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STUDY: Defining sexual addiction

Photo by A Schultz via Flickr Creative Commons

Researchers at UCLA say they have scientific evidence to support "hypersexual disorder," or sexual addiction, as a classifiable mental health condition.

A UCLA-led team of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals tested a proposed set of criteria, and results of the study could influence possible inclusion of the disorder in the revised fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

According to the study, "hypersexual behavior was related to greater emotional disturbance, impulsivity and an inability to manage stress," said Rory Reid, research psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

Individuals who might be diagnosed with the disorder would be unsuccessful in attempts to stop or reduce sexual activity that interferes with other areas of life, and would experience patterns of sexual fantasies, sex in response to unpleasant moods, and sex as a way to cope with stress, according to UC Newsroom.

"It's not that a lot of people don't take sexual risks from time to time or use sex on occasion to cope with stress or just escape, but for these patients, it's a constant pattern that escalates until their desire for sex is controlling every aspect of their lives and they feel powerless in their efforts to change," Reid noted.

Testing and interviews were conducted in mental health clinics around the country. The 207 patients included in the study were seeking help for "out-of-control sexual behavior, a substance-abuse disorder or another psychiatric condition, such as depression or anxiety." 

The proposed criteria appeared to be able to discriminate between patients, accurately classifying 88 percent of hypersexual patients, and accurately identifying negative results 93 percent of the time.

Results of the "DSM-5 Field Trial for Hypersexual Disorder" were reported in October in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.