Numerous studies have provided evidence for orthorexia nervosa (ON), an eating pattern characterized by an almost manic obsession for and fixation on healthy eating, to be of epidemiological relevance. However, there is scientific debate on whether it is merely a behavioral or lifestyle phenomenon as compared to a mental disorder. Aim of this cross-sectional study was to explore whether ON is of epidemiological and clinical relevance, and whether ON can be distinguished from other mental health disorders and healthy lifestyle features.
An online survey including a measure of orthorexic behaviors [Duesseldorf Orthorexia Scale (DOS)], well-being and distress, eating behaviors, pathological eating, anxiety and depression, addictive behaviors, obsessive–compulsive symptoms, personality, and health behaviors was completed by 713 subjects (79.8% women, 18–75 years, median age: 25 years).
Twenty-seven subjects (3.8%, 21 women) showed significant orthorexic eating (DOS ≥ 30). ON cases reported lower well-being, lower satisfaction with life, and higher current stress levels than non-ON cases. The highest percentage of variation in ON was explained by pathological eating (R2 = .380), followed by eating style, Mediterranean diet, compulsive symptoms, and subjective social status. Importantly, ON provided hardly any additional predictive value for well-being when also considering pathological eating.
Discussion and conclusions
Our data confirmed the epidemiological and clinical relevance of orthorexic behaviors, but the strong conceptual overlap with other mental health problems and pathological eating raise initial doubts as to whether ON is a distinct mental health disorder category. This co-occurrence, unique symptoms, and underlying processes need further exploration by comparing ON cases with patients with other mental disorders.
Several authors consider Internet-pornography-use disorder (IPD) as addictive disorder. One of the mechanisms that has been intensively studied in substance- and non-substance-use disorders is an enhanced attentional bias toward addiction-related cues. Attentional biases are described as cognitive processes of individual’s perception affected by the addiction-related cues caused by the conditioned incentive salience of the cue itself. It is assumed in the I-PACE model that in individuals prone to develop IPD symptoms implicit cognitions as well as cue-reactivity and craving arise and increase within the addiction process.
To investigate the role of attentional biases in the development of IPD, we investigated a sample of 174 male and female participants. Attentional bias was measured with the Visual Probe Task, in which participants had to react on arrows appearing after pornographic or neutral pictures. In addition, participants had to indicate their sexual arousal induced by pornographic pictures. Furthermore, tendencies toward IPD were measured using the short-Internetsex Addiction Test.
The results of this study showed a relationship between attentional bias and symptom severity of IPD partially mediated by indicators for cue-reactivity and craving. While men and women generally differ in reaction times due to pornographic pictures, a moderated regression analysis revealed that attentional biases occur independently of sex in the context of IPD symptoms.
The results support theoretical assumptions of the I-PACE model regarding the incentive salience of addiction-related cues and are consistent with studies addressing cue-reactivity and craving in substance-use disorders.
Problematic pornography use can be conceptualized as an impulse control disorder or alternatively as a behavioral addiction. Stress is an important trigger in addiction, but less is known about the neural effect of stress in problematic pornography use. Therefore, we aimed at investigating the effect of stress during the anticipation and viewing of sexually explicit material while considering person characteristics related to potentially being at risk for developing problematic pornography use.
In an fMRI study (n = 157 men, age: mean = 25.46, SD = 4.11) we used a sexual incentive delay task. A social stress test was used to induce stress in half of the participants. Salivary cortisol was repeatedly measured and person characteristics were considered moderating the effects of cortisol response.
We found no group differences in the neural responses during the anticipation phase, but a higher reactivity to sexual stimuli in the dACC in the stress group. Acute stress activated a pronounced cortisol response, which positively correlated with neural activations in the reward system (NAcc, dACC) to sexual cues. Further, the individual time spent on pornography use moderated the effect of cortisol in some regions of the reward system (dACC, mOFC).
Discussion and conclusions
Our results suggest that acute stress related increases in cortisol can enhance the incentive value of cues announcing sexual stimuli. This might explain why acute stress is considered a trigger of pornography use and relapse and why individual stress response might be a risk factor for developing a problematic pornography use.
Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSBD) is characterized by increased reactivity to erotic reward cues. Cue-encoded reward parameters, such as type (e.g. erotic or monetary) or probability of anticipated reward, shape reward-related motivational processes, increase the attractiveness of cues and therefore might enhance maladaptive behavioral patterns in CSBD. Studies on the neural patterns of cue processing in individuals with CSBD have been limited mainly to ventral striatal responses. Therefore, here we aimed to examine the cue reactivity of multiple key structures in the brain's reward system, taking into account not only the type of predicted reward but also its probability.
Twenty Nine men seeking professional help due to CSBD and 24 healthy volunteers took part in an fMRI study with a modified Incentive Delay Task with erotic and monetary rewards preceded by cues indicating a 25%, 50%, or 75% chance of reward. Analyses of functional patterns of activity related to cue type and probability were conducted on the whole-brain and ROI levels.
Increased anticipatory response to cues predictive of erotic rewards was observed among CSBD participants when compared to controls, in the ventral striatum and anterior orbitofrontal cortex (aOFC). The activity in aOFC was modulated by reward probability.
Discussion and conclusions
Type of anticipated reward (erotic vs monetary) affects reward-related behavioral motivation in CSBD more strongly than reward probability. We present evidence of abnormal aOFC function in CSBD by demonstrating the recruitment of additional subsections of this region by erotic reward cues.
The use of pornography, while unproblematic for the majority, can grow into addiction-like behavior which in its extreme form is labeled as compulsive sexual behavioral disorder in the ICD-11 (WHO, 2018). The aim of this study was to investigate the addiction-specific reactivity to cues in order to better understand underlying mechanisms in the development of this disorder.
We have used an optimized Sexual Incentive Delay Task to study brain activity in reward associated brain areas during an anticipation phase (with cues predicting pornographic videos, control videos or no videos) and a corresponding delivery phase in healthy men. Correlations to indicators of problematic pornography use, the time spent on pornography use, and trait sexual motivation were analyzed.
The results of 74 men showed that reward-related brain areas (amygdala, dorsal cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, thalamus, putamen, caudate nucleus, and insula) were significantly more activated by both the pornographic videos and the pornographic cues than by control videos and control cues, respectively. However, we found no relationship between these activations and indicators of problematic pornography use, time spent on pornography use, or with trait sexual motivation.
Discussion and conclusions
The activity in reward-related brain areas to both visual sexual stimuli as well as cues indicates that optimization of the Sexual Incentive Delay Task was successful. Presumably, associations between reward-related brain activity and indicators for problematic or pathological pornography use might only occur in samples with increased levels and not in a rather healthy sample used in the present study.
Compulsive sexual behavior disorder (CSBD) which includes problematic pornography use (PPU) is a clinically relevant syndrome that has been included in the ICD-11 as impulse control disorder. The number of studies on treatments in CSBD and PPU increased in the last years. The current preregistered systematic review aimed for identifying treatment studies on CSBD and PPU as well as treatment effects on symptom severity and behavior enactment.
The study was preregistered at Prospero International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (CRD42021252329). The literature search done in February 2022 at PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and PsycInfo, included original research published in peer-reviewed journals between 2000 to end 2021. The risk of bias was assessed with the CONSORT criteria. A quantitative synthesis based on effect sizes was done.
Overall 24 studies were identified. Four of these studies were randomized controlled trials. Treatment approaches included settings with cognitive behavior therapy components, psychotherapy methods, and psychopharmacological therapy. Receiving treatment seems to improve symptoms of CSBD and PPU. Especially, evidence for the efficacy of cognitive behavior therapy is present.
Discussion and conclusions
There is first evidence for the effectiveness of treatment approaches such as cognitive behavior therapy. However, strong conclusions on the specificity of treatments should be drawn with caution. More rigorous and systematic methodological approaches are needed for future studies. Results may be informative for future research and the development of specific treatment programs for CSBD and PPU.
Compulsive sexual behavior disorder (CSBD) is currently defined in the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an impulse control disorder. Criteria for hypersexual disorder (HD) had been proposed in 2010 for the fifth revision of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). In this article, we compare differences between HD and CSBD and discuss their relevance.
Significant differences between HD and CSBD criteria include: (1) the role of sexual behavior as a maladaptive coping and emotion regulation strategy listed in criteria for HD but not in those for CSBD; (2) different exclusionary criteria including bipolar and substance use disorders in HD but not in CSBD, and (3) inclusion of new considerations in CSBD, such as moral incongruence (as an exclusion criterion), and diminished pleasure from sexual activity. Each of these aspects has clinical and research-related implications. The inclusion of CSBD in the ICD-11 will have a significant impact on clinical practice and research. Researchers should continue to investigate core and related features of CSBD, inlcuding those not included in the current criteria, in order to provide additional insight into the disorder and to help promote clinical advances.
With the inclusion of gaming disorder in the ICD-11, diagnostic criteria were introduced for this relatively new disorder. These criteria may also be applied to other potential specific Internet-use disorders, which may be classified in ICD-11 as other disorders due to addictive behaviors, such as online buying-shopping disorder, online pornography-use disorder, social-networks-use disorder, and online gambling disorder. Due to the heterogeneity in existing instruments, we aimed to develop a consistent and economic measure of major types of (potential) specific Internet-use disorders based on ICD-11 criteria for gaming disorder.
The new 11-item Assessment of Criteria for Specific Internet-use Disorders (ACSID-11) measures five behavioral addictions with the same set of items by following the principles of WHO’s ASSIST. The ACSID-11 was administered to active Internet users (N = 985) together with an adaptation of the Ten-Item Internet Gaming Disorder Test (IGDT-10) and screeners for mental health. We used Confirmatory Factor Analyses to analyze the factor structure of ACSID-11.
The assumed four-factorial structure was confirmed and was superior to the unidimensional solution. This applied to gaming disorder and to the other specific Internet-use disorders. ACSID-11 scores correlated with IGDT-10 as well as with the measures of psychological distress.
Discussion and Conclusions
The ACSID-11 seems to be suitable for the consistent assessment of (potential) specific Internet-use disorders based on ICD-11 diagnostic criteria for gaming disorder. The ACSID-11 may be a useful and economic instrument for studying various behavioral addictions with the same items and improving comparability.
Gambling and gaming disorders have been included as “disorders due to addictive behaviors” in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Other problematic behaviors may be considered as “other specified disorders due to addictive behaviors (6C5Y).”
Narrative review, experts' opinions.
We suggest the following meta-level criteria for considering potential addictive behaviors as fulfilling the category of “other specified disorders due to addictive behaviors”:
1. Clinical relevance: Empirical evidence from multiple scientific studies demonstrates that the specific potential addictive behavior is clinically relevant and individuals experience negative consequences and functional impairments in daily life due to the problematic and potentially addictive behavior.
2. Theoretical embedding: Current theories and theoretical models belonging to the field of research on addictive behaviors describe and explain most appropriately the candidate phenomenon of a potential addictive behavior.
3. Empirical evidence: Data based on self-reports, clinical interviews, surveys, behavioral experiments, and, if available, biological investigations (neural, physiological, genetic) suggest that psychological (and neurobiological) mechanisms involved in other addictive behaviors are also valid for the candidate phenomenon. Varying degrees of support for problematic forms of pornography use, buying and shopping, and use of social networks are available. These conditions may fit the category of “other specified disorders due to addictive behaviors”.
It is important not to over-pathologize everyday-life behavior while concurrently not trivializing conditions that are of clinical importance and that deserve public health considerations. The proposed meta-level-criteria may help guide both research efforts and clinical practice.