In his article, “What Sexual Scientists Know About Compulsive Sexual Behavior,” Eli Coleman, Ph.D. professor and director of the program in human sexuality at the University of Minnesota, wrote that any behavior can become compulsive. These include “paraphilic” and “non-paraphilic” behaviors.
Paraphilic compulsive sexual behavior, according to Coleman, are unconventional behaviors that are obsessive and compulsive and interfere with relationships. They include non-human objects, suffering or humiliation and children or other non-consenting persons.
Non-paraphilic compulsive sexual behaviors include conventional behaviors that are taken to such obsessive extremes that they interfere with everyday life.
Either can be caused mood or personality disorders. In other cases, neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or epilepsy may be the cause.
Treatment usually includes a combination of psychotherapy and prescription medication. The medications may be anti-androgens that suppress male sexual hormones or anti-depressants such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil.
On the other hand, Coleman also warns against the tendency to pathologize the disorder too much. This tendency, he wrote, “may be driven by anti-sexual attitudes and a failure to recognize the wide-range of normal human sexual expression.” He pointed out that there is a long history of labeling disapproved sexual behaviors as pathologies.
Coleman also wrote that some people who self-diagnose themselves as sex addicts create their own distress through their own restrictive value system. Therefore, it’s important to distinguish between someone engaging in obsessive sexual behavior and someone who simply has mixed feelings about his or her sexual values and behavior.
Diagnosing such a disorder is problematic, he argued, because a behavior may conflict with the values of the individual, group or society. However, there is “no scientific merit” to labeling behaviors such as masturbation, oral sex, same-sex sexual behavior, sado-masochism or having an affair as compulsive behaviors, he wrote.
According to USA Today, Coleman said “'sexual addiction' is a trendy, overused term," when he spoke at meeting of the American Psychological Association. He said it is a real disorder but not nearly as common as portrayed on daytime television. (According to the article it affects 3-5 percent of Americans.)