Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms May Be Associated With Hypersexual Behavior
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic event or series of events such as an accident, a natural disaster, war/combat, assault, or abuse. It can involve nightmares or flashbacks related to the trauma, heightened reactions to external stimuli, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms that can negatively affect a person’s life.
Past research has suggested that there may be a relationship between experiencing a traumatic event and developing hypersexuality, or engaging in compulsive sexual behaviors to the point of impairing a person’s life and/or causing significant distress. However, few studies have looked at the potential long-term association between PTSD symptoms and the development of hypersexuality.
Therefore, the authors of a recent study sought to explore this potential association through a first assessment of 585 college students and a second assessment of 786 adults recruited through an online crowdsourcing platform. Participants from both samples were asked to complete the following measures in an online survey:
- Hypersexual Behavior Inventory (HBI) to assess hypersexuality symptoms.
- The Short (college students) or Full (second sample) UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scale (S-UPPS-P) to measure impulsive behavior tendencies.
- Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) to identify potentially problematic drinking behaviors.
- Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST-20) to assess potentially problematic drug use behaviors.
- South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS) to screen for problematic gambling behaviors.
- The Life Events Checklist (LEC) to determine whether participants may have experienced any traumatic events in their lifetimes.
- PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) (college students) or PTSD Checklist – Civilian Version (PCL-C) (second sample) to assess PTSD symptoms.
After gathering the participants’ responses to all of these self-report measures, the researchers analyzed the data to determine if there were any associations between experiencing a traumatic event, having PTSD symptoms, and hypersexuality. For this, they adjusted for variables that could potentially confound their results including the participants’ age, gender, sexual orientation, impulsivity, drug use, alcohol use, and gambling habits.
Ultimately, the researchers found a significant association between PTSD symptoms and hypersexual behaviors in the university students. They also found this association in the second sample of adults and saw that the association persisted over time.
These findings suggest that individuals who suffer from PTSD may be at increased risk of current or future hypersexuality. The authors hypothesize that repeated sexual behaviors may be used as a coping mechanism for people with PTSD, or a way for them to escape from their distressing symptoms and relieve stress. That said, if you or a loved one struggles with PTSD and/or hypersexual behaviors that are causing distress, know that mental health professionals or other health care providers can help you find solutions.
- Rosansky, J.A., Borgogna, N.C., Kraus, S.W., & Grubbs, J.B. (2022). Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Associations Between Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms and Hypersexual Behaviors Among Individuals Who have Gambled in Their Lifetimes. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 19(12), 1813-1823. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2022.09.003