I have seen several articles questioning sex addiction. Is it real?
Recently the media have been questioning the legitimacy of sexual addiction. Is it a real disorder - or just an excuse for "bad boys" to have sex?
Having worked in the field for more than 20 years, I know that sex addiction can kill, both physically and in the emotional/spiritual realm. Sex addiction leaves addicts feeling demoralized; riddled with shame, they experience feelings of despair, loneliness, and isolation. They feel perverted, like social outcasts living a double life of disconnection and disgust.
There are several reasons for the misconceptions surrounding sex addiction. The disorder has yet to be deemed legitimate by The American Psychiatric Association and has yet to find a place in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If there is not an official code for a disorder, some professionals deny or question its legitimacy. Clients are often left with misinformation or, even worse, a denial that their behaviors constitute a problem. Many clients come to my office and explain their histories with other therapists: "I told them about what I was doing, and they said it was fine." This can be devastating for clients. They feel confused, not heard, misunderstood, invalidated. Often they continue their risky behaviors until they meet an even more devastating demise.
We live in a sexually addicted culture, which adds more confusion and denial to the arena of sex addiction. We use sex as a commodity and glorify the objectification of the individual. These practices make it difficult for a culture to embrace the paradigm of sexual disorders.
Like any addiction, sexual addiction meets the criteria for a compulsive and addictive disorder: loss of control, continuance despite negative consequences, a progression in self-destructive behaviors (usually resulting in the need for more intensity and/or danger), and unsuccessful efforts to stop.
We use these criteria, as well as other assessment tools, with our patients at The Meadows. We have been identifying and treating this addiction for 20-some years. Not every person who comes into treatment is ready to address the problem. Treatment can be challenging, painful, and disruptive. But when the client is ready, there are answers, and there is healing. I have had witnessed the courage of many people seeking answers and finding inner healing and peace.
Despite the questioning reports in the media, sex addiction is very real. It is treatable, and people can heal. My hope is that we will see a continual paradigm shift so that those who still suffer will find the support, help, and healing they deserve.