Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your doctor, psychiatrist or other mental health provider can do a psychological evaluation, which may involve answering questions about your:

  • Physical and mental health, as well as your overall emotional well-being
  • Sexual thoughts, behaviors and compulsions
  • Use of drugs and alcohol
  • Family, relationships and social situation

With your permission, your mental health provider may also request input from family and friends.

Determining a diagnosis

There's an ongoing debate in the psychiatric community about exactly how to define compulsive sexual behavior because it's not always easy to determine when sexual behavior becomes problematic.

Many mental health providers use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, as a guide for diagnosing mental health problems. Because compulsive sexual behavior doesn't have its own diagnostic category in the DSM-5, it may be diagnosed as a subcategory of another mental health condition, such as an impulse control disorder.

Some mental health professionals consider compulsive sexual behaviors as sexual activities taken to an extreme with significant and negative consequences. Although more research is needed to establish criteria, your mental health provider may consider whether the following factors are present when determining a diagnosis:

  • You have a sexual preoccupation that fills a significant amount of your time thinking about, planning or engaging in sexual behavior.
  • You engage in excessive sexual activity as a way to cope or to relieve negative moods or stress.
  • You've made unsuccessful efforts to reduce or control sexual thoughts or behavior.
  • You repeatedly engage in sexual behaviors, even though you recognize they're harmful to you or others.
  • You have significant personal distress about your sexual behavior, or it impairs your work, social life or everyday functioning.

Whatever the nature of your compulsive sexual behavior, push past your fear, shame or embarrassment and seek professional help. Getting the right diagnosis can be a relief and can guide treatment that will get your life back on track and save you and the people you care about a lot of anguish.

Sep. 13, 2014

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