Will “Sex Addiction” Become an Official Diagnosis?

At the moment sex addiction is not recognised by any official diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), considered the definitive word on psychological disorders.

However, the term “hypersexual disorder” is being proposed for the fifth edition of DSM, due out in 2012.

The controversial proposal has critics worrying that the criteria are too vague, and the chances for misdiagnosis and bogus pharmaceutical treatment are too great.

To be diagnosed with the disorder a patient would have to meet four of the following five criteria:
•    Spending a “great deal of time” consumed by sexual fantasies and urges,
•    Using sexual behaviour to deal with stressful life events (or anxiety, depression, boredom or irritability),
•    Disregarding the “physical and emotional harm” to those involved,
•    Patients must have tried but failed to curb the behaviour, and/or
•    Patients must have suffered distress and harm to their everyday life.

The proposal is being put forward by Dr Martin Kafka, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, in the US, who says the disorder has been neglected for years.

He says it causes everything from marital dysfunction and divorce to increased risk of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

“By the time people come to me, they’re very distressed,” Dr Kafka said of the patients he sees at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. At the moment they are diagnosed with “Sexual Disorder Not Otherwise Specified” which he says is “a diagnostic wastebasket”.

Dr Dan Zucker, of the University of Toronto, heads a working group dealing with the next edition of DSM and he expects “hypersexuality disorder” to be listed. He admitted the proposal was controversial but said the issue was about where to draw the line on what was normal and what was not.

Some who treat the condition consider sex addiction more like a habit or compulsion, such as a gambling addiction, rather than any addiction that has a direct impact on the brain chemistry.

“Is loving sex a sign of addiction?” asks Craig Fabrikant, a psychologist at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. “If it feels good, you do it.”

His concern is that any adulterer who is caught out might hide behind the term sexual addiction.

Others say that the condition does need to be treated like any other substance abuse but the stigma of being diagnosed a sex addict might prevent many sufferers from seeking help.

This material was taken from a recent article in the Herald Sun, an Australian newspaper.

6 thoughts on “Will “Sex Addiction” Become an Official Diagnosis?”

  1. I still think the best way to deal with substance abuse is with a 12 Step program, like alcoholics anonymous or narcotics anonymous for drugs. They’ve been at it a long time, and have helped tons of people.

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