I just received an email informing me that so called sex addiction is the topic “du jour” and as such being discussed by a panel of various experts and peanut gallery persona. I was invited to listen. My response was:
(dear woman who emailed me about this) Unless i was on that panel – or someone is – denying the very existence of “sex addiction” – a made up diagnosis that is patently unscientific – has NO empirical evidence to support it – i would be too angry to listen to such a panel.
I too am a certified sex therapist and professional counseling psychologist. The current fad over “sex addiction” and “treatment” for it, are a travesty, getting media attention and making money for many professionals (even if some are well meaning and believe the diagnosis themselves). After all, if sex addiction is on a “reality” show – it must be real! The “diagnosis” and “treatment” process are damaging to people, as these people do not really have anything sexually “wrong” with them, but come to believe they do.
What they DO have is behavior and relationship problems, or they may use sexuality inappropriately or handle sexual indescretions badly. Such COMMON problems are not disorders nor addictions. Diagnoses of addiction and disorders have very specific criteria and serious physiological symptoms that truly impair people’s lives. IMPAIR does not mean – causing a ruckus because you had affairs and your spouse (and the media) find out about it. IMPAIR does not mean – having a high sex drive, and low commitment or relationship skills.
Men and women have affairs or frequent sex out of committed relationships for a variety of complicated reasons – cultural, personal, mental, emotional and having to do with their individual lives. These are problems in living that get acted out, sometimes with unfortunate consequences that distress the individual and those around them – but they are NOT caused by physiological addictions.
If every person in history – or now – who was unfaithful, had a high sex drive, or who handles relatiionships and sexuality badly was “diagnosed” as an addict – the number would be in the millions if not billions. Its just a way of making sex a negative, immoral thing, and calling people who don’t have good relationship skills “sick”.
The facts: there IS no determined “normal” amount of desire nor sex to have. Barring a small percentage with a biological problem, high sex drive or low, for either sex – IS normal. So is having lousy relationship and sexuality skills in a culture where sex is considered a negative that we dont even talk about – let alone provide useful, effective, education regarding.
We have more regulations about fishing for which we need a license – but to get married (or not) and have sex or produce children – we aren’t even required to take a child development class. Heaven forbid kids should not have geometry in high school – but not a moment is spent on learning about families, relationships, and healthy, positive sexually as part of a healthy, positive lifestyle.
“Treatment” for so called sex addiction can mimic 12 step programs, an inappropriate match, and usually focuses on repression of sexuality, and produces guilt. People adopt the guilt and “im sick” mode – again, rather than learning healthy relationships and sexuality as part of a healthy, responsibly handled lifestyle, whether in a committed relationship or not.
The lack of empirical support for the “addiction” label is well known and has been argued by many medical doctors and therapists, as well as researchers. Unfortunately, less than scientific arguments and reasons continue to promote this topic “du jour”… to the detriment of individuals who have problems, to the profit of those who create television shows and “treat” these “patients” (even if sincerely).
I hope (I continued to the woman who emailed me) this aspect of the issue WILL be WELL represented on your panel. If not – you are not promoting sexual health nor a sex positive culture based on knowledge, science, and the birthright of humans to experience pleasure in sexuality (with safety and consent).