Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 1029–1043 | Cite as

Dysregulated Sexuality and High Sexual Desire: Distinct Constructs?

  • Jason WintersEmail author
  • Kalina Christoff
  • Boris B. Gorzalka
Original Paper


The literature on dysregulated sexuality, whether theoretical, clinical or empirical, has failed to differentiate the construct from high sexual desire. In this study, we tested three hypotheses which addressed this issue. A sample of 6458 men and 7938 women, some of whom had sought treatment for sexual compulsivity, addiction or impulsivity, completed an online survey comprised of various sexuality measures. Men and women who reported having sought treatment scored significantly higher on measures of dysregulated sexuality and sexual desire. For men, women, and those who had sought treatment, dysregulated sexuality was associated with increased sexual desire. Confirmatory factor analysis supported a one-factor model, indicating that, in both male and female participants, dysregulated sexuality and sexual desire variables loaded onto a single underlying factor. The results of this study suggest that dysregulated sexuality, as currently conceptualized, labelled, and measured, may simply be a marker of high sexual desire and the distress associated with managing a high degree of sexual thoughts, feelings, and needs.


Dysregulated sexuality Sexual compulsivity Hypersexuality Sexual desire Sexual addiction Sexual behaviour Sexual control 



We are indebted to Dan Savage for his assistance with data collection, and Dr. Bruno Zumbo for sharing his statistical expertise.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text revision). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  2. Anthony, D. T., & Hollander, E. (1993). Sexual compulsions. In E. Hollander (Ed.), Obsessive compulsive-related disorders (pp. 139–150). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bancroft, J. (2008). Sexual behavior that is “out of control”: A theoretical conceptual approach. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 31, 593–601.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bancroft, J., & Vukadinovic, Z. (2004). Sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, sexual impulsivity, or what? Toward a theoretical model. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 225–234.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Best, S. J., Krueger, B., Hubbard, C., & Smith, A. (2001). An assessment of the generalizability of internet surveys. Social Science Computer Review, 19, 131–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Black, D. W., Kehrberg, L. L. D., Flumerfelt, D. L., & Schlosser, S. S. (1997). Characteristics of 36 subjects reporting compulsive sexual behavior. American Journal of Psychiatry, 154, 243–249.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bradford, J. M. W. (2001). The neurobiology, neuropharmacology and pharmacological treatment of the paraphilias and compulsive sexual behavior. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 46, 26–34.Google Scholar
  8. Calkins, D. S. (1974). Some effects of non-normal distribution shape on the magnitude of the Pearson product moment correlation coefficient. Interamerican Journal of Psychology, 8, 261–288.Google Scholar
  9. Call, V., Sprecher, S., & Schwarz, P. (1995). The incidence and frequency of marital sex in a national sample. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57, 639–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carnes, P. J. (1983). Out of the shadows: Understanding sexual addiction. Minneapolis, MN: CompCare.Google Scholar
  11. Carpenter, D., Janssen, E., Graham, C., Vorst, H., & Wicherts, J. (2008). Women’s scores on the sexual inhibition/sexual excitation scales (SIS/SES): Gender similarities and differences. Journal of Sex Research, 45, 36–48.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 155–159.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Coleman, E. (1986). Sexual compulsion vs. sexual addiction: The debate continues. SIECUS Report, 14(6), 7–11.Google Scholar
  14. Coleman, E. (1991). Compulsive sexual behavior: New concepts and treatment. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 4, 37–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Coleman, E. (2003). Compulsive sexual behavior: What to call it, how to treat it? SIECUS Report, 31(5), 12–16.Google Scholar
  16. CompCare. (1987). Hope and recovery: A twelve step guide for healing from compulsive sexual behavior. Minneapolis, MN: Author.Google Scholar
  17. Das, A. (2007). Masturbation in the United States. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 33, 301–317.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. De Visser, R. O., Smith, A. M. A., Richters, J., & Rissel, C. E. (2007). Associations between religiosity and sexuality in a representative sample of Australian adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 33–46.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Derogatis, L. R. (1977). The SCL-90-R manual I: Scoring, administration, and procedures for the SCL-90-R. Baltimore, MD: Clinical Psychometrics.Google Scholar
  20. Derogatis, L. R., & Melisaratos, N. (1979). The DSFI: A multidimensional measure of sexual functioning. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 5, 244–281.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Dixon, R., & Turner, R. (2007). Electronic vs. conventional surveys. In R. A. Reynolds, R. Woods, & J. D. Baker (Eds.), Handbook of research on electronic surveys and measurements (pp. 105–111). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Inc.Google Scholar
  22. Dodge, B., Reece, M., Cole, S. L., & Sandfort, T. G. M. (2004). Sexual compulsivity among heterosexual college students. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 343–350.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Dunlap, W. P., Burke, M. J., & Greer, T. (1995). The effect of skew on magnitude of product-moment correlations. Journal of General Psychology, 122, 365–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Giargiari, T. D., Mahaffey, A. L., Craighead, W. E., & Hutchison, K. E. (2005). Appetitive responses to sexual stimuli are attenuated in individuals with low levels of sexual desire. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34, 547–556.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Gold, S. N., & Heffner, C. L. (1998). Sexual addiction: Many conceptions, minimal data. Clinical Psychology Review, 18, 367–381.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Goodman, A. (1992). Sexual addiction: Designation and treatment. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 18, 303–314.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Hendrick, C., Hendrick, S. S., & Reich, D. A. (2005). The brief sexual attitudes scale. Journal of Sex Research, 43, 76–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Janssen, E., Vorst, H., Finn, P., & Bancroft, J. (2002a). The Sexual Inhibition (SIS) and Sexual Excitation (SES) scales: I. Measuring sexual inhibition and excitation proneness in men. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 114–126.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Janssen, E., Vorst, H., Finn, P., & Bancroft, J. (2002b). The Sexual Inhibition (SIS) and Sexual Excitation (SES) scales: II. Predicting psychophysiological response patterns. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 127–132.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Kafka, M. P. (1994). Sertraline pharmacotherapy for paraphilias and paraphilia-related disorders: An open trial. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, 6, 189–195.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Kafka, M. P. (1997). Hypersexual desire in males: An operational definition and clinical implications for males with paraphilias and paraphilia-related disorders. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26, 505–526.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Kafka, M. P. (2000). The paraphilia-related disorders: Nonparaphilic hypersexuality and sexual compulsivity/addiction. In S. R. Leiblum & R. C. Rosen (Eds.), Principles and practice of sex therapy (3rd ed., pp. 471–503). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  33. Kafka, M. P. (2003). Sex offending and sexual appetite: The clinical and theoretical relevance of hypersexual desire. Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 47, 439–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kafka, M. P. (2009). Hypersexual disorder: A proposed diagnosis for DSM-V. Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi: 10.1007/s10508-009-9574-7.
  35. Kafka, M. P., & Hennen, J. (1999). The paraphilia-related disorders: An empirical investigation of nonparaphilic hypersexuality disorders in outpatient males. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 25, 305–319.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Kafka, M. P., & Hennen, J. (2003). Hypersexual desire in males: Are males with paraphilias different from males with paraphilia-related disorders? Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 15, 307–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kafka, M. P., & Prentky, R. (1992). A comparative study of nonparaphilic sexual addictions and paraphilias in men. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 53, 345–350.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Kalichman, S. C., & Cain, D. (2004). The relationship between indicators of sexual compulsivity and high risk sexual practices among men and women receiving services from a sexually transmitted infection clinic. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 235–241.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Kalichman, S. C., Johnson, J. R., Adair, V., Rompa, D., Multhauf, K., & Kelly, J. A. (1994). Sexual sensation seeking: Scale development and predicting AIDS-risk behavior among homosexually active men. Journal of Personality Assessment, 62, 385–397.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Kalichman, S. C., & Rompa, D. (1995). Sexual sensation seeking and sexual compulsivity scales: Reliability, validity, and predicting HIV risk behavior. Journal of Personality Assessment, 65, 586–601.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Kalichman, S. C., & Rompa, D. (2001). The Sexual Compulsivity Scale: Further development and use with HIV-positive persons. Journal of Personality Assessment, 76, 379–395.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: Saunders.Google Scholar
  43. Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  44. Le Gall, A., Mullet, E., & Shafighi, S. R. (2002). Age, religious beliefs, and sexual attitudes. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 207–216.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Leedes, R. (2007). Compulsive or other problematic sexual behavior. In A. F. Owens & M. S. Tepper (Eds.), Sexual health: State-of-the-art treatments and research (Vol. 4, pp. 365–381). Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  46. Lefkowitz, E. S., Gillen, M. M., Shearer, C. L., & Boone, T. L. (2004). Religiosity, sexual behaviors, and sexual attitudes during emerging adulthood. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 150–159.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Levine, S. B. (2003). The nature of sexual desire: A clinician’s perspective. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 279–285.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Meana, M., & Nunnink, S. E. (2006). Gender differences in the content of cognitive distraction during sex. Journal of Sex Research, 43, 59–67.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Meston, C. M., Heiman, J. R., Trapnell, P. D., & Paulhus, D. L. (1998). Socially desirable responding and sexuality self-reports. Journal of Sex Research, 35, 148–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Meyerson, P., & Tryon, W. W. (2003). Validating internet research: A test of psychometric equivalence of internet and in-person samples. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 35, 614–620.Google Scholar
  51. Miner, M. H., Coleman, E., Center, B. A., Ross, M., & Rosser, B. R. S. (2007). The Compulsive Sexual Behavior Inventory: Psychometric properties. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 579–587.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Moser, C. (1992). A response to Aviel Goodman’s ‘Sexual addiction: Designation and treatment’. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 19, 220–224.Google Scholar
  53. Oliver, M. B., & Hyde, J. S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 29–51.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Paulhus, D. (1988). Assessing self-deception and impression management in self-reports: The Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia.Google Scholar
  55. Paulhus, D. (1991). Measurement and control of response bias. In J. P. Robinson, P. R. Shaver, & L. S. Wrightsman (Eds.), Measures of personality and social psychological attitudes (pp. 17–59). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  56. Raymond, N. C., Coleman, E., & Miner, M. H. (2003). Psychiatric comorbidity and compulsive/impulsive traits in compulsive sexual behavior. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 44, 370–380.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Regan, P. C., & Atkins, L. (2006). Sex differences and similarities in frequency and intensity of sexual desire. Social Behavior and Personality, 34, 95–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Reynolds, R. A., Woods, R., & Baker, J. D. (Eds.). (2007). Handbook of research on electronic surveys and measurements. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Reference.Google Scholar
  59. Roberts, L. D. (2007). Equivalence of electronic and off-line measures. In R. A. Reynolds, R. Woods, & J. D. Baker (Eds.), Handbook of research on electronic surveys and measurements (pp. 97–103). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Inc.Google Scholar
  60. Russell, D. W. (2002). In search of underlying dimensions: The use (and abuse) of factor analysis in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1629–1646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schwartz, M. F. (2008). Developmental psychopathological perspectives on sexually compulsive behaviour. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 31, 567–586.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Semple, S. J., Zians, J., Grant, I., & Patterson, T. L. (2006). Sexual compulsivity in a sample of HIV-positive methamphetamine-using gay and bisexual men. AIDS and Behavior, 10, 587–598.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Spector, I. P., Carey, M. P., & Steinberg, L. (1996). The Sexual Desire Inventory: Development, factor structure, and evidence of reliability. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 22, 175–190.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (1996). Using multivariate statistics. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  65. Tepper, M. S., Owens, A. F., Coleman, E., & Carnes, P. (2007). Current controversies in sexual health: Sexual addiction and compulsion. In A. F. Owens & M. S. Tepper (Eds.), Sexual health: State-of-the-art treatments and research (Vol. 4, pp. 349–363). Westport, CT: Praeger/Greenwood.Google Scholar
  66. Travin, S. (1995). Compulsive sexual behaviors. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 18, 155–169.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Wegner, D. M., Shortt, J. W., Blake, A. W., & Page, M. S. (1990). The suppression of exciting thoughts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 409–418.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Wegner, D. M., & Zanakos, S. (1994). Chronic thought suppression. Journal of Personality, 62, 615–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Winters, J., Christoff, K., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2009). Conscious regulation of sexual arousal in men. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 330–343.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason Winters
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kalina Christoff
    • 1
  • Boris B. Gorzalka
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.British Columbia Provincial Health Services Authority, Forensic Psychiatric Services CommissionVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations