Sexual addiction should be classified alongside gambling addiction and other behavioral addictions, according to a new study published in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry. These results could help the disorder gain the official recognition it is currently lacking. The new study, led by Dr. Joseph M. Farré of the Hospital Universitari Quirón-Dexeus in Barcelona, Spain, compared the personality and mental illness characteristics of patients with sexual addiction to those with gambling addiction. The research compared the two clinical groups and a group of healthy controls by using the Diagnostic Questionnaire for Pathological Gambling, the Symptoms Checklist-90 Items-Revised (SCL-90) and the Temperament and Character Inventory-Revised (TCI-R). The study also gathered data on each subject’s socio-demographic characteristics.
Two Addictions Show Symptom, Personality Similarities
The findings revealed no statistically significant differences between the two clinical groups when it came to the symptom checklist, but a number of differences were found between the clinical groups and the control group. The SLC-90 showed that both sexual addiction and gambling disorder patients scored similarly on the scales of somatization and the recurrent appearance of symptoms, obsession-compulsion, anxiety and depression, phobic anxiety, sensitivity, psychoticism and paranoid ideation. In addition to showing similar symptoms, the sexual addiction and gambling disorder patients also showed similar intensities of these symptoms. The study also showed many similarities when it came to the personality characteristics of the two clinical groups, although there were several statistically significant personality differences between the sexually addicted group and the gambling addicted group. On the TCI-R scale, people with sexually addictive behavior were more likely to score lower when it came to novelty seeking and harm avoidance. They also scored lower on the scale of persistence and self-transcendence (a personality trait associated with spirituality and a feeling of connectedness with the natural world or a spiritual force). The only significant socio-demographic difference between the two clinical groups was that people with sexual addiction were more likely to be employed than people with gambling addiction.
Improved Understanding of Behavioral Addictions
The study took place over eight years, during which the researchers assessed 59 patients in treatment for sexual addiction, 2,190 patients in treatment for gambling disorder and 93 healthy controls. Approximately 90 percent of the participants were men, and the average age in the study was 42. Almost half of the participants were married or living with a romantic partner. According to the authors of this study, the results suggest that people with sexual addiction could benefit from “transdiagnostic” treatment programs. These programs focus on helping people improve their “self-directedness” character trait. Self-directedness refers to a person’s ability to adapt to different situations in order to achieve certain goals or values. This trait is associated with various personality disorders, which in turn are associated with behavioral addictions. The idea behind such programs is that improving this single trait can help people recover from a current addiction as well as avoid future behavioral disorders. In addition to increasing our understanding of sexual addiction, the results of this study may also help to improve our diagnostic understanding of behavioral disorders. Further research may show the same sort of similarities between other behavioral addictions, which could help with the process of determining which of these disorders will be included in future editions of the DSM.