Characteristics of 36 subjects reporting compulsive sexual behavior

Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Feb;154(2):243-9. doi: 10.1176/ajp.154.2.243.


Objective: The authors describe the sociodemographic features, phenomenology, and psychiatric comorbidity of 36 subjects reporting compulsive sexual behavior.

Method: Twenty-eight men and eight women who responded to advertisements for "persons ... who have a problem with compulsive sexual behavior" completed structured and semistructured assessments, including the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for DSM-III-R disorders (axis I) and the Structured Interview for DSM-III-R Personality Disorders, Revised (axis II).

Results: The typical subject was a 27-year-old man who reported experiencing compulsive sexual behavior for nearly 9 years. Sexual behavior was described as excessive and poorly controlled and was associated with either subjective distress or impairment in interpersonal or occupational functioning or as overly time-consuming. Fourteen subjects (39%) reported a history of major depression or dysthymia, 15 (42%) a history of phobic disorder, and 23 (64%) a history of substance use disorder. Personality disorders were quite frequent, particularly the paranoid, histrionic, obsessive-compulsive, and passive-aggressive subtypes. The compulsive sexual behavior was quite varied and included both paraphilic (e.g., cross-dressing) and nonparaphilic (e.g., compulsive masturbation) types.

Conclusions: Compulsive sexual behavior may be a clinically useful concept, but it describes a heterogeneous group of individuals with substantial psychiatric comorbidity and diverse behavioral problems.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / diagnosis
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Compulsive Behavior / diagnosis*
  • Compulsive Behavior / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Homosexuality / psychology
  • Homosexuality / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masturbation
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Paraphilic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Paraphilic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis
  • Personality Disorders / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology