UMN Study Shows Compulsive Sexual Behavior is More Common than Originally Thought

MINNEAPOLIS, MN- November 09, 2018 - While there is growing recognition that many people suffer from compulsive sexual behavior (CSB), researchers have not been able to determine how many people are affected - until now.

In a study published in JAMA, Janna A. Dickenson, Ph.D., the Doug Braun Harvey Fellow in Compulsive Sexual Behavior in the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and fellow researchers found that about 10 percent of men and 7 percent of women reported significant levels of distress and/or social impairment associated with difficulty controlling their sexual feelings, urges and behaviors. This is significantly more than researchers previously estimated. The study also found more women experiencing CSB than previously thought.

“This tells us we need to look more at women who have difficulty controlling their sexual behavior,” said Dickenson. “More research needs to be done to determine whether women’s distress about their sexual urges and behaviors is comparable to the distress that men feel about their sexual urges and behaviors.”

The study sampled from 2,325 adults between 18 and 50 who participated in the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. They were randomly sampled nationwide in November 2016.

Researchers and clinicians have contested the term “sex addiction” in favor of alternative definitions and symptom presentations. Recently, the International Classification of Disease, Eleventh Revision (ICD-11) has characterized CSBD as a persistent pattern that involves failing to control intense sexual urges or sexual behaviors that results in significant levels of distress and/or impairment in one’s functioning. No matter what it's called or the exact nature of the behavior, untreated compulsive sexual behavior can damage self-esteem, relationships, career, health, and other people. But with treatment, it can be managed.

The high prevalence of compulsive sexual behavior, as pointed out in the study, is important for healthcare professionals to address. They should be made aware of the high number of people who are distressed about their sexual behavior and carefully assess the nature of the problem within its sociocultural context to provide appropriate treatments for both men and women.

“The fact that 8.6% of the nationally representative sample met the clinical threshold of our screening tool suggests that a substantial number of people are feeling significantly distressed and/or are impaired by their difficulty controlling their sexual behavior,” said Dickenson. “CSB is clearly an important sexual health concern that needs greater attention.”

About the University of Minnesota Medical School
The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care and educating the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. Visit med.umn.edu to learn how the University of Minnesota is innovating all aspects of medicine.

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