A surprising finding related to executive control in a patient sample of hypersexual men

J Sex Med. 2011 Aug;8(8):2227-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02314.x. Epub 2011 May 19.


Introduction: Patients seeking help for hypersexual behavior often exhibit features of impulsivity, cognitive rigidity, and poor judgment as well as deficits in emotion regulation and excessive preoccupation with sex. Some of these characteristics are also common among patients presenting with neurological pathology associated with executive dysfunction. Exploring relationships between dysregulated sexual behavior and executive deficits will enhance our understanding of hypersexuality.

Aim: This study sought to assess whether patients seeking help for hypersexual behavior exhibit executive deficits as measured by standardized neuropsychological tests of executive functioning when compared with healthy controls.

Methods: Executive deficits were assessed in a sample of male patients (N = 30) seeking help for hypersexual behavior compared with a nonhypersexual community sample of men (N = 30) using neuropsychological tests of executive functioning. Using multivariate statistics, differences between the groups were examined.

Main outcome measures: Sexual activity measured by the Hypersexual Behavior Inventory and the Compulsive Sexual Behavior Inventory. Executive functions measured through neuropsychological testing using several subtests of Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System: Color-Word Interference Test, the Tower Test, the Trail Making Test, the Verbal Fluency Test, as well as the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. Psychopathology was assessed using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview, and cognitive ability was assessed using the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.

Results: Significant differences on measures of hypersexuality were observed. However, the groups failed to exhibit significant differences across neuropsychological tests of executive functioning even after controlling for cognitive ability.

Conclusions: These results contradict a previous finding of executive deficits among hypersexual men measured by self-report. The lack of executive deficits suggests that this population may exhibit domain-specific aspects of impulsivity, poor judgment, and risky behavior that are not generalizable to other domains of life. Furthermore, our findings fail to support a conceptualization of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, proposed hypersexual disorder based on models of executive dysfunction. .

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Executive Function*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / psychology*