Accounting for the social triggers of sexual compulsivity

J Addict Dis. 2007;26(3):5-16. doi: 10.1300/J069v26n03_02.


Aims: To examine the social triggers of sexual compulsivity amongst a diverse sample of gay and bisexual men.

Design and participants: Qualitative interviews were conducted with 180 gay and bisexual men in the United States who self-identified that their sex lives were spinning out of control. The data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach to explore the range of social triggers that were driving sexual compulsions.

Measurement: An open-ended interview and a structured clinical interview were conducted with each participant. The interviews examined their experiences with sexual compulsivity over time and the impact of their problematic sexual behaviors on their lives.

Findings: Two types of social triggers emerged from the data: event-centered triggers and contextual triggers. Event-centered triggers arise from sudden, unforeseen events. Two major event-centered triggers were identified: relationship turmoil and catastrophes. Contextual triggers, on the other hand, have a certain element of predictability, and included such things as location, people, the use of drugs, and pornography.

Conclusions: This framework of triggers has clinical implications for the prevention and treatment of sexual compulsivity. Clinicians can utilize the framework of social triggers in the therapeutic process to provide insight into ways to effectively work through symptoms of sexual compulsivity. Awareness of the contextual aspects of sexual compulsivity may be critical to understanding the behaviors of sexually compulsive clients. Thus, therapeutic assessments should focus upon the social context in addition to the psychological components of the disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bisexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Compulsive Behavior / prevention & control*
  • Compulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Homosexuality, Male / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires