Is he addicted to pornography or using his habit to cover cheating? Either way, actor David Duchovney, who checked into the Meadows Rehab Center in Wickenburg, Ariz.., is bringing the words sexual addiction to American mainstream.
Duchovny, who gained fame playing FBI agent Fox Mulder on "The X Files," is no stranger to the topic of sex. He once played the narrator of Showtime’s soft-core porn series "Red Shoe Diaries" and is currently starring in the TV Show "Californication." This time, however, the problem isn't a role he's playing, according to national press reports, which claim his wife, actress Tea Leoni, has threatened to divorce him if he doesn't get his sex addiction under control.
Reports have surfaced that Duchovny, 48, used his porn habit to cover for cheating on his wife, but Duchovny's attorney, Larry Stein, has declined to talk about the matter, saying only: "This is a private matter."
Tea Leoni isn't the only celebrity wife who has dealt with a pornography addiction. Supermodel Christie Brinkley's former husband, architect Peter Cook, admitted in divorce court earlier in 2008 that he had spent $3,000 a month purchasing graphic images online before graduating to a full-blown affair.
And Duchovny isn't the only American obsessed with Internet pornograpy. In 2004, Mary Anne Layden of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania compared it to a drug addiction, which is an escape from depression, anger, stress and other issues. She called it "the most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of today."
"To have drug pumped into your house 24/7, free, and children know how to use it better than grown-ups know how to use it -- it's a perfect delivery system if we want to have a whole generation of young addicts who will never have the drug out of their mind."
What is a sex addict exactly? There is a lack of concensus within the medical and therapeutic communities. According to relationship expert Brenda Della Casa, author of the book "Cinderella was a Liar,"
the American Psychiatric Association does recognize sexual addiction or an addiction to Internet pornography as a problem, nor is it listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
"While there are some experts who don't consider it a real problem, the fact is, anything that brings uncertainty, doubt and difficulty is defined as just that. Add in the deception, feelings of mistrust, rejection, shame or other negative feelings brought on by porn addiction and you've got yourself a serious issue whether it's listed or not," she said.
Divorce 360 expert Tina B. Tessina
, 64, a Long Beach, Calif.-based licensed psychotherapist and author, said, “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."
“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.... If it's a problem, and you can't stop it – it's deemed addictive,” said Tessina.
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. “The way I think about it is that anything in the world that you do to excess in order to distance yourself from underlying emotional discomfort, qualifies as an addiction. Anything,” said Dr. Keith Ablow, 46, a Newburyport, Mass.-based psychiatrist and Fox News psychiatry correspondent as well as founder of Living the Truth.
“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 or to try not to be depressed. If it is causing you problems in your life, then you should see yourself as having a sexual addiction,” he said.
While some are quick to agree with her, others are not so certain. “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.”
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.
Regardless of whether it's seen as diagnosable mental illness, Della Casa said the press surrounding Duchovny's problems has sparked discussion -- which she considers important. "While my heart goes out to David Duchovny and Tea Leoni at this difficult time, I do hope some good comes from their situation being made public. There are too many men and women suffering from sex addiction/porn addiction and too many partners feeling isolated and alone as a result of this not being talked about. It might serve as a catalyst for a more open discussion and even give some men and women the courage to acknowledge their own issues and reach out for help," she said.