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Can A Sexual Motivation Questionnaire Help Identify Sex Addiction?

A newly developed screening tool called the Trait Sexual Motivation Questionnaire may help doctors identify some of the underlying reasons some people develop sex addiction or other sex-related problems, recent findings from a team of German researchers indicate.

Sex addiction occurs when healthy sex-related thought, fantasy or real-world behavior becomes dysfunctional and produces harm for the individual. In a study published in February 2015 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers from Germany’s University of Giessen assessed the usefulness of a screening tool called the Trait Sexual Motivation Questionnaire in determining the specific reasons why a sexually addicted person (or a person unaffected by sex addiction) seeks out sexual contact or sex-related thought or fantasy.

Sex Addiction

Along with eating, sex is one of the core human activities responsible for the species’ short- or long-term survival. These activities are so important that the brain registers notably pleasurable sensations when they occur. Under normal everyday circumstances, the pleasure associated with having sex or thinking or fantasizing about sex plays a generally healthy role in the lives of human beings.

Sexual Motivation Questionnaire-It’s CheatingHowever, some people develop an unhealthy, dysfunctional relationship to these activities and come to rely on them to an excessive degree. Doctors and researchers use the term sex addiction (or any one of several equivalent terms such as hypersexual disorder or compulsive sexual behavior) to describe an ongoing, excessive reliance on sexual thought, fantasy or behavior that disrupts a person’s ability to function well in daily life.

Brain Changes

A person affected by sex addiction can undergo persistent, harmful changes in the normal chemical environment of a brain area informally known as the pleasure center. Whether they occur in the context of sex-related issues or involvement in other pleasurable, non-substance-based activities, such changes form the core of a group of mental health conditions called behavioral addictions.

Symptoms

While sex addiction fits the basic parameters of behavioral addiction, the condition lacks a universally applied definition in the U.S. However, common symptoms of sex addiction include:

  • an inability to limit the time spent having sex or thinking/fantasizing about sex
  • the use of sex or sexual thought/fantasy to avoid dealing with difficult emotions or situations
  • involvement in increasingly risky forms of sex or sexual thought/fantasy
  • exposure to seriously negative consequences as a result of sexual behavior, thought or fantasy

Sexual Motivation

Sexual motivation is a term that describes the underlying reasons why a person engages in sexual behavior, thought or fantasy in any given situation. The concept overlaps to a certain degree with other key concepts such as basic sex drive and sexual need or desire. It can also overlap to a meaningful degree with the concept of sex addiction, since conscious or unconscious thought processes can motivate involvement in dysfunctional patterns of sexual behavior or thought/fantasy.

The Trait Sexual Motivation Questionnaire

In the study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, the University of Giessen researchers used a series of projects involving a total of 813 adults to assess the accuracy and usefulness of the newly devised Trait Sexual Motivation Questionnaire. This screening tool is designed to identify the long-term motivations that promote sexual activity, thought or fantasy in the individual. Underlying the attempt to identify such motivations is a belief that both biology and environment shape the behaviors, thoughts and emotions of any given person.

The creators of the Trait Sexual Motivation Questionnaire devised questions to explore aspects of sexuality that include the baseline level of desire for sex, the particular sexual activities preferred by the individual and the amount of energy the individual expends to take part in sex. Next, they used testing in separate groups of 256 people, 498 people and 59 people to fine-tune the questionnaire and determine its usefulness and accuracy.

Through their testing, the researchers identified four subareas of the Trait Sexual Motivation Questionnaire that may help explain and quantify the specific reasons why people seek out sex. For each individual, these subareas measure the relative importance of personal sexuality that doesn’t involve interactions with others, the relative importance of sex with others, the relative importance of the search for sex with others and the relative importance of comparing one’s sexual conduct with the conduct of others.

After reviewing the outcomes in the three test groups, the study’s authors concluded that the questionnaire does a good job of accurately and consistently determining the mixture of factors that contribute to the long-term expression of overall sexual motivation. For this reason, they believe that the Trait Sexual Motivation Questionnaire may help doctors identify people involved in problematic forms of sexual behavior.

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