Dr. Cara Gardenswartz: Though the DSM-IV-TR (the "Bible" of mental disorders for the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association) does not formally recognize sexual addiction as a mental illness, most psychologists and trained therapists believe that sexual addiction is real, just as they consider gambling addiction to be real. It is speculated that in the latest version (currently in progress) of the DSM (DSM-V), sexual addiction will be included as a mental illness. In the 1980s, the 12-step movement popularized the notion that behaviors could be as addictive as substances such as cocaine or alcohol. They founded 12-step programs for compulsive shoppers, gamblers, "sexaholics," and so on.
Sexual addiction is a preoccupation with sexual behavior (which can include masturbation, prostitution, anonymous sex, casual sex, going to strip clubs, bathhouses, etc.). Most often it involves many sexual encounters and reckless behavior. Sex is a way some people cope with life stressors and intense emotions. Individuals often find themselves escaping from life circumstances and pain through addiction. With sexual addiction as well as with infidelity, lies and denial become necessary to keep the behavior active.
Addiction has become an increasingly popular explanation for people in the public eye such as Bill Clinton. Actor David Duchovny, who plays a sex addict in the show "Californication," entered rehab in order to treat his own sex addiction, just as people with substance addictions or eating disorders go to rehab facilities. Many people with sexual addictions also have other addictions, such as substance abuse.
According to the DSM-IV-TR, people with substance abuse have some of the following symptoms:
• Failure to fulfill major obligations
• Recurrent social or interpersonal problems
• Tolerance (need for more of the "drug" to get the same "high")
• Large amounts over a long period
• Unsuccessful efforts to cut down
• Time spent in obtaining the substance replaces social, occupational, or recreational activities
• Continued use despite adverse consequences
People with sexual addiction may also exhibit these symptoms, as well as some of the following symptoms:• Lying to family, friends, and coworkers
• Unable to complete tasks due to excessive preoccupation with sex
• Spending 2-4 hours cruising the Internet, parks, or streets
• Downloading porn at work
• Masturbating or having sex in public
• Feeling exhausted, shame, or guilt after acting out sexually
• Sexualizing conversations
So two questions remain:
Do you believe sexual addiction is "real"? And do you think Tiger Woods has a sexual addiction?
|Dr. Cara Gardenswartz is a licensed clinical psychologist who provides therapy to individuals and couples and runs psychotherapy groups. Her expertise include relationships, depression, anxiety, life transitions, trauma and addiction. She has over 16 years of education, training, and experience in her field. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and went on to earn her Master's and Doctorate in Psychology at the UCLA. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.|