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Researchers Say Sex Addiction is a Real Disorder

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Sex addiction as a mental disorder is a controversial idea, but a new study suggests it may be the case.

“Hypersexual disorder” may be added the DSM-5, the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders set for release in May 2013. Researchers must first agree on the definition of the disorder.

One of the proposed definitions would not classify someone as a sex addict simply because he or she has sex frequently, said Rory Reid, one of the researchers who conducted the study. But if that person’s sexual activities are excessive, often used to cope with stress, and interfere with the ability to function in daily life, he or she may be diagnosed with the disorder, explained Reid, an assistant professor and research psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In the study, “hypersexual disorder” was defined as “recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, sexual urges, and sexual behavior” lasting at least six months. For a diagnosis to be made, these three things must cause the person distress or interfere with some aspect of the person’s life. They must also not have been brought on by drugs, alcohol, or another mental disorder.

The researchers interviewed 207 people who had been referred to a mental health clinic. The majority--152 people--had been referred for sexual behavior problems, while 20 of them were referred for substance abuse, and 35 for some other psychiatric condition.

Using the criteria for “hypersexual disorder,” 134 of the patients referred for sexual problems were diagnosed with the disorder. The diagnosis was determined by patients' scores on questionnaires assessing sexual behavior, impulsivity, and susceptibility to stress.

In 92 percent of cases, the health professionals--including psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers--agreed on who should be diagnosed with the disorder.

Reid suggested future studies focus on determining whether people with “hypersexual disorder” experience changes in their brain similar to those seen in people with addictions. Researchers should also determine the prevalence of the condition, he said.

If “hypersexual disorder” is added to the DSM-5, it will be included in the appendix, which is only provisional and requires further research, Reid said.

Source: NBC News