Sex addiction to become a mental health condition

Sex addiction will no longer be a loosely used term. A team of experts from the University of California, Los Angeles ( UCLA), have now tested a proposed set of criteria to define hypersexual disorder — more popularly known as sex addiction — as a newmental health condition.
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Senior sex therapist and counsellor Dr (Prof.) Rajan Bhonsle defines addiction as a compulsive ‘preoccupation’ with any activity. “When any obsession starts affecting major aspects of a person’s life and relationships, it is classified as an addiction. Sexual addiction, therefore, implies an inability to control one’s sexual behaviour despite its negative consequences. It leaves a person dysfunctional in all other areas of life such as study, work, relationships, social obligations, family life and personal health and hygiene. Some people have a higher libido. As long as it doesn’t make them dysfunctional in any aspect of their life, it is not an addiction. But if they have conflicts over it, or worse, are doing things on the sly, then it is a case of sex addiction,” says Dr Bhonsle.
Adds clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany, “Sex addiction is when a person has a markedly increased amount of sex to feel sexually fulfilled. He/she also shows a persistent desire to spend abnormal amounts of time fulfilling sexual cravings. This obsession, or intense desire for sex, increases each day and a person struggles to cut down or control his behaviour in spite of the damage it causes .”

Diagnosis
Diagnosis is made by a trained and experienced therapist, purely on the basis of a patient’s detailed case history, which is compiled after talking to the person and/or his close relatives and friends. “There are no tests to diagnose sex addiction. It is as prevalent in India as it is in the West or any other part of the world,” says Dr Bhonsle.

Treatment
Counselling and psychotherapy (multimodal approach) should be done by a trained therapist. “The multimodal approach, which includes the Robert Carkhuff model of counselling, a combination of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), has been found effective. Pharmacotherapy is advised for primary or secondary emotional problems while family therapy studies and manages the stress factors at home. It also involves close family members in the therapy,”says Dr Bhonsle.

“For successful treatment, it is important that the therapist is fully trained. Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy can help those who have been sexually abused and have developed the disorder because of that trauma,” explains Hingorrany.

Being supportive

Family support is an important part of the treatment plan. “A psychologist explains to the patient’s spouse how sex addiction is a treatable disorder of the mind. Patience and support from the spouse really helps,” says Hingorrany.

Symptoms
Compulsive masturbation (self-stimulation) Excessive thoughts about sex
Multiple affairs (extra-marital affairs)
Multiple or anonymous sexual partners and/or one-night stands
Persistent use of pornography
Unsafe sex
Phone or computer sex (cybersex)
Indulging in prostitution or visiting prostitutes
Obsessive dating through personal ads
Voyeurism and/or stalking
Sexual harassment, molestation and rape (in extreme cases)

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