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When Is a High Sex-Drive a Disorder?

Every definition that I researched tended to associate the word "hypersexual" with a mental condition or with sex addiction; however when one is actually diagnosed with a hypersexual disorder, it is much more complex than just having a high sex drive. What is the difference? What constitutes a "disorder"? These are common behaviors of someone who has a hypersexual disorder:

  • Excessive masturbation – This is one of the most common early hypersexuality disorder signs. Often the person masturbates while engaging in other sexual activity (e.g. while viewing pornography or engaging in phone sex).

  • Obsessing about sex to the point that it interferes with their life (social, occupational, and other areas).

  • Spending a significant amount of time planning their sexual activity – People who have a hypersexual disorder, just people with other compulsive behavior disorders, will devote a large amount of time determining where and how they will get their next “fix”.

  • Frequent viewing of pornography or use of sexually explicit websites or other online services – This may include videos, adult magazines, pornographic websites, “adult” chat rooms, paying to watch sexual activity via webcams, or using dating websites that connect people interested in sexual relationships and / or one night stands.

  • Frequent or excessive use of phone sex services.

  • Having multiple extramarital affairs or frequently having sex with multiple partners.

  • Frequent one-night stands with total strangers or prostitutes.

  • Staying emotionally detached from sexual partners – Many individuals who have a hypersexual disorder are unable to establish a normal, healthy connection with a sexual partner. This is often due to deep-seated feelings of self-hate and shame. It’s not uncommon for them to want nothing more to do with a sexual partner once the activity is over.

  • Frequent sex without using protection – Many of those who have a hypersexual disorder engage in high risk behavior such as unprotected sex. This is often because they are so driven to satisfy their craving that they don’t consider or care about the potential consequences.

  • Engaging in sexual behavior that directly conflicts with their personal values or religious beliefs – For example, someone who has devout religious beliefs may be having multiple partners or extramarital affairs, frequent one night stands, sex with children, or sex with prostitutes. They believe their behavior is morally wrong yet they’re unable to stop.

  • Obsessing about a sexual partner who is unattainable – This type of fixation may lead to stalking or sexually harassing the individual, spying or engaging in sexual activity (voyeurism), and, in some instances, violence.

  • Frequently engaging in paraphilias** (sexual behaviors that are considered unusual, distasteful, or unacceptable) – Paraphilias include things like exhibitionism, voyeurism, sadism, masochism, and pedophilia. Although they may indicate a possible hypersexual disorder, not everyone who engages in paraphilias is hypersexual.

  • The inability to stop despite the consequences – The vast majority of individuals who have the disorder are unable to stop without treatment for their compulsive behaviors.

​**Paraphilias (according to the DSM-5) are intense and persistent, and they cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, or they harm or have the potential to harm others (eg, children, nonconsenting adults)

People with a paraphilic disorder may have an impaired or a nonexistent capacity for affectionate, reciprocal emotional and sexual intimacy with a consenting partner. Other aspects of personal and emotional adjustment may be impaired as well. The pattern of disturbed erotic arousal is usually fairly well developed before puberty. At least 3 processes are involved:

  • Anxiety or early emotional trauma interferes with normal psychosexual development.

  • The standard pattern of arousal is replaced by another pattern, sometimes through early exposure to highly charged sexual experiences that reinforce the person’s experience of sexual pleasure.

  • The pattern of sexual arousal often acquires symbolic and conditioning elements (eg, a fetish symbolizes the object of arousal but may have been chosen because the fetish was accidentally associated with sexual curiosity, desire, and excitement).

​So how is having a high sex drive different? Those who have a high sex drive have the following characteristics:

  • ​They are capable of engaging in healthy relationships.

  • Their thoughts are not obsessive, nor are their behaviors compulsive.​

  • They are able to respect/establish personal/sexual boundaries.

  • They do not engage in high risk sexual behaviors (protection, rules, boundaries, communication, and consent are involved).

  • They do not engage in any activities that go against their values.

  • Their thoughts/behaviors do NOT cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, or they harm or have the potential to harm others (eg, children, nonconsenting adults).

  • They enjoy sex!

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