Sunday, July 26, 2009

How do you define excessive sexual activity?

Maggie's Farm describes how psychiatrists and others have "gone nuts" due to their desire to include sex addiction, shopping addiction and other behaviors as clinical disorders in the forthcoming DSM-V which is a revision of current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV:

I knew they went over the edge when they began talking about Sex Addiction. Who gets to define that? These are the sorts of thing that makes people think shrinks are nuts, and damage their reputations as serious Docs. You cannot pathologize every human idiosyncrasy, desire, hobby, or preoccupation, because these are the things that make people interesting, unique, and colorful.

Slate has a good article about the DSM subtitled, "The Diagnostic madness of DSM-V" which seems fitting:

....The fifth edition of the association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is expected in 2012. The APA isn't just deciding the fate of shopaholics; it's also debating whether overuse of the Internet, "excessive" sexual activity, apathy, and even prolonged bitterness should be viewed, quite seriously, as brain "disorders." If you spend hours online, have sex more frequently than aging psychiatrists, and moan incessantly that the federal government can't account for all its TARP funds, take heed: You may soon be classed among the 48 million Americans the APA already considers mentally ill.

So, how would you decide what constitutes excessive sexual activity?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hats off to the fine people developing the DSM: They cured homosexuality overnight back in the early 1970s (with the then-current edition of the DSM).

Someday they may also cure shopaholicism or people who have sex more than they do.

11:25 AM, July 26, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My humble suggestion: Missionary position two/three times a week with a legally-recognized marital spouse is the norm, people become increasingly deviant as they move away from this norm.

I'm also not necessarily against some kind of control mechanism so that people who deviate significantly can be filtered out and sent to treatment camps.

11:28 AM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Helen, I believe the article comes from Slate not Salon. What are you talking about in relation to this topic? Are you talking about excessive sexual activity or sexual addiction? The two are not synonymous. A basic criteria for any mental disorder are the following: 1) Distress, 2)Dysfunction, and 3)Deviance. Certainly excessive sex would be categorized as deviance (a statistical abnormality), but it would be hard to say whether or not it causes distress or dysfunction in a client or patients life. Sexual addiction would probably include all three. The reason sexual addiction may be included in the DSM is because many clinicians are probably seeing high numbers of individuals with issues related to sexual addiction. Putting it into the DSM would increase the chances of it being covered by insurance reinbursement.

11:35 AM, July 26, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At this stage of the game, too much sex is a problem I'd love to have - for a while, anyway.

11:42 AM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Good one JG.

Now on the Helen's question. How about a level of sexual activity that gets someone in trouble and they would like to stop but they are not able to. And it takes time away from other important activities, like work.

That is the basic criteria for all the substance abuse disorders. Or it was.

It is not about the number or amount, but the trouble caused.


12:10 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger ajdshootist said...

"Sex in marriage is like medicine. Three times a day for the first week.
Then once a day for another week.
Then once every three to four days till the condition clears up."

12:49 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

"Clinical Disorder"?????

That's an interesting term. I haven't looked but I bet drug addiction and alcohol addiction are also classified as some sort of clinical disorder.

What is a "disorder" and why are we classify them? Now we have a bunch of new "disorders", people who shop too much and people who are having too much sex. There is one glaring difference between people with drug and alcohol addictions and people with sex and shopping addictions. Alcohol and drugs can be detected through urinalysis.

So if this recession is getting you down and making your work life or home life absolutely miserable and you feel the need to act out and behave badly, make sure you pick a disorder that you can do in secret and can't be found out without a laboratory test mandated from your employer. It's no longer a good idea to reach for the Jim Beam or the Oxy.

It's less costly on a personal level to take your discomfort to the mall, where you can shop to your heart's content. Or, do something our culture thinks of as very naughty and bad, find someone with a similar psychological challenge and take to the mattress. Or spend all night on the Internet complaining about politics.

These activities can be done in secret, won't rot your body and will bring you some sort of temporary personal satisfaction. In your own way you will be sticking it to the man, well, sort of. It's just like the overweight balding 50 year old who buys a Harley, you aren't anymore of a badass than you were before you owned a motorcycle but you can at least feel like one.

I appreciate the psychologists attempt to classify disorders, but maybe they should spend less time classifying and more time figuring out why we have so many new "disorders". They're popping up like mushrooms.

On another somewhat related note, there was a interesting op ed piece on on Friday explaining how women really DO enjoy porn. I will be citing this source the minute someone writes another "women are wired differently" post, so be aware.

1:08 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger knightblaster said...

Keep in mind, Cham, that the woman who wrote that article, Violet Blue, works as a professional porn reviewer. Hardly the typical woman, I think, and I very much doubt that the views she expresses there reflect the views of most women regarding porn. There is wiring, and there are outliers, as well, in any system.

1:29 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger Casey said...

"So, how would you decide what constitutes excessive sexual activity?"

Easy. Anyone more sexually active than me, for any given value of "me."


1:48 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...


Thanks for the correction!

1:51 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger Joe said...

There are outliers, but simply being an outlier does not make you mentally ill. The psychiatric profession has a vested interest to "pathologize every human idiosyncrasy, desire, hobby, or preoccupation."

Compounding this is a political correct conformist attitude that pervades society. This isn't unusual, what is unusual in this day and time and our believes in fundamental human rights is how much it this is being increasingly regulated by the power of government.

And this is the evil of what is being perpetuated by the pyschiatric profession; the power to declare someone has a mental disorder which legally impedes them is the power to destroy their lives and families.

(I didn't misspeak; what psychiatrists are doing is evil. It is about controlling other people to their own aggrandizement and enrichment.)

1:58 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Casey --

Precisely the measurement used by the ones setting the DSM on almost every "disorder" they come up with.

Anybody know the name of the disorder of people who compulsively classify others as deviant as regards to themselves?


As with Novaseeker's response, there are outliers to that condition.

2:07 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger Edgehopper said...

I agree with TMink. It's not an addiction or a problem until it causes other trouble.

You play lots of video games? Perfectly reasonable hobby. You pass up things like regular meals and sex to play video games? Then you probably need help.

You have sex twice a day with your wife and have a happy, productive life? I envy you, you lucky bastard. You blow tens of thousands of dollars on prostitutes and hand over your job to a moron? Then you need help, and should probably continue avoiding politics for a while.

2:17 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger GeorgeH said...

More than I can get it up for is excessive sexual activity, anything less is not enough.

2:30 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger smitty1e said...

Last night I saw King Lear, and was just a bit taken aback by the nudity and sexual content of the production. Certainly, it's right there in the script.
However, I'll mark off the delightfully boring, monogamous heterosexual end of the conversation. My love life with my life is about pure, romantic relaxation, against which any decadence has the appeal of mold on cheese.
I feel sad for any characters in reality as oversexed as the pack of loons in King Lear.
Your sexuality is not a video game--don't cheapen it into such.

3:35 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...


Who cares what another person does with their sex life? It's not anyone elses business.

3:54 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger tomcal said...

It is defined by a function based upon a very large sample, which results in a bell shaped curve, the y-axis being average sexual adventures per week, and the x-axis being age the participants.

Any activity falling outside of 100standard deviations from average, on the high side, is excessive.

If you fall anywhere below the average, you aren't getting enough.

4:44 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger smitty1e said...

I'm happy to raise a cheer for non-commitment to voyeruism.
Alas, sex _is_ business, for all too many.

4:45 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I would schedule a consultation with my local mental health professional to determine what the level of my sexual activity should be plus when, where, duration, partner(s), recommended techniques and verbal utterances.

To be normal in a sick society is to be sick.

4:59 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger Aurelian said...

returned from deployment and with my girlfriend. Is it possible I have a sex addition? Can I keep it?

5:38 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger BobH said...

Follow the money people!!! What you have is a bunch of "therapists" creating diseases that they then can use to gain social status and financial renumeration by treating. Psychology is a fine research discipline but as clinical discipline, but it is, at best, way over its intellectual head and, at worst, completely manipulative and exploitative.

6:55 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

"I didn't misspeak; what psychiatrists are doing is evil."

Well, the scientologists have arrived.


8:16 PM, July 26, 2009  
Blogger pst314 said...

"how would you decide what constitutes excessive sexual activity?"

I would set the level such that everyone is either too active or insufficiently active, and thus everyone needs treatment.

10:31 PM, July 26, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I resent the recent trend of people making bad choices trying to call their motivation a malady that can be cured. I have known two people whose marriages ended over adultery (their own) who later blamed it on sexual addictions and thought a few counseling sessions would make it all better. Their spouses had a different view of it.

It opens up the pandora's box of how much of our choices are chemicals int eh brain, and not really choices at all? If that is the case, then the entire criminal justice system becomes cruel and unusual because it punishes people who are chemically unable to remain lawful. If sex addiction can be cured, then why not pedophelia, murder, theft, rape, arson, check kiting, and tax evasion? Was Bernie Maddov really a criminal, or just sick?

9:38 AM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger William said...

An alcoholic is one who drinks more than his doctor.

Therefore, a sex addict doinks more than his doctor.

Quod erat demonstratum

9:49 AM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Professor Hale, you bring up an excellent question and point: Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

I think that Psychology is at its best when it is doing hard research and helping people to lead more healthy lives. It is at its worst when it is used to "explain" behavior with a faux scientific excuse. There is a set of psychologists (I was going to say subset, but I am not at all sure that it is not the majority) who look to excuse everything.

They do us all harm in my opinion.


10:01 AM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Dang it, William got to it before I did. Most people's definition is, "Too much is anything more than I want."

10:16 AM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger Ken said...

Some folks have been trying for decades to pathologize a high score on the Adorno F scale. When wrong thinking is an officially recognized symptom of illness, the government can "help" you...for your own good.

10:49 AM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Ken, I got a 2 on the scale. That classifies me as a liberal airhead. While the airhead may certainly be true, I take issue with the L word.


11:00 AM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger JohnMcG said...

I'm too busy having sex and using the internet to care. The whole thing leaves me bitter.

11:07 AM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

Professor Hale:

Isn't a component of these supposed clinical disorders actually drama creation? You abuse alcohol, drugs, porn, video games or sex and get found out, then you and your loved ones get to focus on, well, you!

Will you get well or won't you? Let's get the psychologists involved and do an intervention! How about a sex, alcohol or narcotic anonymous meeting? Will Lexapro help? Now it is time for couples and family counseling to discuss YOUR addiction or YOUR clinical disorder. How come Mark Sanford keeps giving press conferences and apologizing?

It doesn't matter what an abuser abuses, the abuse will always keep the focus of the family on them. It's part of the high. Husband and wives stick around often not because of love, but because of codependency or, in the case of politicians, they like the limelight as much as their spouse.

Their are so many different angles when it comes to those who abuse drugs/alcohol/sex/anything, it's never as simple as just a clinical addiction.

I'd love to see one of these fancy therapists deal with some of my friends day in and day out, those that have been hooked on heroin and Oxycontin for years. These people can't be put in some sort of simple classification system. I've known a few addicts have switched from a compulsion for Oxycontin to a compulsion for sex. The sex seems less deadly.

Personal responsibility is the least of an addict's problem.

1:05 PM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

I disagree Cham. Personal responsibility is how addicts get sober. Maybe they exercise it in terms of their higher power, but they have to be responsible and make that choice.

If they are not going to assert their responsibility, how will they get better?

What do you see as the addict's problem that is the most of their problem if irresponsibility is the least of their problem?


1:16 PM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger vivictius said...

Same as everything else, if it doesnt interfere with the rest of your life, who cares?

There will always be some people saying you do whatever too much/too little/wrong way.

1:52 PM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

Personal responsibility is something an addict has to consider way after he decides to get sober. These folks have NEVER been personally responsible and don't know the meaning of the word. The one common denominator I see in all addicts is that even as nice as some of them are, they are the most selfish people on the planet. When an addict decides to get sober first he/she has to decide how they are going to live their lives without whatever they are addicted, all their little addict friends and their army of enablers, and whether they can deal with their life as a sober person. Life is far less dramatic without an addiction. The most immediate questions that need to be answered when it comes to sobriety is where are they going to live? How are they going to occupy their time? With whom are they going to associate? It's the little stuff first.

The personal responsibility component comes much later when the addict realizes that they can survive without being addicted to something and that they have to make a conscious decision that every day is going to be a day without Oxycontin, Crack or Alcohol (or prostitutes).

2:11 PM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger Jess T. Mills, IV said...

When you start getting blisters and/or chafing, it's excessive.

3:01 PM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Cham wrote: "Personal responsibility is something an addict has to consider way after he decides to get sober."

I would say that the personal responsibility starts with the decision to get sober.

Learning to be an adult takes the time, but the responsibility starts with the decision that enough is enough.

But I think we are disagreeing about semantics. Thanks for the answer.


3:36 PM, July 27, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a food Addict. I find I cannot live without it and I will do almost anything to get it on a regular basis, even holding a full time job. To establish codependencies, I even helped my wife and daughter get hooked and support their habits too.

3:44 PM, July 27, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall watching a movie once where a character described his problem as being a sex addict. His buddy asked with a straight face: isn't that what we used to call "getting it a lot"?

3:46 PM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Anybody know the name of the disorder of people who compulsively classify others as deviant as regards to themselves?"

Narcissism. Dr. Helen, is this not so?

4:04 PM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger Joe said...

"I didn't misspeak; what psychiatrists are doing is evil."

Well, the scientologists have arrived.

Read the context; it does matter. For the record, Scientologists are evil for the very same reason--they invent pathologies and then sell the cure.

5:55 PM, July 27, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

--Same as everything else, if it doesnt interfere with the rest of your life, who cares?

And even if it does interfere with your life, that doesn't mean you have a mental disorder.

It means you have a behavioral problem that you are not controlling. It's possible that there's a deeper reason for not controlling it, but much of the answer is "because he/she doesn't feel like it."

Most people with "rage disorder" are quite clear on when NOT to behave in an enraged fashion: when one is being questioned by a cop.

Most people who shoplift do it because they (correctly) think they won't get caught.

Lots of drunks simply enjoy being drunks. They'd rather make the pains of this world go into oblivion than learn a new way to cope. Doesn't mean they have a mental disorder.

Of course, there could be some underlying pathology. But then you need to fix the underlying pathology, not the symptomatic behavior on top.

6:18 PM, July 27, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was young, I drank a lot of beer, shot a lot of pool, chased a lot of skirts. There were a bunch of my fellow compatriots who did the same. Some still do. I haven't done any of that for over 25 years. I'm not so sure which is more healthy!

5:56 AM, July 28, 2009  
Blogger dienw said...

The best way to tell is you are getting excessive sex is if your ears get very long, are covered with fur, and you start saying "What's up doc," repeatedly.

8:02 AM, July 28, 2009  
Blogger Trust said...

@Helen: "So, how would you decide what constitutes excessive sexual activity?"

The modern definition of what constitutes excessive sexual activity is:
* Whatever definition makes money
* Whatever empowers certain special interests
* whatever empowers the political left.

In a nutshell, that's the real purpose of the definition.

11:28 AM, July 28, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Face it, a high percentage of "shrinks" are nuts. The gravitation of neurotics to the psychiatric disciplines in college is undeniable.

5:01 PM, July 29, 2009  

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