For most of us, addiction is a term traditionally associated with compulsive and out-of-control use of alcohol or drugs.
The term has now come to be used to describe other compulsive behaviours like gambling, overeating and the the most forbidden of them all — sex.
When sexual behaviour becomes compulsive and continues despite adverse personal and social consequences, it is called sex addiction.
Dr Patrick Carnes, who first coined the term ‘sexual addiction’, in his book Out of the Shadows laments that the disorder still remains in the background for the general pub lic and health-care providers alike.
The Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST) is designed to assess sexually compulsive or addictive behaviour.
SAST provides a profile of responses which help discriminate between addictive and non-addictive behaviour.
1. Were you sexually abused as a child or adolescent?
2. Do you regularly purchase romance novels or sexually explicit magazines?
3. Have you stayed in romantic rela tionships after they become emo tionally or physically abusive?
4. Do you often find yourself preoccu pied with sexual thoughts or romantic day dreams?
5. Do you feel that your sexual behaviour is not normal?
6. Does your spouse (or significant other(s)) ever worry or complain about your sexual behaviour?
7. Do you have trouble stopping your sexual behavior when you know it is inappropriate?
8. Do you ever feel bad about your sexual behaviour?
9. Has your sexual behavior ever cre ated problems for you and your family?
10. Have you ever sought help for sexual behavior you did not like?
11. Have you ever worried about people finding out about your sexual activities?
12. Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your sexual behaviour?
13. Have you ever participated in sexual activity in exchange for money or gifts?
14. Do you have times when you act out sexually followed by periods of celibacy (no sex at all)?
15. Have you made efforts to quit a type of sexual activity and failed?
17. Do you find yourself having multiple romantic rela tionships at the same time?
18. Have you ever felt degraded by your sexual behaviour?
19. Has sex or romantic fantasies been a way for you to escape your problems?
20. When you have sex, do you feel depressed after wards?
21. Do you regularly engage in sado-masochistic behaviour?
22. Has your sexual activity interfered with your family life?
23. Have you been sexual with minors?
24. Do you feel controlled by your sexual desire or fan tasies of romance?
25. Do you ever think your sexual desire is stronger than you are?
Most sex addicts who took SAST tended to get higher scores.
In fact 96.5% scored 13 or more ‘Yes’. So if your score was above 13, your answers parallel other addicts.
There are some who score in the 10-13 range.
This may mean that you have have done some things you regret or it may mean that you are in early stage addiction.
This is where a therapist can be really helpful in deciding if you have a problem or not.
There is pain and a great physical risk associated with the disorder and instead of recognising that most peo ple regard it as a ‘shameful’ problem. Which is exactly why the problem of sex addiction needs special attention.
In countries like India, where even uttering the three-letter word is frowned upon, the first step of diagnosis is a big enough problem.
Sex therapist and counsellor Dr Rajan Bhosale says, “most people are in denial about their problem. I spend a precious amount of time developing a rapport with the patient first”.
One common perception is that people having a ‘lot of sex’ are addicts. Clinical psychologist Varkha Chulani says, “ Sex is very healthy.
But when you start using it as an escape route, as an activity that reduces anxiety, that is when you have a problem”. She gives the example of couples who use sex as a means to sort out their differences.
“Everytime there is a fight, they hit the bed hoping it will solve their problems. Sex, then, is not a result of desire but a need to escape and called an addiction,” she explains.
Shrimoy Narayan’s success story was a legend back home. Always on top of everything that he did, he had made it big in everybody’s city of dreams — Mumbai. He lived on the first floor of a swanky building uptown.
The view was beautiful; there was the sea, the garden, the pool, and a foot bridge across the road.
The bridge, a quaint delight, was mostly used by students of a school nearby.
And this bridge brought Narayan’s success story crashing down.
Everytime he spotted a group of students (it didn’t matter whether they were boys or girls) crossing the bridge, he flashed himself at them. And his urge to do this was unstoppable.
He knew it was a perversion and he knew it would get him into trouble but the more he stopped himself, the pleasure he derived out of it was greater. He got beaten up, had police cases filed against him and got taken into police custody. But after every such incident, his urge simply got stronger.
Chintan Desai was the most eligible bachelor in his social circle.
Sharp-looking and well presented, it helped his case that he was professionally successful too.
Women who knew him wanted him, the men wanted to be like him. But he had a sexual indulgence of a different kind — that of male wigs. He had a collection of them in a private cupboard in his bedroom. Initially he passed it off as a healthy sexual fetish (who was he harming anyway?).
But when the distraction became an all-consuming habit which drove him home, 20 minutes away from his office, eight times a day, he knew he needed help.
Sex addicts, more often than not, use sex as a means to get away from their problems. Like PR executive, Surajeet Ghosh, who was living away from his family (in West Bengal) in Mumbai.
His neighbours complained to his landlord that he walked around naked in the house and masturbated at the window. Despite the threat of eviction, he continued his behaviour. One day, his neighbours got into his house and beat him up.
He had to leave the city. It was found later that he was facing a lot of marital problems.
But it not that easy to diagnose the real cause of sex addiction. Even when people are aware of it, they do not know how to express it.
The problem of dealing with sex addiction in India is two-fold, says chief of sexual medicine at KEM hospital Dr Prakash Kothari, “Not only are people uncomfortable with their sexuality, there is also a lack of competent help in the country. There is only one medical college which includes it in the curriculum.
So though the problem is beginning to be recognised, it will take a long while till it is attended to properly.”
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