Is Sex Addict the New Slut?

Sex addiction has become a commonly used phrase in popular culture. Tiger Woods, Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, and countless other men of means and power have put faces and identities to problematic and destructive sexual behaviors. For eons, people have labeled heavy drinkers as “alcoholics,” those who can’t leave the office until 10:00pm as “workaholics,” and now the term “sex addict” seems to have reached that level of fancy name-calling aimed at those who exhibit promiscuous behaviors. But is sex addiction merely a high level of promiscuity? Sex addiction and high levels of sexual activity are not one in the same, and blurring of the two within pop culture is misleading and dangerous. The problem associated with labeling sex addicts as the “new sluts” is clear to me, especially given that sex addiction actually has little to do with the act of sex, and much more to do with the underlying negative core beliefs that lead the addict down this self-destructive path in the first place.

Many argue that mental health clinicians are trying to create a disease out of an innate biological function that is fundamentally unlike ingesting a chemical into the body. It is likely the debate around the origins of sexual compulsivity will continue on, but all seem to agree that effects of it can prove devastating. Ruined relationships, lost jobs, sexually transmitted diseases, and isolation are just a few of the byproducts of a sexually compulsive way of life. So then, what is the difference between promiscuous behavior and sex addiction? Patrick Carnes, a leader in the field of sex addiction, addresses this in his book Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, Generally, addicts do not perceive themselves as worthwhile persons. Nor do they believe that other people would care for them or meet their needs if everything was known about them, including the addiction. Finally, they believe that sex is their most important need. Sex is what makes isolation bearable. If you do not trust people, one thing that is true about sex (and alcohol, food, gambling, and risk) is that it always does what it promises, for the moment.” When viewed through the Carnes lense, and given the intense pain endured by the addict, it is clear that sex addiction and promiscuity are very different matters. Having multiple sexual partners and avoiding “settling down” does not necessarily mean one is engaging in compulsive, or addictive, behaviors. For example, many who engage in polyamory believe their connections are based on trust, and experienced as intimate and fulfilling. There are no hints of worthlessness or isolation, the cornerstones of Carnes’s description of the sexually addicted and compulsive. The relationship a sex addict has with the compulsive behavior is akin to the relationship alcoholics and drug addicts develop with their drugs of choice. It becomes a maladaptive means to cope with the shame and anxiety that always accompany the worthlessness and isolation. The rush of dopamine and adrenaline provide a temporary reprieve from this pain, just like alcohol and drugs. So, if we all agree the “fix” provided by various chemicals can be addictive, destructive, and thus potentially life threatening, why would this “fix” be any different? I believe this type of addiction can ultimately be far more difficult to conquer. It’s very important that sex addiction is viewed as a serious problem that warrants treatment and deep healing, not just brushed aside as the rich and powerful behaving badly.

New York Times Article on Sex Addiciton

This article interviews legitimate therapists who speak about the treatment of sex addiction intelligently.  Take a look at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/health/23ther.html?emc=eta1

Sex Addiction Los Angeles

TV celebrity enters treatment for sex addiction

For those of you who don’t already know, David Duchovny star of Showtime’s “Californication,” entered a program for sex addiction treatment last week.  I want to commend Mr. Duchovny and his wife for their courage in being honest about his problem. Sex Addiction Los Angeles

It turns out that their courage in coming forward about his addiction has already inspired thousands of people to investigate whether or not they have a problem with this issue.  Sexhelp.com, the website that hosts Patrick Carnes’ Sexual Addiction Screening Test, has been overrun with thousands of people trying to access the test.

You can also find this test on my website www.centerforhealthysex.com

To read the story go to the following link:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/09/05/sex.addiction/index.html