Compulsive Sexual Behavior: A Disorder that Seeks Serenity through Lack of Control

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    For years we have heard words and expressions such as “nymphomania”, “sex addiction” or “hypersexuality”, among others, to talk about those people who suffered from an “excessive or exaggerated” sexual desire or a lack of control in their sexual behavior. While it is true that these words have had some history, today they are outdated terms.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) included, after a lot of work, in 2018 the label “Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSCD)” to name the disease of those patients who come to the clinic with a lack of control in their sexual behavior that they cannot stop.

    How are these people?

    Criteria for this classification include people who:

    • They have lost control of their behaviors.

    • They work hard to stop sexual behaviors and can’t stop.

    • They get no pleasure from these experiences.

    • Have serious consequences in different areas of your life for more than 6 months.

    The WHO refers to the fact that this problem would not be explained by a moral judgment, that is to say, that the simple fact that something does not seem appropriate or morally good to a person would not explain that there is a clinical and diagnosable pathology.

    What is the impact of sex toys on relationships?

    “Sex has become an anxiolytic for me. Every time I suffer and I cannot take it anymore, sexuality becomes my refuge”, commented a 45-year-old patient. It is common to observe how patients use sexual behavior (pornography, prostitution, sexual chats or webcams) to regulate their affective world. When patients with these difficulties do not know how to manage their emotions, they turn to sex to find their serenity.

    Although more research is still needed, CSCD affects around 10.3% of men and 7% of women in the general population, according to the book Compulsive Sexual Behavior: A Comprehensive Look. Guide for professionals. About 87% of patients have difficulties controlling the use of pornography and between 15-20% sexual behaviors such as paid sex or infidelity.

    How does it affect those who suffer from it?

    People who suffer from these difficulties can see different areas affected:

    Personal- The way of thinking and understanding sexuality is distorted and loss of self-esteem and self-confidence appears, feelings of incapacity, alteration of spiritual well-being, personal discomfort, humiliation or contempt, shame, guilt and lack of identity development staff.

    Economic- Loss of employment, excessive or inappropriate spending of money, blackmail and fraud.

    Interpersonal- Sentimental ruptures, loss of trust of others, alteration or difficulties in interpersonal relationships, emotional damage to others, social isolation, failures in the care of a loved one, marriage or couple breakups and loss of friendships.

    Medical- Sexually transmitted diseases, physically unhealthy sexual relations, cognitive dysfunctions, psychopathologies, sexual dysfunctions and worsening of health.

    Others- Legal problems (complaints, arrests), irresponsible behavior, renunciation of important goals or objectives, expulsion from organizations, associations, deterioration of the public image, etc.

    Leading neurobiological studies have found that compulsive sexual behavior disorder exhibits similar alterations in the brain to those caused by other substance and/or behavioral addictions. The brain centers related to reward and dopamine can be impaired due to this lack of sexual control. Additionally, areas of the brain that regulate self-control, planning, attention, and empathy may be altered as seen in the latest studies.

    How to recognize this type of disorder

    Some clues that can help us suspect that a person suffers from this disorder are:

    • Presence of traits of impulsiveness, inability to delay gratification or lack of inhibitory control.

    • Changes in mood such as irritability, depressive symptoms, anxiety or instability.

    • Presence of sexually transmitted diseases.

    • Dependence on technologies.

    • Poor academic or work performance and frequent absenteeism.

    • Drug use (alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other substances).

    • Difficulties in emotional regulation.

    • Strong inclination to seek novelty or new sensations.

    • Difficulties for emotional expression.

    • Excessively sexualized language.

    • Stability problems in the couple, infidelities, etc.

    • Little interest in sexual relations with one’s partner.

    • Little or no sexual education or great guilt regarding their sexual acts.

    But there is a way out

    Although the road is long and requires awareness, motivation, strength, support, patience, affection, help and dedication, the way out does exist. In recent years, different effective treatments have been shown to help these people, including individual therapy (from different currents, although the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy stands out), group therapy and, sometimes, pharmacological therapy.

    These treatments help regulate behavior and control impulses, as well as relearn a healthy sexuality and live a freer life. There is also some training that can help guide on how to make an adequate approach to this still great unknown for many health professionals.

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