of the DSM-5 — recognizing the disorder as a mental health issue. Despite the field trial findings, the APA has not verified HD in the latest edition of the DSM-5, which stirs controversy in the medical field on whether or not it's a real addiction.
"Sexual addiction or hypersexuality is defined as a dysfunctional preoccupation with sexual fantasy, often in combination with the obsessive pursuit of casual or non-intimate sex; pornography; compulsive masturbation; romantic intensity; and objectified partner sex for a period of at least six months," Dr. Fran Walfish, child and family psychotherapist and author in Beverly Hills, Calif., told Medical Daily. Sex addicts often spend most of their time in the pursuit of sex rather than the sexual act itself. While sex addicts may appear to be frivolous and withholding of love and appreciation, a majority of them have been abused as children. A study found that 82 percent of sex addicts experienced sexual abuse as a child and often described their parents as distant and uncaring. The idea that sex addiction is mainly about sexual gratification has been debunked by research that indicates it's more about underlying problems such as stress, anxiety and depression that can lead to this heightened sexual behavior.
Psychotherapy treatment hasn't had a high success rate for the sex addicts that Dr. Walfish has treated. "They are best treated within a group setting model that way they must endure and be accountable to confrontations by group member peers," she said. Dr. Walfish recommends accountability as the prerequisite needed in order for sex addicts to change.
It is important to recognize the warning signs of a sex addict before you or someone you know seeks sex rehab. Below are common signs to look for in a bona fide sex addict.
Constant Need of Sexual Material
The average person may watch pornography, seek photographs, or read sex-related articles in moderation. However, a sex addict becomes obsessed with everything in relation to sex by frequently visiting X-rated sites and thinking about sex more than 10 to 19 times a day, which scientists say is the average for men and women, reports The Telegraph. An addict's preoccupation with sex will interfere with his or her life and could potentially ruin relationships at work, school, and at home.
Lead A Double Life
Often times sex addicts lead a double life and lie about where they were or what they were doing to conceal their sexual escapes. People who suffer from HD tend to cheat on their partners and opt to do this because they will get more sexual gain. While cheaters are not always classified sex addicts, the frequent act of cheating and a desire to do so may be an underlying HD.
Sex addicts may seek alternative forms to satisfy their addiction by paying for sex. Whether it's looking at cyber porn, having an abundance of pornography, going to strip clubs, or getting prostitutes, a sex addict will spend an overwhelming amount of money. Increased spending on these sexual escapades can lead to job loss, home loss, and even affect a person's savings because all their money is being invested on sexual desires.
The decision to have unsafe sex with multiple people, and not take into consideration the consequences it has on their health can be a warning sign of a sex addict. Those that suffer from HD will opt to have unprotected sex with a prostitute knowing the health repercussions it can have. This behavior is increased in the individual as they use this for a means of coping with anxiety, stress and depression to feel powerful and invulnerable, says Men's Health.