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Health

The Debate Over Porn Addiction

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In a revealing behind the scenes article published in Psychology Today, Marnia Robinson takes us behind the scenes at how mental health professionals are constructing the next official diagnostic manual. From her perspective, they are avoiding the hard issues in favor of internal medical politics. Specifically, not treating Internet porn addiction (and other addictive behaviors) with the respect they deserve.

She points out that different groups (each group responsible for a different set of disorders) have been assigned the related conditions: Internet Use Disorder and Hypersexual Disorder – even though the main outlet for the latter is pornography on the Internet. She also tells us that as of last month, both conditions were being shunted off to an appendix. This is code for, “we don’t think these are real diseases yet.”

Ms. Robinson argues that all addictions ought to be labeled as such and classified in a related manner, since they share so many features. She also highlights that until the rise of the Internet, some of the addictions didn’t exist as separate entities. According to the article, studies already find rates of Internet addiction ranging from 3% to as high as 25% (in university males).

Because this latest revision of the Diagnostic Services Manual will be used to not only provide clear diagnostic criteria, but also define what insurance companies will pay to have treated, the matter is significant.

Proper classification does matter and has real financial consequences. Disorders that make the cut get the stamp of approval from the psychology/psychiatric community. Those that don’t remain on the fringes and are often set aside as “not real addictions.”

Comments on the classifications closed last month. But changes can still be made if they are warranted. Unfortunately, according to Ms. Robinson, sex is still a hot button topic. To suggest that the same brain circuitry can be activated by sex and addictive drugs isn’t enough. The powers that be can’t seem to get past the idea that responses to pornography and the attention grabbing, high-speed visuals of the Internet, are somehow not linked to the same biology as heroin, tobacco or even gambling.

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