Proposal: New Personality Disorder – Nonsexual Personality Disorder

The last response paper of the semester for Abnormal Psychology, the question was a toughy:

Suggest a possible additional personality disorder that could be added to DSM -V and list the criteria for diagnosing it. How would the addition of your personality disorder benefit to the field of psychopathology?

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Personality disorders (PD) are distinct from other types of psychiatric disorders because the symptoms are an abnormal or maladaptive expression of traits. Personality traits are enduring patters of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and the way in which one lives in that environment. Because personality traits are rather stable once formed, PDs are difficult to treat and require a great deal of cognitive restructuring and skills-based training.

PDs are broken down into three clusters, including odd/eccentric, dramatic/erratic, and anxious/fearful; from here, there are 10 subtypes. Given the richly diverse array of people in the world, it seems there are other classifications that could be named. Some PDs have similarities, including hypersexuality and/or inappropriate sexual behavior, but none name an utter absence of sexual desire or behavior. There are some disorders, depression for example, that cause a lack of sexual appetite, but it seems like there are people who experience something more lasting. I propose Nonsexual Personality Disorder; the diagnostic criteria are as follows:

A.  A marked inability to experience sexual attraction, beginning in early adulthood and indicated by 5 or more:

°         Inability to interpret sexual signals

°         Uncomfortable in intimate situations with a partner

°         Avoidance of situations in which sexual activity may occur

°         Lack of attraction to the opposite or same sex

°         Complete lack of sexual thoughts

°         Touch aversion

°         Inability to experience romantic relationships

°         Social isolation

°         Inability to become sexually aroused

B.  Does not occur as a result of sexual dysfunction or medical disorder.

 

It would manifest as something similar to schizoid PD, in which the individual is rather socially detached. However, unlike schizoid PD, this person would take enjoyment in other types of close relationships, such as with family or platonic friends. Additionally, they would not exhibit flattened affect, excepting in sexual situations. In this dimension, this individual does not possess the skills to understand or interpret social cues. A person may develop this due to either a predisposition to a schizotypal-like PD, lack or disregulation of hormones, or a lack of physical contact in childhood.

This is in contrast to individuals who list their sexual identity as asexual. For an asexual person, the thought of sex simply doesn’t occur as it does for others. For instance, a person may have romantic relationships, they may even get married, but sexual activity is never a motivation nor a desire. There are some who engage in sexual activity for procreation, or to please their partner, but for the most part asexuals have no need. Note, asexual individuals are capable of romantic relationships, and at times even sexual arousal, persons with nonsexual PD are not.

This would benefit the field by bringing to light a trait that seems to be hiding in plain sight. It’s easy to understand how a person could become frustrated or ostracized by lacking a desire that’s so prominent in adolescence. The possibility that this PD may result from a lack of physical contact in childhood needs confirmation as well; research has shown that there are devastating effects for these children, but can it be classified as a PD? Additionally, those experiencing this issue who do want to have children can have a chance at getting psychological help. If we understood the etiology of their disorder more clearly, better, more effective help could be provided.

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