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Sexual Addiction and Other Psychological Disorders

A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP, Kaushik Misra, Ph.D., Amy K. Epner, Ph.D., and Galen Morgan Cooper, Ph.D. , edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

Psychological disorders can play a role in the formation of any addiction. This includes sexual addiction. Sometimes these problems preceded the addiction and the addiction served as a coping tool. Sometimes they developed after addiction.

Regardless of why these problems occurred, people must learn to address them. Otherwise, the risk of relapse is quite high. Sometimes, these various problems and difficulties indicate an underlying, unidentified psychological disorder. In fact, addictions and other psychological disorders occur with a rather astonishing frequency. In this context, addiction may represent an attempt to relieve symptoms of other psychological disorders. Addiction professionals often call this self-medication. If these underlying disorders are not identified and treated along with the addiction, the risk of relapse remains quite high. Sexual addiction has not been studied as much as other addictions. Therefore, there is little specific data about the co-occurrence of sexual addiction and other psychological disorders. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to suggest that data regarding alcohol and drug addiction would similarly apply to sexual addiction.

Anxiety (which includes trauma): 25% of alcohol dependent individuals and 40% of drug dependent individuals also have an anxiety diagnosis (Grant, Hasin, Stinson, Dawson, et al., 2005).

Mood disorders (which include depression and bipolar disorder): 25% of alcohol dependent individuals and 50% of drug dependent individuals also have a mood disorder diagnosis (Grant, et al., 2005).

Personality disorder: 50% of alcohol dependent individuals and 70% of drug dependent individuals also have a personality disorder diagnosis (Grant, et al., 2005).

ADHD: 15-25% of adults with alcohol and drug use disorders also have an ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Wilens, 2006).

Moreover, like all addictions, people may become "cross-addicted." This simply means they have more than one addiction. It is theorized that sexual addiction is more likely to co-occur with drugs and activitites that stimulate the central nervous system (excitatory) and/or create disinhibition. For instance, alcohol is disinhibiting while cocaine and gambling are excitatory.