"Sex Addiction" Redefined

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For the first time in 13 years, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) will be up dated next May for the inclusion of a new psychological disorder known as "hypersexual disorder" (HD), or sex addiction in more commonly placed terms. This inclusion will finally mean that those who pass the criteria for having hypersexual disorder will now be able to be treated with the belief that they have a debilitating disorder that hinders their life in a negative way. But at what point can you categorize someone as "hypersexual"? And what standards did U.S. mental health professionals look at to recognize that hypersexual disorder should be included in the DRM?

In order to properly recognize that HD was a disorder that can be singled out apart from other psychiatric disorders and to firmly establish the basis for defining HD, they gathered a group of over 150 patients across the country who were admitted to different clinics with a sex addiction problem. They also included about 50 individuals to this testing group who had general disorders or addiction problems. The purpose of their examination was to determine if the symptoms were apparent enough to justify giving those seeking help to benefit from a diagnosis. Their results showed that 90% of the time of those with a sex addiction problem accurately fit their expectations for those with HD and that 93% of those who were seeking help for other problems didn't show the symptoms of a typical HD patient. 

But what criteria do professionals use to accurately tell if someone has hypersexual disorder and how does the DRM accurately define this? Although the DRM doesn't proppose a hard number, most of the patients were found to have had an average of 15 partners in 12 months. Among other problems that have surfaced there is usually an unusual consumption of pornography, excessive masturbation, depression, and a recognized interference with their healthy sex life. But the biggest aspect of HD that helped nail it into the DRM was the fact that it was a disorder that often got worse over time, which helped push it into the boundaries of other mental illnesses that required treatment. 

What I found interesting about this article is their thought processing on trying to define what this new disorder was and how to properly categorize it. An argument can certainly be made that HD wasn't severe enough as a single disorder to be pushed into the DRM where other debilitating disorders have been defined, such as schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder. The standards they had to develop while trying to pinpoint the exact problems that were contributing to HD were interesting as well, since there were occasional fuzzy areas that could have been a part of HD, but could also have been the result of other ailments or addictions. The fact it was an addictive disorder that grew in intensity over time made it similar to disorders within the DRM, but was also significantly different enough in other areas to make it its own ailment where people can now seek help for.