Monday, March 28, 2011

Sex Seven Times A Week? Better Watch Out...

Addiction is a very real part of our society. Every one knows someone who struggles with, or has been affected by, an addiction to drugs or alcohol. It can be heartbreaking to see a substance have such an affect on someone - and have little control over how to help. Over the years scientists and doctors have determined that these specific addictions have a genetic foundation, and they are now considered diseases.

Can this also be true for sex? 

This month, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is considering adding sex addiction to its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Medical Disorders (DSMIV),
the “standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States.” It's important because it determines what is a psychological illness - and because illness needs treatment, health insurance providers are more likely to cover it (and society to take a greater interest in it).   

The proposed "hypersexual disorder" suggests that illness can be present if "you spend so much time pursuing intercourse or masturbation as to interfere with your job or other important activities." 
Warning signs would include "repetitively engaging" in sexual behaviors when you are anxious, depressed or stressed OR having more than seven orgasms a week for at least six months - actual sex or otherwise. 

Seven? Seriously? There are definitely relationships I’ve been in where I would have qualified. And have they met most men in Los Angeles? And gay men everywhere?

I know that addictions are very real, and I know that there are men (and women) who have extreme appetites for sexual encounters. But with individual sex drives ranging so dramatically, how can one determine how much is too much sex? For the most part, men generally complain they aren't getting enough; and women couldn't care less about it until they hit their late 20s and then they’re on fire. Modern sexuality is very specific, readily available and increasingly less taboo. 

It is also partly inherited, somewhat environmental, and definitely a crazy combination of hormones stemming from the limbic system in the brain (the very front, important part that regulates survival and pleasure). Attraction, mood, a great ass, ulterior motives, smell and other elusive factors are also generally involved. As humans, we are literally hardwired to want to have sex - not only for reproduction but also to engage a mate for lifelong companionship.

So unlike prescribed treatments for alcohol and drug addiction, it is very difficult to treat a sex addiction by abstaining from the act of having sex. Treatment centers are still working on alternative ways to treat it and society hasn't quite determined if this is an actual disease. 

So with a vague definition, a liberal model for diagnosis, and an ambiguity for treatment, the APA has its work cut out for them: is sex addiction an actual psychological disorder, or is this an outcome of a society that can watch porn on-demand, is more sexually educated than ever before, and grew up under looser sexual norms? Should we send the offenders to treatment centers or tell them knock it off? 

These are big questions that have pretty weighty outcomes - and we will learn the final prognosis in the next couple of months. In the meantime be sure to keep track of how many orgasms you’re having, just to be safe – or to have something to brag about.

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