I can’t help myself! | entertainment | Hindustan Times
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I can’t help myself!

Everyone’s an addict these days – whether it is to sex, shopping, coffee or cake, writes Seema Goswami.

entertainment Updated: Oct 20, 2008 19:34 IST
Seema Goswami
Seema Goswami
Hindustan Times

Do you find it difficult to put down your copy of Brunch once you pick it up? Can you not make it through the day without your six cups of coffee? Do you crave the sugar rush that comes with a piece of chocolate cake? Are you compulsive about checking on your email no matter where you may be?

If any of this sounds familiar, watch out, you could well be in the throes of some sort of addiction. And it might not be a bad idea to check yourself into rehab to work out your substance abuse problems.

No, relax, I’m just kidding. Things haven’t gotten quite so bad as yet. But stay warned, if our current obsession with psychobabble and a victim culture endures, this might just come to pass.

We are already well on our way down that slippery slope. What brought that home to me most spectacularly was the news that David Duchovny – in a twist worthy of his reel-life role in the hit series Californication – had just come out of rehab after being treated for sex addiction.

You remember sex addiction, don’t you? That’s what Michael Douglas was treated for while he was still married to first wife Diandra. Which is why second wife Catherine Zeta Jones had a penalty clause for cheating written into her pre-nuptial agreement.

So, what exactly is sex addiction? Well, simply put, it’s a chronic inability to zip up. ‘Sex addicts’ are wired to seek out the dopamine high that sex brings and look for it everywhere they can. This means lots of sleeping around, incessant casual sex, an obsession with pornography, and myriad other kinds of deviant sexual behaviour.

There is some dispute, however, as to whether sex addiction can be classified as a genuine psychiatric disorder. Can you really be addicted to sex or are you just making excuses for bad behaviour?

What, after all, is the difference between simply sleeping around and being addicted to sex? Quite frankly, I don’t see it myself, but given the number of learned articles out there on the subject, I may well be wrong.

But what doesn’t seem right to me is how we have begun to classify all self-indulgent behaviour as an ‘addiction’ almost as if the label absolves us of the responsibility of dealing with it. Saying that you are ‘addicted’ has become another way of saying that you have no control over your feelings, emotions or actions and hence cannot be held accountable for them.

Snowed under with credit card debt? Never mind. It’s not your fault. You’re not an irresponsible so-and-so who hasn’t learnt the basic art of balancing a budget. Perish the thought. No, you are a ‘shopping addict’ who simply can’t stop spending money you don’t have. You get off on the high that buying new stuff gives you. So, how could you possibly live without it?

Some crave the high provided by video games or the simple act of stuffing their faces with high calorie treats. Others find it in exercising excessively, buying too many shoes and bags, or even trawling the Net obsessively. But no matter how banal the activity, no one feels the slightest embarrassment in labelling it an addiction.

What’s wrong with that, you might well ask. It’s only a word after all. So why not allow people to use it as they see fit? And if they believe that their fondness for dark chocolate is an addiction, then who are we to say otherwise? What is the problem with allowing people to describe themselves as ‘addicts’ if that’s how they see themselves?

Well, I’m sorry, but I simply don’t buy that. Labelling our minor and major infractions as addictions is not just a problem. It’s a downright insult to all those people who actually suffer from real addictions – the kinds that are life threatening and life altering and take almost superhuman effort to beat.

Anyone who has seen a friend, a family member or a loved one struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs knows what a nightmare this can be – both for the addict and those who care about him. Entire families collapse under the weight of coping with addictions that involve real substance abuse.

These addictions are real not just because they are more serious but because in these cases the body develops a dependency on the substance in question – whether it is nicotine, narcotics or just plain old booze. It takes a special effort of will to break out of the spiral and the body suffers actual physical pain when coming off the high.

Going into rehab for sex addiction has to be a doddle compared to that. No matter how addicted David Duchovny may have been to sex, I don’t see him suffering through cold sweats or any other debilitating withdrawal symptoms because of an enforced period of celibacy.

Honestly, how hard can it be to keep it zipped up for two months – which is how long Duchovny spent in rehab before returning to the arms of his loving wife.

And let’s not even go into the territory inhabited by ‘shopping addicts’ and the like. If all they have to cope with is a fondness for retail therapy, they should count their blessings – even if they can’t add up the numbers in their bank accounts.

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