Is sex addiction really an addiction?
Upon hearing the words "sex addiction", people often connect it with a person, usually a man, who has an incessant need to make sexual conquests. We tell you more...Updated: Jun 08, 2009, 15:03 IST
Upon hearing the words "sex addiction", people often connect it with a person, usually a man, who has an incessant need to make sexual conquests, but a true definition for the term is yet to be ascertained.
The topic is extremely controversial, and even experts are not able to agree whether sexual addiction is a true addiction, with two researchers publishing in 1998 an article entitled ''Sexual addiction: many conceptions, minimal data''.
Dr. Erick Janssen, the Director of Education & Research Training at The Kinsey Institute, explained in an email that there is no accepted definition for the term.
"We do not have a generally accepted definition of ''sex addiction.'' It was originally approached as involving some kind of ''inability to adequately control sexual behaviour,'' but this is, as you can tell, not a very objective definition," CBS News quoted him as writing.
"According to some, sexual addiction seems in the eye of the beholder, or in the eyes of his or her therapist," he stated.
Mavis Humes Baird, an addictions treatment specialist, is convinced that sexual addiction is a true disorder because people are in the throes of an impulse they can''t control, and that there are underlying changes in the brain that cannot be addressed by psychotherapy alone.
"For example, if one of the partners in a couple is having affairs and they''re not a sex addict, marriage counselling or family therapy is very effective. But if they''re a sex addict, all the therapy in the world getting at problems in the relationship won''t touch the addiction," she said.
"One of the primary referral sources for sex addiction is couples counsellors who have been doing attachment work with couples for years with the addiction going on unaffected and sometimes kept secret for all those years.
"You can''t treat the sex problems between the partners until the addiction is treated. And that''s done by a combination of specific treatment protocols, and 12-step program involvement, and sometimes medication," she said.
But Baird also said that it is not listed in the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), and that there''s a struggle about whether it will be included in the next edition.
Dr. Herbert Kleber, a professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, where he is the Director of the Division on Substance Abuse, has provided another view.
"Is it an addiction? I''m convinced gambling is an addiction but am agnostic about sexual addiction. Once you let one of them in the door do you let in shopaholics, kleptomaniacs, etcetera? Where do you draw the line?" he said.
Dr. Janssen agrees with Dr. Kleber''s scepticism-on there not being prevalent statistics on sexual addiction.
"There are no reliable prevalence statistics on sexual addiction. That is, it has not been measured in representative samples of men and women. A few studies in non-representative samples have concluded that it could involve 5-10 percent of the adult population," he said.
"Most sex researchers prefer to not use that term, instead relying on terms like ''sexual compulsivity'' or ''sexual impulsivity'' to reflect people''s experiences and actual behaviours," he added.