What is sex addiction?

When do thoughts, feelings or behaviors about sex become a problem? One of the more controversial topics among medical professionals, sex addiction is basically a progressive, unhealthy use of sex. We provide a basic intro to compulsive sexual behavior and link to a useful self-survery from Sex Addicts Anonymous to help you evaluate whether sex has become a problem in your life.

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Sex addiction not in the DSM

Doctors cannot seem to agree about the medical definition of sex addiction, also known as compulsive sexual behavior, hypersexuality, or nymphomania. In fact, sex addition IS NOT INCLUDED in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a classification system for mental health practitioners published by the American Psychiatry Association. The DSM is considered the go-to reference when diagnosing psychiatric issues. However, the most recent version of this classification system, the DSM-4, does not yet recognize sex addition as diagnose-able condition. And the next version of the handbook, the DSM-5, is due for publication in May of 2013 and only includes sex addiction in the appendix. Why is this?

Apparently, there is not enough scientific evidence for the existence of sex addiction, but the mention in the appendix is meant to stimulate research. Psychiatrists insist that there has to be an empirical basis to modify anything in the DSM. Furthermore, the APA’s working group of consultants who will guide the DSM-5 question whether it’s even possible or desirable to create diagnostic criteria for sex issues.

Characteristics of sex addiction

Nonetheless, sex addiction is a painful and very real dis-ease for many. In fact, preoccupation with sex can cause progressively worse consequences for individuals, families, and friends. But what does it mean to act out sexually? Check out the thorough questionnaire on sex addiction from Sex Addicts Anonymous, or consider these questions:

1. Are you unable to stop sexual behavior when you want to?

2. Do you keep your sexual behavior secret?

3. Do you use sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviors to numb yourself from difficult feelings or to avoid responsibilities?

4. Is your sexual behavior lacking intimacy and/or respect for yourself and others?

5. Do sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviors have negative consequences in your life?

Take a sex addict test

To learn more about sexual addiction and to take a self-report survey, see the Sex Addicts Anonymous checklist.

Reference Sources: DSM to recognize sex addiction?
New DSM 5 and controversy on sex disorders

Mayo Clinic topic on compulsive sexual behavior
Wikipedia topic on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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