A significant proportion of the population is grappling with a new and controversial disorder: compulsive sexual behaviour, a new study has found. And it’s not just men, as a surprising number of women say they have trouble controlling their sexual urges.
Of 2,325 U.S. adults surveyed, 10 per cent of men and seven per cent of women met the clinical cut-off point for “compulsive sexual behaviour disorder,” a newly named category of sexual pathology that involves a persistent inability to control intense, repetitive urges and feelings, resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour “that causes marked distress or social impairment.”
Until now, rough estimates pegged the condition’s prevalence at somewhere between one and six per cent of the population, with men assumed to be between two and five times more likely to suffer from the disorder than women.
The researchers hypothesized 20 to 30 per cent of those who met the clinical cut-off point would be women. But the new study, published in JAMA Network Open, found women accounted for 41 per cent of those who qualified for a CSBD diagnosis.
The men and women exhibited the entire range of sexual symptoms, from “problematic” but nonclinical out-of-control sexual behaviour — meaning it doesn’t meet the standard for a formal diagnosis — to a certifiable psychiatric disorder.
But the diagnosis itself — officially added this year to the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases — is controversial.
When do sexual urges, feelings and behaviours cross the line from normal, to compulsive, a pathological brain disorder? As psychologist David J. Ley wrote this year, the official diagnosis “doesn’t indicate a ‘right’ amount, or kind, of sex.”
WHO defines compulsive sexual behaviour disorder as an impulse control disorder. Symptoms, which must persist for six months or more, can include “repetitive sexual activities becoming a central focus of the person’s life,” numerous unsuccessful attempts to reduce the behaviour, and “continued repetitive sexual behaviour despite adverse consequences.”
“Distress that is entirely related to moral judgments and disapproval about sexual impulses, urges or behaviours is not sufficient to meet this requirement,” the definition reads.
Psychiatry has had a long, dodgy and controversial history of determining how to define “out of the norm” sexual behaviour, or even what to call it — hypersexuality, sexual addiction or something else.
“From Tiger Woods to Harvey Weinstein, news articles have conjectured that ‘sex addiction’ is a growing and heretofore unrecognized ‘epidemic,’ while the scientific community debates whether such a problem …read more