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"The Hype in Hypersexual Disorder"

on Saturday, 03 November 2012. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Psychology Today

UCLA researchers recently published the results of a study that provides initial analysis of the concept of hypersexual disorder. Hypersexual disorder is a proposed diagnosis that may be included in a section of APA’s forthcoming DSM-5 that is reserved for conditions that require further research. Hypersexual disorder is little more than a watered-down concept that emerged from the pop psychology term sex addiction, but has foregone all of the moralizing and subjective terms embedded in sex addiction, describing what is predominantly a problematic pattern of frequent sexual behaviors, where individuals “feel out of control.” Because the concept of sex addiction is intrinsically flawed, and consistently rejected by science and the medical establishment, the bare bones concept of hypersexual disorder is a last ditch effort to create a diagnosis. The media has seized this recent study as evidence that sex addiction is real, and everyone from Dr. Drew to the Huffington Post have claimed that it vindicates the concept of sex addiction. But, this study proves nothing about sex addiction, and in fact offers evidence that even the limited concept of hypersexual disorder is a socially-biased and flawed concept.

The study was not in fact a true test of whether hypersexual disorder is a valid diagnostic concept, but merely whether the diagnostic criteria of this proposed diagnosis could be used consistently and accurately by clinicians. This study is only a preliminary effort to evaluate whether the criteria as proposed could be used – not whether this is a real, independent and truly valid disorder.

The only thing this study demonstrates about the diagnosis of hypersexual disorder is that the criteria can be used consistently if you are trying to create a diagnosis where even “normal” sexual behaviors can be a disorder, if someone is troubled by them, or of they trouble those around them. This used to be the case for the term "nymphomaniac," which Kinsey said was simply someone having more sex than the therapist. Now, instead of targeting women who liked sex as much as men, the new "hypersexual disorder" seems to target men who have more sex than the average man, or that's what this latest study shows.

Hypersexual disorder overwhelmingly targets males, in its criteria, and in the demographics of people diagnosed with the disorder. 95% of the hypersexual disorder group were male, compared to only around 60% of comparison groups. This makes it very clear that what is being targeted is not sexual problems, but socially-unacceptable sexual behaviors of males. Further, the males in the hypersexual group tend to be wealthy – half of the males with hypersexual disorder in this study make over $80,000 a year, compared to only 35% in the other groups. The proposed diagnosis is potentially creating a disorder to explain the problematic behavior of a privileged group. If a similar diagnosis pathologized poor African-American males, this would be clear evidence of bias and the effects of social stigma and discrimination, NOT a disorder in the men themselves. In other words, this pattern of findings suggests that the problems identified in hypersexual disorder may reflect the effects of social forces on different groups, NOT a mental disorder in these individuals.

More than three times as many of the participants with hypersexual disorder were gay or bisexual men, compared to the other groups in this study. This is not trivial. Hypersexual disorder already pathologizes male sexuality, and the heightened sexuality of gay and bi males suffers this attack even further. Hypersexual disorder turns being a gay or bisexual male into a disease. In the 70’s, being gay stopped being an illness. This disorder proposes to put it back. There are numerous groups who will use this medical support to attack homosexuality: Utah Senate candidate Jeremy Friedbaum is one example, who believes that homosexuality is a disease of sex addiction, and needs to be cured. ...

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