Sex and sexual behaviour tend to be taboo as topics of conversation. But in therapy when clients tell me their relationships, finances, emotional wellbeing or other areas of their lives are in disarray due to their out-of-control sexual behaviour, I listen. The conversation will quickly turn to their sexual habits and how they’re feeling. For most people, it’s confronting.
It’s important that we, as a society, don’t pathologise healthy sexual behaviour. Some people internalise cultural and gender norms, and judge their healthy sexual behaviour as unacceptable.
Others may have feelings of shame because they have transgressed their own values.
Although not formally recognised as an addiction (in the DSM-V), compulsive sexual behaviour is commonly referred to as sex addiction by those in 12-step programs.
Without treatment, it can escalate and these behaviours can significantly impact a person's life and lead to relationship breakdown.
Understanding the history of the behaviour and what is contributing to the distress, as well as the feelings of shame and unworthiness, are important.
These symptoms need to be addressed, including problematic behaviours, painful emotions, unhelpful thinking styles, as well as the underlying issues.
What is compulsive sexual behaviour?
Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder (CSBD), which is now included in the ICD-11 (The World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision), is an Impulse Control Disorder.
It’s characterised by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour.
Symptoms may include repetitive sexual activities becoming a central focus; numerous unsuccessful efforts to significantly reduce repetitive sexual behaviour and continued repetitive sexual behaviour despite adverse consequences or deriving little or no satisfaction from it.
Here’s what you need to know if you suspect that you or someone you know has compulsive sexual behaviour.
It doesn’t just mean that you are compelled to have sex.
There’s a misconception that compulsive sexual behaviour is only about penetrative sex.
However, it can manifest as excessive consumption of porn, compulsive masturbation, preoccupation with sex, intrigue or obsession with sexual related activities, voyeurism and compulsively paying for sex (including phone and cybersex).
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