Sex Addiction : Myth or Reality??

There is a huge debate in the therapeutic community, especially among sex therapists, about the existence of sex addiction. As a sex addiction treatment provider, I am sometimes drawn into these debates, but they often prove non-productive because for some reason, while the pro-sex addiction crowd is generally open to discussion and the inclusion of others’ ideas, the nay-sayers seem entrenched in their beliefs and unwilling to entertain any thinking other than their own. As far as I’m concerned, a rose by any other name..........Call it what you will, there is a certain chemical process in the brain that occurs with stimulation from any number of sources, such as cocaine, gambling, or masturbating to internet porn. There are definable thought processes, behaviors, and feelings that are common among all addicts and form an identifiable pattern. Finally, there are treatment protocols and interventions that work well with addicts, no matter the drug of choice.

Below, I’ve laid out some myths and facts. As in any field, there are people who practice ethically and those who don’t. This is why we have license and certification processes – to help distinguish between individuals who have some education and experience in a particular area and those who are selling snake oil. The facts below are as I and other competent and ethical sex addiction treatment providers see them. It’s up to the general population to use their critical thinking skills and common sense to go from here.

Myth Reality
Men use sex addiction as a way to avoid taking responsibility for cheating. Some men may try to do this, but it doesn’t make it so. Addicts DO take responsibility for their behavior and working a recovery program is how they commit to changing their lives.
Labeling a behavior “sex addiction” is just a way for uptight people to make moral judgments on others’ behavior. There is no particular behavior that is used to label someone as a sex addict. Sex therapists aren’t concerned with making judgments – we generally go by the guideline of “safe, sane and consensual.” It’s the nature of the thinking and behavior that make it addictive. If it’s “obsessive, compulsive, out of control behavior done in spite of negative consequences to self or others,” then it’s addictive.
Saying you treat sex addicts is a way to make a lot of money. I’m going to make money as a therapist no matter what I call it. I’m a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Addictions Professional, Certified EMDR practitioner, and Board Certified Sex Therapist. If someone has a problem with sexually compulsive behavior, I am qualified to treat it no matter what the name.
Because sex addiction is not in the DSM-IV-TR, it is not a diagnosable disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is what therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists use to diagnose mental disorders. The criteria for Substance Dependence lists several behaviors associated with substance use which, if three or more are present, a diagnosis can be made. When we substitute “sexual behavior” for “substance use,” we find that a diagnosis can be made, even though it has not been accepted by the American Psychiatric Association.
Calling someone a sex addict means the person won’t get treated for a “real” mental disorder, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Bi-Polar Disorder. Licensed clinicians are qualified to make diagnoses and will usually be able to differentiate between disorders. Many people can have co-existing disorders and a variety of interventions may be used in treatment.

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