Article excerpt

"I keep making up these sex rules for myself, and then I break them right away." - J.D. Salinger (b.1919) US novelist The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

When sex occupies your mind to an extent that work, relationships, and health suffer, something may be wrong. Hypersexuality or compulsive sexual behavior (also nymphomania, erotomania) interferes with everyday living much like addiction to drugs, alcohol, or gambling. It is a pathologic state. However, mental health professionals will be quick to tell you that it is not an "official" diagnosis and only a subtype of an "impulse control disorder."

Signs & Symptoms. MayoClinic.com emphasizes that the following are beyond the control of the individual: having multiple sexual partners or extramarital affairs, having sex with anonymous partners or prostitutes, avoiding emotional involvement in sexual relationships, engaging in excessive masturbation, frequently using pornographic material, engaging in masochistic or sadistic sex, exposing yourself in public (exhibitionism), and using commercial sexually explicit phone and Internet services.

Causes. Research into organic causes of hypersexuality goes further than Freudian explanations for deviant sex. In particular, these diseases damage areas of the brain governing sexual behavior: Multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, dementia, and Parkinson's disease being treated with dopamine agonist medications. There can also be abnormalities in natural brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Levels of androgens - the predominantly male hormones (but also present in women) - may be deranged thus affecting sexual desire. …