Sex addiction: is it real?

Brand XBRITISH dandy comedian Russell BrandRussell 1.jpgEver since ‘sex addicted’ celebrities became a hot topic in the media, I have received  calls from clients who either believe they have a sex addiction or their partner believes they have.

Stories about celebrity serial womanisers, such as Russell Brand, Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen or our own Shane Warne, are very popular with the public. Society is fixated because celebrity, sex and infidelity make great headlines and photo opportunities for the covers of gossip magazines. He slept with how many other women? How can he do that when he has such a lovely wife?

The label of sex addict has become convenient and an excuse for those not taking responsibility for their behaviour. It is easy to seduce women when you are famous and believe you are irresistible – and when you are caught with your pants down, you just go to ‘sex-rehab’. I don’t remember Mick Jagger or Rod Stewart being called sex addicts when they bedded lots of women in their younger days. Back then it was cool for girls to be a ‘groupie’ and have sex with as many rock stars as they could.

Clinical psychologist Dr David J.Ley, the author of The Myth of Sex Addiction, says in his book: “Sex addiction is nothing more than a pop-psychology phenomenon, serving only to demonise sex, enforce moral views of sex and relationships and excuse irresponsible behaviours.” Ley believes sex addiction is not a medical issue but a moral and social one and reflects our “sex-negative environment”.

The book explores the morality behind making a disease out of sexual behaviour. It notes a comparison with the diagnosis of “nymphomania” which was once used to describe women who liked sex (more than men thought they should) and the popular belief that homosexuality was a disease.

There was a push to make sex addiction a diagnosable disease in the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) but it did not make the grade and was seen by some health professionals as a victory against a sex-negative diagnosis.

Last month it was reported that the accused rapist and kidnapper, Ariel Castro left a note in his home where he blamed his actions and problems on sex addiction. He told police, he was addicted to sex and could not control his impulses.

Last year an interesting book was published by Sydney sports journalist Jesse Fink, Laid Bare: One Man’s story of Sex, Love and Other Disorders. In it he tells the story of how his wife of 10 years left him for another man, which devastated him. Afterwards he slept with hundreds of different women, most of whom he met online. The book was marketed as a “confessions of a sex addict” read, but Fink makes it quite clear that he is not and that he views sex addiction as nonsense.

There are two distinct camps when it comes to sex addiction: those who believe it’s a real condition and those who don’t. But it is difficult to ignore the fact that there are people who feel their sexual behaviour has become unmanageable or out of control, which differs from someone with a healthy sex drive.

A person can become so preoccupied with sex that it becomes his or her only goal. It consumes their thoughts and nearly everything they do is geared towards gaining sexual satisfaction. They may spend too much time using pornography, fantasising or masturbating obsessively, sometimes even at work. Or they may have numerous affairs, visit sex workers or engage in risky sexual behaviour. Their actions hinder day-to-day functioning and their life becomes self-destructive.

Instead of calling this sex addiction I believe a better label would be ‘compulsive sexual behaviour’. The treatment for this condition is complex and challenging but manageable with the help of a trained sex therapist or counsellor who specialises in this area.

As for my clients who ask me if they are sex addicts? We usually come to the conclusion, they are not!

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.