World Health Organization Adds Sex Addiction to Disease List

By Beth Leipholtz 07/17/18

However, there is still some controversy among clinicians about whether it should be included.

sex addiction

A new mental health disorder has been added to the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases list—compulsive sexual behavior disorder.

According to CNN, the inclusion came in the June update of the list, which is called the ICD-11, and is the “foundational document that clinicians and scientists around the world use to identify and study health problems, injuries and causes of death.”

The list states that compulsive sexual behavior disorder, also referred to as sex addiction, as "persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour."

WHO states that the disorder has to do with a person’s sexual behavior becoming a “central focus” of their life to the point that it becomes detrimental to “health and personal care or other interests, activities and responsibilities.” The organization also states that in order to be classified as this disorder, a person must have been struggling with it for six months or more.

Though WHO has included this disorder in its list, there is still some controversy among clinicians about whether it should be included, CNN states.

Dr. Timothy Fong, clinical professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, tells CNN that studying the disorder from an “academic perspective” is relatively recent.

"For centuries, people have been trying to understand what is the cause of hypersexuality,” he said. “It has been called all sorts of names over the years, but it's really only been in the last 40 years that we've tried to understand it from an academic perspective."

In 2006, CNN states, Fong authored a paper having to do with the scientific definitions of compulsive sexual behavior disorder and ways to potentially manage the disorder. He says some experts do not agree that the disorder can be classified as an addiction since no substance is abused.

"Some people would say if it looks like an addiction and smells like an addiction and there are 12-step groups to help people with the addiction, then it is, but the psychological community is split into different camps,” Fong told CNN. “Some say it is addiction, and some of those say people just have different libidos.”

Despite WHO’s inclusion of the disorder, CNN states there is no national data depicting how many people could have this disorder. It states that some regional and local data suggests it could be about 5 percent of the population, which Fong says means more people would struggle with this disorder than bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or pathological gambling.

Robert Weiss, addiction specialist and author of "Sex Addiction 101" and "Always Turned On,” tells CNN that he is happy about WHO’s decision. Weiss says he has treated more than 1,000 people with compulsive sexual behavior disorder and success in treatment comes from addressing underlying problems and creating a healthier relationship with sex.

"You don't want to repress the desire. Sexuality is a part of being human, but you want to guide it," Weiss told CNN.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.