Sex addiction seems to be the topic du jour in Hollywood these days. Stuart Blumberg ‘s Thanks for Sharing is the latest movie to broach the thorny issue that was first tackled, rather more successfully, by Steve McQueen in Shame. The jury is still out on whether sex addiction is a legitimate diagnosis or an excuse for bad behavior… but here’s 10 facts to help you decide for yourself.
1. Sexual addiction is generally defined as a compulsion to seek out sex at any cost and can embrace any form of compulsive sexual activity from masturbation, to serial relationships, to paying for sex.
2. Like cocaine and methamphetamines, sex dramatically increases levels of dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter, in the brain.
3. After drugs, alcohol and shopping, sex is the fourth most common reason for debt in the UK. One in four (10,251) callers to The UK Insolvency Helpline blames their financial problems on paying for sex.
4. Dr Marty Klein, psychotherapist, and author of America’s War On Sex: The Attack On Law, Lust, & Liberty says “feeling out of control isn’t the same as being out of control, and an unwillingness to exert self-discipline isn’t the same thing as being addicted. People who masturbate too much, look at too much porn, or cheat on their partners are not ‘addicts’. They just don’t like the consequences of their decisions. They may be impulsive, or angry, or lonely, but we (psychotherapists) know how to help them.”
5. Most self-confessed sex addicts have multiple dependencies, and it is often their use of alcohol and drugs that forces them to seek help. Recovering sex addicts are usually put on a 12-step programme much like that of recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.
6. However, other psychological disturbances (obsessive-compulsion; bipolarity; histrionic personality disorder; borderline personality disorder; and generalized anxiety) can also be expressed sexually, and there is a danger that the label ‘sex addict’ channels people who need other kinds of mental help into inappropriate twelve step based recovery programs.
7. In co-operation with “hospitals, treatment programs, private therapists, and community groups”, the leading authority on sex addiction, Dr. Patrick J. Carnes has developed a diagnostic screening test (SAST). You can take the test at http://www.sexhelp.com/sast.cfm.
8. Confirmed sex addict? Yep, me too. Tests like the SAST have encouraged 16 million people in the US to label themselves as sex addicts.
9. Yet the American Psychiatric Association does not recognise sex addiction as a mental illness and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) does not include a full entry on hypersexuality — the clinical term for sex addiction. Instead, it is listed among the conditions that require more research
10.Sexual pathologies hold a mirror to society. Remember, masturbation, promiscuity, homosexuality and nymphomania were once classified as psychiatric diseases too.
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