Hypersexuality vs. Sex Addiction: What’s the Difference?

CChoose your words wisely. In fact, semantics do matter, especially when it comes to controversial topics related to hypersexuality, sex addiction, and compulsive sexual behavior. They are not all the same, however interchangeable they may seem. With this in mind, we chatted with two sex and relationship therapists about everything there is to know about often confusing sex-related behaviors and disorders.

hypersexuality vs. sex addiction vs. Compulsive sexual behavior

While hypersexuality, sex addiction, and compulsive sexual behavior have something in common, they have different meanings, each with a bit of controversy to resolve, according to Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT, and Tammy Nelson, PhD.

One of the main reasons these terms are controversial and difficult to define is due in part to the fact that they do not appear in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5), the American Psychiatric Association’s Manual of Mental Disorders.

“First, it’s very important to note that hypersexuality is not included in the DSM5; it was in the DSM4, but it was removed,” says Wright, a mental health, relationship and sex therapist. “Some people just define hypersexuality as a sudden or extremely frequent increase in libido, which says nothing about an impairment or negative effects on someone’s life.”

The problem is that the Mayo Clinic, a cornerstone of modern medical research and knowledge, defines hypersexuality as synonymous with compulsive sexual behavior (as well as sex addiction), saying it is “excessive preoccupation with fantasies, urges or sexual behavior that is difficult to control, causes you distress, or negatively affects your health, job, relationships, or other parts of your life.”

Interestingly, however, the term “sex addiction” does not appear in the DSM-5 (and neither does hypersexuality or compulsive sexual behavior). The World Health Organization, however, does recognize compulsive sexual behavior disorder in its International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

“Because ‘sex addiction’ is the popular term for self-identified hypersexuality, hypersexual disorder, and compulsive sexual behavior, most people who have symptoms that interfere with their lives can use that label,” says Dr. Nelson, sex expert and relationship therapist, TEDx speaker and author of open monogamy Y When you are the one cheating.

That said, Wright points out that compulsive sexual behavior is more geared toward stigma and generalization than the term “sex addiction” applies.

However, treatment and recovery are possible and professional help is available for anyone who identifies as having out-of-control sexual behavior. “It’s not just preoccupation with thoughts and increased urge, but also behavior that can seem compulsive/uncontrollable,” she explains.

Dr. Nelson adds to this, noting that compulsive sexual behaviors can seem impossible to stop. “These behaviors are often followed by shame, remorse or guilt, and a feeling of being out of control,” he explains. “This can be a repetitive cycle of self-destructive sexual behaviors that do not serve you or your lifestyle.”

All this to say that the biggest difference between hypersexuality, sex addiction, and compulsive sexual behavior is that the latter is the only one that is recognized as a disorder, and even then, only by the WHO, not the DSM. (The DSM-5 classifies eight specific paraphilic disorders. While they can lead to compulsive sexual behavior, the CSB is not guaranteed to cover these disorders. As such, the best way to determine your habits and behaviors and their effects is to talk to a licensed physician). therapist about any concerns you may have).

Why is it important to know the difference?

Like so many behavioral and mental classifications, knowing the difference between hypersexuality, sex addiction, and compulsive sexual behavior is vital given the stigma surrounding its implications. Also, as Wright points out, you don’t want to mislabel anyone or yourself.

“The problem becomes the stigma and self-ridicule that can be attributed to [the label]says Dr. Nelson. “It may be a way to avoid looking at behaviors that need further treatment when acting in a way that goes against persistent or rational historical behavior.”

Still, since the terminology is a gray area, Wright says it’s best to avoid using these labels altogether when analyzing someone else’s behavior. “It’s really dangerous for people to use them as terms to describe another person; instead, use words to describe what you’re objectively seeing,” she suggests. “For example, ‘she has a very high sex drive’ or she ‘she often has difficulty controlling her sexual urges’, rather than ‘she is a sex addict’”.

What to do if you or someone you know is dealing with hypersexuality, sex addiction, or compulsive sexual behavior

The first thing you’ll want to do is ask yourself if your behavior (or theirs) is harmful. If he discovers that his behavior (or theirs) is negatively affecting someone’s life, desires, and/or intentions, then Wright says that’s the key point at which he should address the behavior.

That said, just because someone’s behavior seems harmful to you doesn’t mean it’s innately so. “Some couples may label something sexually problematic when, in fact, it may fall within the non-pathological range of human sexual behavior, such as masturbation, viewing pornography, or even infidelity,” says Dr. Nelson.

As an example, Dr. Nelson points out that just because someone is cheating in a relationship doesn’t mean they’re a sex addict. “If they’re not doing it repetitively and without considering the consequences, they may not be acting compulsively,” he says. “They could be if they do it to their own detriment and they can’t stop even if they wanted to; it may be compulsive, but this could be a sign of re-enactment of trauma or a symptom of another disorder.”

That’s not to say that these behaviors aren’t painful if you find yourself on the receiving end. “Excessive worry, lack of control, and negative effects on the health and happiness of a person’s life can spell serious trouble,” says Dr. Nelson.

How to deal with compulsive sexual behaviors

If you are experiencing intrusive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, or anything related to sex that is affecting your life or relationships in any way, Wright recommends seeking help. “This way, the topic doesn’t matter, it’s disability,” she explains. “For example, most people experience anxiety. When is the time to get help for such anxiety? When anxiety prevents you from doing things or prevents you from enjoying life. The same with sex.

The benefit of seeking help, in addition to getting help with current symptoms, is that the therapist or doctor will be able to determine if there are other issues at play that might be paying attention to your sexual tendencies. “If a person discovers that he is compulsively repeating behaviors that he cannot stop, it is possible that he has a comorbid problem such as OCD. [obsessive-compulsive disorder] or bipolar disorder, or they could have a problem with alcohol or drugs that is accompanied by sexual behavior,” says Dr. Nelson.

“Therapy, group, inpatient programs, or other support groups to help manage and reduce behaviors can teach people about positive sexuality,” says Dr. Nelson.

Food to go

Sex is a very important part of life. “It’s important to be able to interact with him in a healthy way,” says Wright.

However, at the end of the day, the concept of hypersexuality versus sex addiction versus compulsive sexual behavior remains a highly controversial topic in the medical and psychological communities.

“The concept of sex addiction is constantly debated in the psychological and medical communities; There is simply not enough empirical evidence to support the fact that hypersexuality/sex addiction is a mental illness and many fear that having it as a diagnosis could pathologize very normal people and healthy aspects of human sexuality,” says Wright.

Suffice it to say that when you experience or are subject to persistent sexual behaviors that make you feel restless, your best course of action is to avoid self-labeling and instead seek professional guidance.

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