Although sexual dysfunction (problems that interfere with the ability to have sex) is often seen as a greater psychological problem, sexual addiction is a dangerous disease that can destroy the lives of individuals, their families, and their friends. Fortunately, like all addictions, help is available. Nobody has to live their life suffering the pain and shame of sexual addiction.
Sexual addiction may comprise a wide range of compulsive sexual behaviors. In some cases, it can be filed under paraphilia, if the addiction involves “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors generally involving 1) nonhuman objects, 2) the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner, or 3) children or other nonconsenting persons” (DSM-IV, 2000, p. 566). Statistically speaking, “paraphilias are considered rare, affecting only a small percentage of the US population. Researchers have a difficult time trying to determine a specific percentage of involved individuals because many of the acts are illegal and reporting methods typically are unreliable” (Bellnir, 2005, p. 328). This is the case for any kind of sexual disorder because the stigma involved with sexual problems prevents many people from discussing their problems or seeking help.
Usually when we talk of sexual addiction, we are referring to behaviors that involve compulsive sexual acts, most likely with a variety of partners, particularly when the sexual behavior has the nature of upsetting the person engaging in it, or otherwise negatively affective his or her life (even if they cannot admit the problem). The DSM-IV categorizes sexual addiction with another miscellany at 302.9 Sexual Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Squeezed between feelings of sexual inadequacy and unhappiness with one’s sexual orientation, it is succinctly described as “Distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be used” (DSM-IV, 2000, p. 582). So, for psychological diagnosis, it seems the patient must admit to having a problem.