For the first time, the World Health Organization is recognizing compulsive sexual behaviour as a mental disorder – referring to it as Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder or CSBD.
According to ICD-11 criteria, CSBD is characterized as a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses (see Impulse Control Disorders), urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour, and those repetitive sexual activities becoming the focal point of a person’s life to the point where they begin to neglect their health and personal care, as well as have a lack of responsibility and initiative, and continued repetitive sexual behaviour despite any adverse consequences. In order for an individual to be recognized as having CSBD, they must exhibit the aforementioned behaviours for a period of 6 months or more, as well as have problems with personal relationships, such as family and friendships, as well as educational and occupational problems (i.e. poor grades and/or decreased work performance, failure to meet deadlines, etc.)
Behaviours that are commonly associated with CSBD include practicing unsafe sex, having multiple sexual partners, exhibitionism and voyeurism. Individuals with CSBD will have an inability to contain their sexual urges as well as an inability to respect the boundaries of other, feel emotional detachment to their sexual partners, and even feelings of guilt and shame. Many people with CSBD will be aware of their urges and the fact that they are uncontrollable.
As mentioned above, there are also many consequences that can arise as a result of compulsive sexual behaviour, such as dissolution of marriage, financial problems, legal problems, unwanted pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases or infections. While the terms sexually transmitted diseases and sexually transmitted infections are often interchangeable, they technically mean different things. An individual that has been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection means that it has not yet developed into a disease. For example, Human Papillomavirus – also known as HPV. A woman can be a carrier of the virus without any symptoms. If a woman develops cervical cancer as a result of HPV, it is then that she has an STD (as cancer is a disease.) The same goes for conditions like gonorrhea or chlamydia if they develop into Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID.) To break it down more easily, a sexually transmitted infection occurs when microbes, viruses or bacteria enter into the body and multiply, and it is considered a sexually transmitted infection when the body function or structure begins to disrupt and when signs or symptoms are present. In short, a sexually transmitted infection is typically the first step of a sexually transmitted disease. Because many sexually transmitted infections often begin with no symptoms at all, individuals may not even be aware that they have one, which is why getting tested for an STI is so crucial. If an STI is cause by a bacterial infection and detected early enough, they can usually be cured with antibiotics.
While what causes compulsive sexual behaviour and other impulse disorders (i.e. gambling) remains unclear, it is thought that they may be a combination of changes in the brain’s pathways, an imbalance of natural brain chemicals, as well as certain conditions that affect the brain. When it comes to treating compulsive sexual behaviour, patients can benefit from seeking therapy – whether it’s in group sessions (such as Sex Addicts Anonymous) or one on one with a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. In addition, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has also been known to be quite helpful in the treatment of CSBD. SSRI medications (such as Prozac, Paxil and Celexa) have also been shown to decrease compulsive urges. While this can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing subject of conversation, one should never feel ashamed to reach out for help if they need it.