By: Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S
Once considered fodder for daytime talk shows and grocery store literature, today Sexual Addiction is increasingly acknowledged by the psychotherapeutic mainstream and the general public as a legitimate disorder with specific assessment criteria and a defined method of treatment.
Driven primarily by the endless variety and accessibility of online sexual content and sexual contact, today sexually addicted clients and their troubled spouses are showing up in increasing numbers at the doorsteps of addiction counselors seeking concrete direction, behavioral containment and support.
Initially most sex addicts’ presenting concerns are related to wives or partners threatening abandonment unless help is sought, though many seek treatment when suffering from the financial, medical, emotional, career and legal difficulties that follow in the wake of compulsive sexual activity. While the diagnosis itself is not defined by any specific sexual act or orientation, sex addiction, as in gambling addiction or eating disorders, is organized around the feelings, activities and consequences surrounding sexual behavior.
Here are some diagnostic criteria proposed by researchers for future inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. These criteria were originally developed by Dr. Marty Kafka of Harvard.
Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent intense sexual fantasies, sexual urges, and sexual behavior in association with four or more of the following five criteria:
- excessive time is consumed by sexual fantasies and urges, and by planning for and engaging in sexual behavior.
- repetitively engaging in these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to dysphoric mood states (e.g., anxiety, depression, boredom, irritability)
- repetitively engaging in sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to stressful life events.
- repetitive but unsuccessful efforts to control or significantly reduce these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior.
- repetitively engaging in sexual behavior while disregarding the risk for physical or emotional harm to self or others.