Is it Sex Addiction…No, no it is not.
Sex addiction and porn addition are controversial terms that have gained increasing attention in recent years. Despite this attention, neither are recognized as a mental disorders. Let’s explore the reasons behind this.
The DSM is a widely used classification system for mental disorders that is maintained by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). It is regularly updated to reflect changes in the field of psychiatry and includes criteria for the diagnosis of a wide range of mental health conditions. However, despite the popularity of the term “sex addiction,” it has not been included in any edition of the DSM.
The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), is the leader in trainings, oversight, and standard setting in sex therapy. AASECT formal statement on sexual based addictions states “AASECT recognizes that people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors. AASECT recommends that its members utilize models that do not unduly pathologize consensual sexual behaviors. AASECT 1) does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder, and 2) does not find the sexual addiction training and treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge. Therefore, it is the position of AASECT that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors to a porn/sexual addiction process cannot be advanced by AASECT as a standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling or therapy.”
So, the main diagnostic classification system for all mental health disorders and the main oversight body of sex educators, counselors, and therapists all say it’s not addiction.
One of the main reasons for this is the lack of consensus on what constitutes sex addiction. There is no clear definition of the condition, and no specific set of criteria for its diagnosis. While some mental health professionals continue to believe that sex addiction is a genuine condition, others argue that it is simply a moral or cultural construct, or a symptom of other underlying mental health issues.
Another factor is the lack of empirical evidence to support the existence of sex addiction as a distinct mental disorder. While there is some research on the topic, it has not yet produced consistent and reliable evidence to support the diagnosis of sex addiction. This is in contrast to other mental disorders, such as depression or schizophrenia, which have well-established diagnostic criteria and a significant body of research supporting their existence.
Additionally, the inclusion of sex addiction in the DSM could have significant social and cultural implications. Some argue that the term “sex addiction” pathologizes normal sexual behavior and reinforces negative attitudes towards sexuality. Furthermore, the diagnosis of sex addiction could be used to justify harmful or discriminatory treatment towards individuals who engage in consensual sexual behavior that is deemed socially unacceptable.
Opponents of the inclusion of sex addiction in the DSM also point out that there are existing diagnostic categories that can capture the symptoms of sex addiction. For example, compulsive sexual behavior can be classified as an impulse control disorder, while excessive sexual desire or fantasies can be considered a symptom of bipolar disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Kafka, M. P. (2010). Hypersexual disorder: a proposed diagnosis for DSM-V. Archives of sexual behavior, 39(2), 377-400.
Ley, D. (2010). The myth of sex addiction. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Reid, R. C., Carpenter, B. N., & Hook, J. N. (2016). Understanding the role of shame and its consequences in female and male hypersexual patients: a 10-year follow-up of a case series. Sexual addiction & compulsivity, 23(4), 358-385.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington