Are There Different Forms of Sex Addiction in Men?
Men with sex addiction commonly fall into subgroups distinguished by specific characteristics, a team of Canadian researchers reports.
Sex addiction is a form of behavioral addiction generally centered on damaging involvement in sexual fantasy, sex-oriented thought or real-world sexual behavior. However, people dealing with the condition may differ from one another in significant ways. In a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, researchers from three Canadian institutions sought to determine if men affected by sex addiction fall into subgroups with differing and distinct traits. The researchers also sought to uncover some of the traits that tend to appear in any identified subgroups of affected individuals.
Basics of Sex Addiction
Any person with a behavioral addiction experiences considerable personal and/or social harm from repeated and excessive involvement in common pleasurable activities not based on the consumption of drugs or alcohol. Like an individual with a substance addiction, an individual with a behavioral addiction (also known as an addictive disorder or process addiction) undergoes dysfunctional changes in brain chemistry and daily behavior. In response to decades of research and doctors’ reports on the subject, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) gave official recognition to behavioral addiction as a diagnosable mental health concern in 2013.
People affected by sex addiction (i.e. hypersexual disorder, compulsive sexual behavior or hypersexuality) have sexual urges, fantasies or behaviors that substantially diminish their ability to maintain relationships, follow stable daily routines or meet personal or social obligations. Since sexual urges, fantasies and behaviors come in a vast number of variations, any given person may have a fairly unique combination of problems that contribute to his or her condition. The APA has not issued a standard definition of sex addiction for doctors to reference when examining their patients. However, doctors typically have access to a number of screening tools that can help them identify individuals likely dealing with the disorder’s effects.
Possible Manifestations of Addiction
Some people develop sex addiction symptoms associated with thoughts, fantasies or behaviors centered on forms of sexual expression that most communities view as socially acceptable and legal for consenting adults. However, other affected individuals develop symptoms associated with thoughts, fantasies or behaviors centered on forms of expression that are socially unacceptable and/or clearly illegal under existing laws. The American Psychiatric Association maintains a category of conditions—called paraphilic disorders—for people involved in damaging, unacceptable and/or illegal sexual behaviors, whether or not those behaviors appear in the context of sex addiction. Examples of these conditions include pedophilic disorder, voyeuristic disorder, sexual sadism disorder, frotteuristic disorder and sexual masochism disorder.
Different Sex Addiction Subtypes
In the study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, researchers from Canada’s Ryerson University and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health used an examination of 115 men with sex addiction to help determine if this form of behavioral addiction has distinct subtypes. The researchers undertook their work, in part, in response to evidence that indicates that one-size-fits-all treatments for sex addiction may not prove equally effective for all individuals. For each of the men enrolled in the study, they considered factors that included involvement in specific forms of sexual behavior, general mental health, involvement in problematic substance use and general demographic background (age, education level, etc.).
After completing their work, the researchers identified three subgroups of men with sex addiction, which they named paraphilic hypersexuals, chronic adulterers and avoidant masturbators. Traits identified in the paraphilic hypersexual subgroup include sensation-seeking or novelty as an underlying motivation for addictive behavior, sexual involvement with a relatively large number of people, an introduction to sexual activity relatively early in life and an increased tendency toward excessive drug or alcohol use. Traits identified in the chronic adulterer subgroup include a relatively late transition into puberty, a tendency to ejaculate prematurely in sexual situations, reduced chances of experiencing money problems and reduced chances of getting involved in excessive substance intake. Traits identified in the avoidant masturbator subgroup include the use of sex to avoid dealing with other issues in life, an unusually high level of anxiety and the tendency to experience delayed ejaculation in sexual situations.
The study’s authors believe they have identified meaningful distinctions among men affected by sex addiction. They urge future researchers to cover the same topic with different statistical techniques capable of illuminating additional aspects of the traits associated with specific subgroups of addicted men.