Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder: A New Diagnosis for an Old Behavior

For many years, sex and porn addicts have self-identified their problem, sought treatment and recovery, and worked very hard to solve their issues with compulsive sexuality. At the same time, thousands of therapists have recognized the disorder in countless clients, learned about the issue (sometimes choosing to undergo rigorous education and training to become a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist), and worked hard to help sex/porn addicts and their loved ones find sobriety, healing, and peace.

Sadly, this has occurred without an “official” sex addiction diagnosis.

The good news is that the World Health Organization (the WHO) has updated its International Classification of Diseases (the ICD-11), and in this updated volume they’ve included a new diagnosis: Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder. This means the WHO examined existing academic and clinical research and decided that compulsive sexual behavior (also known as sex addiction, sexual compulsivity, hypersexuality, and a few other names) is an identifiable and treatable disorder. The ICD-11 description reads:

“Compulsive sexual behavior disorder is characterized by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior. Symptoms may include repetitive sexual activities becoming a central focus of the person’s life to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities and responsibilities; numerous unsuccessful efforts to significantly reduce repetitive sexual behavior; and continued repetitive sexual behavior despite adverse consequences or deriving little or no satisfaction from it. The pattern of failure to control intense, sexual impulses or urges and resulting repetitive sexual behavior is manifested over an extended period of time (e.g., 6 months or more), and causes marked distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. Distress that is entirely related to moral judgments and disapproval about sexual impulses, urges, or behaviors is not sufficient to meet this requirement.”

This news is important because the ICD is the primary diagnostic manual for medical and psychological disorders in pretty much every nation other than the US. And here, even though we tend to rely on the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM), the ICD is still accepted and utilized. More importantly, it’s usually the ICD rather than the DSM that leads the way in terms of recognizing current issues in society and mental health treatment. Thus, the APA is relatively likely to follow the WHO’s lead at some point, making it easier to identify, diagnose, and treat sexual addiction, and for insurance companies to cover the costs of sex addiction treatment as they would cover any other form of addiction.