KeepHealthCare.ORG – Is sex addiction really a mental health disorder?
Compulsive sexual behaviour, commonly known as sex addiction, has been classified as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organisation.
The newly updated WHO International Classification of Diseases list, used by scientists and clinicians around the world to identify and study health problems, injuries and causes of death, defines compulsive sexual behaviour disorder as a “persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour”.
Sex addiction is not defined by how many sexual partners or encounters someone has, but is diagnosed when someone’s sexual behaviour becomes a “central focus of the person’s life to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities and responsibilities”.
Research into the extent of sex addiction is limited, although some studies such suggest it could affect as much as 5% of the population, making it more common than bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
In more extreme cases it can seriously interfere with someone’s ability to work or finish school and harm relationships.
However, says CNN, the WHO decision is “not without controversy”.
As when WHO added gaming disorders to the list of mental health disorders in June, not all clinicians agree that the condition is worthy of inclusion.
“Some debate whether it is a standalone disorder,” says CNN. “Others doubt whether sex can be addictive and view the label as potentially shaming”. Some experts also question whether sex can be classed an addiction if no substance, such as drugs or alcohol, are being abused.
Yet those who support the move by the WHO point to the huge number of sex addiction support groups around the world.
Dr Valerie Voon, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said compulsive sexual behaviour “tends to be hidden as it’s shameful”, meaning sex addicts often don’t seek help.
“Adding this to the WHO list is an excellent step for patients, as it allows them to recognise that they are suffering with a problem,” she told The Sun, which lists eight signs you could be a sex addict.
The NHS does not currently recognise sex addiction as an illness, but the WHO ruling may result in treatment being made available, reports Metro.