The human mind is a complex thing, but the great thing about evolution is that we are always reaching new levels of understanding. Case in point – ‘Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder’, aka what is commonly thought and spoken of as sex addiction.
In the latest update to its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), the World Health Organization (WHO) takes a step towards legitimising the concept by acknowledging ‘Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder’ or CSBD, as a mental illness.
On 14 July, it officially recognised CSBD as a mental disorder but conceded that it still remains ambiguous whether the addiction is on par with gambling or drug abuse, insisting that more research is needed before describing the disorder as an addiction. As some people know personally, the aftermath of anything OTT (we’re looking at you, credit card debt) can be detrimental.
The contentious term ‘sex addiction’ has been around for decades but experts have disagreed over whether the condition exists.
“Conservatively speaking, we don’t feel that the evidence is there yet… that the process is equivalent to the process with alcohol or heroin,” WHO expert Geoffrey Reed told AFP Saturday.
Described as the “…Persistent failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges… that cause marked distress or impairment”, the scientific debate around CBSD as a legitimate behavioural addiction continues.
Reed said it was important that the ICD register, which is widely used as a benchmark for diagnosis and health insurers, includes a concise definition of compulsive sexual behaviour disorder to ensure those affected can get help.
“There is a population of people who feel out of control with regards to their own sexual behaviour and who suffer because of that,” he said pointing out that their sexual behaviour sometimes had “very severe consequences.”
“This is a genuine clinical population of people who have a legitimate health condition and who can be provided services in a legitimate way,” he said, which was exactly the case with anxiety, depression and even homosexuality a few decades ago.
It remains unclear how many people suffer from the disorder, though we are guessing that it is probably quite numerous, if the existence of websites like Ashley Madison are anything to go by.
Reed added that the ICD listing would likely prompt more research into the condition and its prevalence, as well as into determining the most effective treatments.
“Maybe eventually we will say, yeah, it is an addiction, but that is just not where we are at this point,” Reed said. For genuine sufferers of the condition, the WHO’s decision is “reassuring”, as it confirms that they have a genuine condition and can seek treatment.
Does this open up the potential for the condition to be abused? Does it mean those who perpetrate sexual offences or commit infidelity are able to fall back and blame their transgressions on CBSD?
Claims of ‘sex addiction’ have increasingly been in the headlines in step with the #MeToo movement, which has seen people around the world coming forward with allegations sexual mistreatment.
The uprising has led to the downfall of powerful men across industries, including disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has reportedly spent months in treatment for sex addiction.
Reed said he did not believe there was reason to worry that the new CSBD listing could be used by people like Weinstein to excuse alleged criminal behaviours. “It doesn’t excuse sexual abuse or raping someone…any more than being an alcoholic excuses you from driving a car when you are drunk. You have still made a decision to act,” he said.
Source: AFP Relaxnews