The World Health Organization (WHO) has now classified compulsive sexual behavior—commonly called sex addiction—as a mental health disorder.
While the impacts of sex addiction have long affected relationships, it is now included in WHO's International Classification Diseases list (known as ICD-11).
WHO defines "compulsive sexual behavior disorder" as a "persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior."
The condition occurs when someone's sexual behavior becomes a "central focus of the person's life to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities and responsibilities."
The person may not even get any pleasure from the repeated sexual activity.
Five percent of the population may be affected by sex addiction, according to some regional and local surveys. Dr. Timothy Fong, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California says that would mean more people struggle with this issue than with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or pathological gambling.
Tennessee Senator Mae Beavers also noted that Washington State studies link sex addiction with crime. As recently as 2004, 24.7 percent of convicted murderers in Washington said pornography was a trigger for their crimes.
WHO's announcement echoes the proclamations of 10 states (Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah) declaring pornography as a public health crisis.
A Time for Action in the Church
"The fact that states are beginning to recognize pornography as a public health hazard, underscores what the Bible has been clear upon—sexual sin is destructive not only spiritually, but also emotionally and physically," said Jay Dennis, a Baptist pastor for 38 years and the leader of Wingman Men's Ministry. "Identifying pornography as a public health hazard presents factual information to those outside of Christianity that this is not just a spiritual battle, it is a health issue facing every person."
"This presents an opportunity for the church to begin broaching the subject of pornography, the No. 1 moral issue every church is facing," Dennis said. "It's time to speak up and be the moral authority and allow the states to verify that fact. We must pray that every state will have the courage to enact legislation to show pornography's destructive harm."
"It's the only issue that I think can bring people of faith and moral concern together," Dennis continued. "The beauty of this is that is involving everyone. And I don't know of any other subject in our culture that could do this. And we better not blow it as the church. You're seeing culture say to the church, 'You'd better deal with this.'"
How Is the Church Responding?
Sadly, pornography addiction remains a topic that the church continues to avoid confronting. Churches frequently run programs on finances, theology, parenting and even other addictions. However, when the subject of sex or pornography comes up, church leadership doesn't seem interested.
In a 2016 Barna Group research study commissioned by Josh McDowell Ministry, church leadership indicated that this problem is much bigger than it was 20 years ago, yet only 7 percent of pastors said they have a ministry program for those struggling with porn.
But the subject is not going to simply go away. "Pornography has become the cancer that nobody wishes to speak about," said Uriah Stark of National Decency Coalition. "Almost everyone has been personally impacted by porn or knows someone who has."
Church leaders need to acknowledge the problem has infiltrated their churches and equip their congregations to recognize and boldly fight it.
Unfortunately, many church leaders may have their own struggle with pornography. This drastically affects their ministry as they become paralyzed by the shame of their addiction.
According to a study by Pure Desire Ministries, over 50 percent of pastors regularly view pornography. A Barna Group Study reveals that 87 percent of pastors who use porn feel a great sense of shame about it. Fifty-five percent of pastors who use porn say they live in constant fear of being discovered.
There Is Hope and Help
There is a valuable resource helping leaders stand up to pornography addiction in their church and lead men to victory. The Conquer Series is a cinematic, DVD study that includes powerful testimonies, exciting interviews and battle reenactments that deliver engaging messages.
Each DVD is 30-45 minutes long and provides solid biblical teaching and encourages stimulating discussion after the video. Study guides and a journal help the men dig deeper and stay focused on becoming free from their porn struggle.
You don't have to wait for your leaders to start the Conquer Series in your church. Men are standing up and running the series themselves if their church won't do it.
Either way—with your church group or by yourself—victory over your pornography addiction is available. Determine today that you will accept the challenge. Take the first steps towards becoming the man of sexual integrity and freedom you desire to be.
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