Tiger Woods, Anthony Wiener and others in the news have been labeled “sex addicts” by the media and by some counselors and therapists. But who is a “sex addict”? The term sex addict (and hypersexual disorder) have not yet been approved by the DSM, the manual insurance companies and therapists use to diagnose a variety of mental disorders. This is because there is a lack of conceptual clarity and empirically-based validation to justify the inclusion. This supposed disorder is labeled mostly by twelve-step sex addiction counselors, often with encouragement from a variety of religiously based groups and individuals.
If you or someone you know is deemed a “sex addict,” you may be asked by such counselors and groups to participate in Sexaholics Anonymous or some similar group designed to discourage you from masturbating or ever viewing pornography, not to mention refraining from nonmonogamous sexual pleasures. The moralistic basis of such an approach is obvious.
I am not saying some people don’t have a problem by being out of balance in their sexual behavior and fantasies. Some don’t make it to work or they get caught viewing porn online at work. These people may be obsessive-compulsive, but this does not mean there is something wrong with lust, or viewing lusty films as a part of life.
As I was quoted in The New York Times,it is semantic sophistry to say that a person can be addicted to her or himself. Sex is part of us. Addiction is when there is an external substance such as alcohol or a drug that can cause a dependency. Sexual Addiction counselors do not agree with this distinction. They are riding the media wave of faddish labeling of sexual addiction to contend that sexual addiction is real and verifiable. Never mind that the concept is not well defined or well researched.
Individual who are called “sexual addiction” therapists may or may not be certified. Sometimes they are also certified sex therapists, but this is usually not the case. There are several arbitrary inventories potential sex addictions are asked to fill out on the web to see if they qualify as actual addicts. These inventories are starting to be less extreme, because almost everyone who filled out earlier versions were deemed sex addicts, but the inventories are still poorly conceived.
A more effective way to treat those who are out of balance with sex cognitive-behavior therapy with a board certified sex therapist. There is no moralizing by most cognitive-behavior sex therapists. Clients are helped to exchange their distorted thoughts and behaviors for more rational thoughts and behaviors.
This approach involves homework, and it typically works well with short-term therapy. This approach allows sexual enthusiasts to stand up and be counted without being labeled “sex addicts.” Unlike sex addiction therapy, this approach is compatible with humor and an affirmation of sexual pleasure within and beyond monogamy.
If you have questions about sex addiction or want to explore whether your life is out of balance, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.