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For sexual addiction, you're using sex instead of intimacy as a component of a full relationship and using it to feel better about yourself...

Dealing with Sex Addiction


Dealing with Sex Addiction


Infidelity: Debate about Disorder Aside, Sexual Addiction Can Hurt your Marriage


By LENORE SKOMAL

    What exactly is a sex addict? It seems that trying to find the globally-accepted professional interpretation of this ‘maybe’ disorder is a tall act, since consensus within the medical and therapeutic communities is definitely lacking. Not only is there little agreement, even the topic itself is subject of much debate.

The issue has resurfaced as Christie Brinkley's divorce trial against soon-to-be ex Peter Cook has become media fodder in the last few weeks as it winds its way through the New York courts. Cook, 49, is accused of spending $3,000 monthly on Internet pornography and having an affair with an 18-year-old former toy store clerk he later hired to work in his architectural firm.


“There is frequently this debate about any addiction, because addictions are normal behavior gone out of control, and the debate is really about when you draw the line about 'out of control,'” said Tina B. Tessina, 64, Long Beach, Calif.-based licensed psychotherapist and author. “Addictions have been designated pathology in order to get insurance funding, and some people maintain there's no disease, only bad choices.”    

Sexual addiction is not listed in the in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association, considered by many to be the bible in the field of psycho-analysis. It appears that what is central to the issue is whether or not sex can be considered an addictive disorder.   

“I would term someone's sexual behavior an addiction if it's creating big problems in his or her life, such as messing up career, ruining relationships, resulting in huge debt, repeatedly creating medical problems or STDs or resulting in arrest. That last one is especially problematic because in some places behavior that is deemed normal (gay sex, sex with a 16-year-old, sex between consenting adults in Arab countries) is criminalized. But, those are the standard criteria for determining whether behavior is addictive. If it's a problem, and you can't stop it – it's deemed addictive,” said Tessina. While some are quick to agree with her, others are not so certain, adding that the lines of clarity are not that clear.  

“It’s bandied about as a diagnosis but one of the problems with idea of sex addiction is that it is not as simple as being addicted to a drug or even addicted to running every day,” said Dr. Scott Haltzman, 47, clinical assistant professor at Brown University Department of Science and Human Behavior, in Providence, R.I. “Sex is a complicated behavioral activity that has a lot of variables and another person often has to be involved.”   

And he is not alone in his hesitance to label sex as addictive. Sexologist Leanna Wolfe says she, too, has a hard time attaching the word ‘addiction’ to the sex act.           

“Mostly when I think of something as an addiction, it’s someone engaging in behavior that causes danger to self and/or loved ones. Whatever, it would be compromises their values,” said the 55-year-old, Ph.D., Los Angeles-based anthropologist, sexologist and author. According to research she is gleaning from an ongoing, online survey, most people respond to the question of why they cheat on their spouses with a simple answer: For sex. But that doesn’t make them addicts, she says.     

“I pass no judgement on people with active sex drives who have sex with those who are appropriate and want to have sex,” said Wolfe. “If someone realizes that they need a lot of sex, and goes to swing parties, that’s not addiction. Research shows that a lot of men think about sex every minute but they know how to manage it. So I would suppose the people we don’t call ‘sex addicts’ manage it through work, sports, and other activities.    

“I largely feel we here in the west, we have a lot of prudery around sexuality, we think of some things as addiction,” she added. “The umbrella that some people put it under is much too big for me.”   

“I just bristle at the word addiction. I can say that there are patterns of behaviors, patterns of pornographic behaviors that mirror addiction. All factors involved in addiction happen in these types of activities — being preoccupied or focused on sex, sexual release or achieving orgasm, it can look very much like addiction,” said Haltzman. “My concern is people use the phrase ‘sex addiction’ as an excuse for their irresponsible or immoral behavior. If the adage for AA applies, namely that ‘I recognize that this is out of my control and this is a disease,’ that abdicates personal responsibility in engaging in the sex act.”   

However, even those who are cautious to label anyone as a sex addict, admit that there are many cases of people becoming obsessed with sex, pornography, masturbation, prostitution and other forms of sexual gratification, even though the obsession may not be considered a diagnosable disorder.   

“I agree that there can be sex addiction, but I think it is overly used. Perhaps it would apply in situations where they do culturally inappropriate behaviors with others who don’t want to be a part of it, such as pedophilia or rape, where they don’t think of the place or the person, or with those who are exhibitionists and like masturbating in public, or perhaps, Peeping Toms. It comes down to how to manage your sexuality. I basically differ with some sexologists about this definition,” said Wolfe.    

Haltzman agreed, adding that it’s the overall broad-sweeping use fo the phrase that he is most annoyed by. “I guess the distinguishing characteristic with sex for the sex addict would be relatively indiscriminate. There would be no reason to continue with one partner versus another, if only for the self-gratifying act of having sex. For the sex addict, falling in love with someone, only serves the purpose of actualizing his sexual needs. It is secondary to sex,” he added.   

But while the debate continues, those who are on the opposite side of the sex addiction diagnosis debate, believe that the real issues shouldn’t be over the labeling semantics, but rather about understanding the role that sex plays in someone’s life. Therein lies the determiner.    

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