Is ‘hypersexual disorder’ a new one for the books?

Is ‘hypersexual disorder’ a new one for the books?

By Charlotte Fantelli

According to The Los Angeles Times the growing prominence of sexual behavioural problems has prompted psychiatrists to consider creating a new type of mental disorder – ‘hypersexual disorder’ – characterised by excessive and risky sexual behaviour. 

Although not everybody who makes a regrettable decision regarding sex has a mental illness, enough research has been carried out to verify that hypersexual disorder really does exist, researchers said.

‘I have learned more in the past 18 months than perhaps in the previous decade,’ said Patrick Carnes, executive director of the Gently Path program for sex addiction at Pine Grove Behavioural Health & Addiction Services where Tiger Woods sought treatment for his problematic sexual behaviour after his marriage fell apart in 2009.

Awareness of the problem is coming at just the right time.  Carnes said ‘The widespread availability of pornography on the internet may be creating ever-younger people with sexual conduct disorders.’

‘I am seeing patients now in their mid 20’s who started Internet sexual behaviour when they were in the fifth grade’ he said.

Exposure to pornography or sexual activity at a young age can prime the brain to create the need for more sexual stimulation later in life, he added

Hypersexual disorder factors

Common factors in the childhood experience of so-called ‘sex addicts’ have been found by researchers.  A significant number of them experienced some type of mental, physical or sexual abuse as children, experts reported at the APA meeting.  Other studies have shown that people with the condition often lacked close relationships in early life.

According to one study presented by Swedish researchers, 92% of men with hypersexual disorders had at least mild depressive symptoms.  Both men and women with the condition had lower levels of well-being compared to people without the disorder.  Women with the disorder reported being more emotionally distressed than male patients.

‘Research shows that early exposure to any substance increases the risk of later addiction,’ Carnes said.  ‘The same is true of sex addiction.’

I believe that any ‘disorder’ that creates discomfort should indeed be researched, and people need to be educated on such things, however I do wonder how many duped lovers will hear the words: ‘I’m so sorry darling – it’s not my fault – I think I’ve got hypersexual disorder’. 

Relevant links

Are sexual fantasies good for your relationship?

Sex addiction

Psychology and libido

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