I think a helpful way of thinking about the issue of sex addiction is to compare it to the term “alcoholism.”
'Alcoholic' is a term used to describe someone who suffers from alcoholism - they often have a physical and/or psychological desire to consume alcohol beyond their capacity to control it, regardless of how it affects their life. --Christian Nordqvist, Medical News Today
As a diagnosis, “alcoholism” is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) - the codex formerly used by American mental health professionals to diagnose mental disorders. But no one would argue that because the term is not listed there, alcoholism doesn’t exist! A similar term was eventually written into the DSM to describe the disease of alcoholism, and they called it “Alcohol Dependence.” But the problem of compulsive alcohol use long pre-dated its classification in the DSM by any terms.
The term for sex addiction under consideration by DSM scholars was Hypersexual Disorder, though it was eventually rejected. However, when considering your best sources of information, remember that the DSM is no longer being used to diagnose diseases for insurance purposes, as it has fallen out of prominence in favor of the international version of codes called the International Classification of Diseases, or ICD. And the ICD-11, due out next year, is including sex addiction, calling it “compulsive sexual behavior disorder.”
Based on the definition of impulse control disorders as characterized by the inability to control behaviour despite its negative consequences, the Working Group recommended that compulsive sexual behaviour disorder be included in that grouping. ---Impulse control disorders and “behavioural addictions” in the ICD-11
If we replace the term alcoholism with “sex addiction,” we might consider this same above definition:
‘Sex addict’ is a term used to describe someone who suffers from sex addiction - they often have a physical and/or psychological desire to consume some form of sex beyond their capacity to control it, regardless of how it affects their life.
When defining addiction, experts often consider the presence of four main qualifiers:
1) LOSS OF CONTROL
2) UNSUCCESSFUL EFFORTS TO STOP (what separates the addict from the psychopath, who doesn’t try to stop)
3) TOLERANCE (needing more of the substance or behavior to get the same result)
4) NEGATIVE LIFE CONSEQUENCES (personally, legally, in your family, socially, at work, etc.)
These same qualifiers define sex addition. This is not super complicated, nor is it a random association - regardless of what you call it. There is PLENTY of credible research to support the sex/porn addiction concept; in fact there is a research journal dedicated to nothing else called Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention. Anyone who says “there’s no research demonstrating sex addiction” is either ignorant or a disinformation peddler for reasons of their own.
If you remain skeptical, I suggest doing your own exploration on the addiction-neuroscience research of Dr. Valerie Voon, and Dr. Don Hilton. Be wary of the “porn professors” who have ties to the porn industry, are under scrutiny for lack of ethics and harassment, publish books with titles only a junior high boy could love (my memoir title notwithstanding:), and/or are making careers as “expert witnesses” to debunk the concept of sexual compulsion.
The quicker we can all agree we have a grave problem in our culture and communities, the faster we can get people help and help families get better!
Do you think you might have a sex addiction? Take this simple 10 question test here.
***Staci is the author of Naked in Public: A Memoir of Recovery From Sex Addiction and Other Temporary Insanities, her personal story of overcoming sex and love addiction. More information at www.stacisprout.com. Sign up for her newsletter with hopeful news about sex addiction and recovery here.