Hypersexuality is a clinical diagnosis used by mental healthcare researchers and providers to describe extremely frequent or suddenly increased sexual urges or sexual activity. The names nymphomania and satyriasis were once used to describe the condition, in women and men respectively, but are no longer in general medical use.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hypersexual as "exhibiting unusual or excessive concern with or indulgence in sexual activity". Sexologists have been using the term hypersexuality since the late 1800s, when Krafft-Ebing described several cases of extreme sexual behaviours in his seminal 1886 book, Psychopathia Sexualis. The author used the term "hypersexuality" to describe conditions that would now be termed premature ejaculation.
Hypersexuality may be a primary condition, or the symptom of another medical disease or condition, for example Klüver-Bucy syndrome or bipolar disorder. Hypersexuality may also present as a side effect of medication such as drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease. Clinicians have yet to reach a consensus over how best to describe hypersexuality as a primary condition, or to determine the appropriateness of describing such behaviors and impulses as a separate pathology.
Some authors have questioned whether it makes sense to discuss hypersexuality at all, arguing that labeling sexual urges "extreme" merely stigmatizes people who do not conform to the norms of their culture or peer group.
Hypersexual behaviours are viewed variously by clinicians and therapists as: an addiction; a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or “OCD-spectrum disorder”; or a disorder of impulsivity. A number of authors do not acknowledge such a pathology and instead assert that the condition merely reflects a cultural dislike of exceptional sexual behavior.
Consistent with there not being any consensus over what causes hypersexuality, authors have used many different labels to refer to it, sometimes interchangeably, but often depending on which theory they favor or which specific behavior they were studying. Contemporary names include compulsive masturbation, compulsive sexual behavior, cybersex addiction, erotomania, “excessive sexual drive”, hyperphilia, hypersexuality, hypersexual disorder, problematic hypersexuality, sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, sexual dependency, sexual impulsivity, “out of control sexual behavior”, and paraphilia-related disorder.
There is little consensus among experts as to the causes of hypersexuality. Some research suggests that some cases can be linked to biochemical or physiological changes that accompany dementia. Psychological needs also complicate the biological explanation, which identifies the temporal/frontal lobe of the brain as the area for regulating libido. Persons suffering from injuries to this part of the brain are at increased risk for aggressive behavior and other behavioral problems including personality changes and socially inappropriate sexual behavior such as hypersexuality. The same symptom can occur after unilateral temporal lobotomy. There are other biological factors that are associated with hypersexuality such as premenstrual changes, and the exposure to virilising hormones in childhood or in utero.
In research involving use of anti-androgens to reduce undesirable sexual behaviour such as hypersexuality, testosterone is deemed necessary, but not sufficient, for sexual drive. Other proposed factors include a lack of physical closeness, and forgetfulness of the recent past.
Pathogenic overactivity of the dopaminergic mesolimbic pathway in the brain—forming either psychiatrically, during mania, or pharmacologically, as a side effect of dopamine agonists, specifically D3-preferring agonists—is associated with various addictions and has been shown to result among some in overindulgent, sometimes hypersexual, behavior.
As a symptom
Hypersexuality is known to present itself as a symptom in connection to a number of mental and neurological disorders. Some people with borderline personality disorder (sometimes referred to as BPD) can be markedly impulsive, seductive, and extremely sexual. Sexual promiscuity, sexual obsessions, and hypersexuality are very common symptoms for both men and women with BPD. On occasion for some there can be paraphilic drives such as voyeurism, necrophilia, sadomasochism, urolagnia, and other more extreme forms of paraphilic drives and desires. 'Borderline' patients, due in the opinion of some to the use of splitting, experience love and sexuality in perverse and violent qualities which they cannot integrate with the tender, intimate side of relationships.
People with bipolar disorder may often display tremendous swings in sex drive depending on their mood. As defined in the DSM-IV-TR, hypersexuality can be a symptom of hypomania or mania in bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder. Pick’s disease causes damage to the temporal/frontal lobe of the brain; people with Pick’s disease show a range of socially inappropriate behaviors.
Several neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, autism, various types of brain injury, Klüver-Bucy syndrome, Kleine-Levin syndrome, and many more neurodegenerative diseases can cause hypersexual behavior. Sexually inappropriate behavior has been shown to occur in 7-8% of Alzheimer's patients living at home, at a care facility or in a hospital setting. Hypersexuality has also been reported to result as a side-effect of some medications used to treat Parkinson's disease. Some street drugs, such as methamphetamine, may also contribute to hypersexual behavior.
A positive link between the severity of dementia and occurrence of inappropriate behavior has also been found. Hypersexuality can be caused by dementia in a number of ways, including disinhibition due to organic disease, misreading of social cues, understimulation, the persistence of learned sexual behaviour after other behaviours have been lost, and the side-effects of the drugs used to treat dementia. Other possible causes of dementia-related hypersexuality include an inappropriately expressed psychological need for intimacy and forgetfulness of the recent past. As this illness progresses, increasing hypersexuality has been theorized to sometimes compensate for declining self-esteem and cognitive function.
As a disorder
Hypersexuality may negatively impact an individual. The concept of hypersexuality as an addiction was started in the 1970s by former members of Alcoholics Anonymous who felt they experienced a similar lack of control and compulsivity with sexual behaviors as with alcohol. Multiple 12-step style self-help groups now exist for people who identify as sex addicts, including Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, and Sexual Compulsives Anonymous.
As of 2010[update], a proposal to add Sexual Addiction to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) system has failed to get support of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Some authors have questioned whether it makes sense to discuss hypersexuality at all, arguing that labeling sexual urges "extreme" merely stigmatizes people who do not conform to the norms of their culture or peer group. The DSM does include an entry called Sexual Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (Sexual Disorder NOS) to apply to, among other conditions, "distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be used".
The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) of the World Health Organization (WHO), includes two relevant entries. One is "Excessive Sexual Drive" (coded F52.7), which is divided into satyriasis for males and nymphomania for females. The other is "Excessive Masturbation" or "Onanism (excessive)" (coded F98.8).
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