UCLA researchers test proposed criteria for diagnosing ‘hypersexual disorder’
The idea that an individual might suffer from a sexual addiction is great fodder for radio talk shows, comedians and late-night TV. But a sex addiction is no laughing matter. Relationships are destroyed, jobs are lost, lives ruined.
Many psychiatrists have been reluctant to accept the idea of out-of-control sexual behaviour as a mental health disorder because of the lack of scientific evidence. Now, a UCLA-led team of experts has tested a proposed set of criteria to define “hypersexual disorder”, also known as sexual addiction, as a new mental health condition.
Rory Reid, a research psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behaviour at UCLA, led a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and marriage and family therapists that found the proposed criteria to be reliable and valid in helping mental health professionals accurately diagnose hypersexual disorder.
The results of this study – reported in the Journal of Sexual Medicine – will influence whether hypersexual disorder should be included in the forthcoming revised fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), considered the “bible” of psychiatry.
The importance of the study, Reid said, is that it suggests evidence in support of hypersexual disorder as a legitimate mental health condition. “The criteria for hypersexual disorder that have been proposed, and now tested, will allow researchers and clinicians to study, treat and develop prevention strategies for individuals at risk for developing hypersexual behaviour,” he said.
The criteria, developed by a DSM-5 sexual and gender identity disorders work group for the revised manual, establish a number of symptoms that must be present. These include a recurring pattern of sexual fantasies, urges and behaviours lasting a period of six months or longer that are not caused by other issues, such as substance abuse, another medical condition or manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder. Also, individuals who might be diagnosed with this disorder must show a pattern of sexual activity in response to unpleasant mood states, such as feeling depressed, or a pattern of repeatedly using sex as a way of coping with stress.
One of the criteria states that individuals must be unsuccessful in their attempts
to reduce or stop sexual activities they believe are problematic. “As with many other mental health disorders,” said Reid, “there must also be evidence of personal distress caused by the sexual behaviours that interfere with relationships, work or other important aspects of life.”
• Source: Mark Wheeler, UCLA