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What is sex addiction?

Updated on January 29, 2014

Do you feel guilty, shameful, embarrassed or uncomfortable by your sexual activities or desires? Congratulations! You're a sex addict! Or, perhaps, merely the product of a repressed environment which views enjoying sex as troubling behavior and all but forbids promiscuity, kinkiness, and multiple concurrent lovers.

This topic is controversial among sexologists, who scientifically study sexual interests, behavior, and function. Some say it's an addiction just like drug addiction. Others say it's a form of OCD while yet others believe it's a reflection of cultural bias.

Many groups exist to help people recover from sex addiction, however they are largely run by people with a preconceived notion of the types of activities which constitute "normal" sex drives and lives.

Are You a Sex Addict?

Sex educator Laci Green speaks out for D-News about society's view of sex addiction. At this time, there is no clinical disorder with this name. Psychologists who are pushing for its clinical definition define sex addiction as, "recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, sexual urges and sexual behavior that lasts at least six months."

This is so broadly phrased as to take into account virtually every human on the planet starting at pubescence onward.

Self proclaimed sex addicts will typically feel guilty, like they are wrong for feeling the way they do, or ashamed of the way they are using their body. Frequently, however, the shame and guilt are brought about because the person is taught from a young age that sex is an unimportant part of life and if they like it too much or ever seek it out, they are an obsessed deviant.

The Impact of Layman Sex-Addition Diagnosis

Dr. Marty Klein is a sexologist, Marriage Counselor, Psychotherapist and Sex Therapist with 29 years of experience. He argues that being diagnosed or treated for sex addiction by people without the proper credentials leads to rampant misdiagnoses, which creates widespread cracks in our culture's attitude and politics toward sex.


More from Dr. Klein

America's War on Sex: The Continuing Attack on Law, Lust, and Liberty, 2nd Edition (Sex, Love, and Psychology)
America's War on Sex: The Continuing Attack on Law, Lust, and Liberty, 2nd Edition (Sex, Love, and Psychology)

"This book analyzes eight "battlegrounds" in which America's War on Sex is being fought and examines how each one is the focus of an unrelenting struggle to regulate sexuality in direct contradiction to our Constitutional guarantees, scientific fact, and the needs of average Americans."

Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex--and How to Get It
Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex--and How to Get It

"This book is the antidote to the many gimmick-oriented sex guides and manuals; Dr. Klein shows us how to reorient how we think about sex in order to experience a truly different way of being sexual."


In his article, Why "Sex Addiction" is Not a Useful Diagnosis -- And Why it Matters, he boldly states,

The concept of “sex addiction” really rests on the assumption that sex is dangerous. There’s the sense that we frail humans are vulnerable to the Devil’s temptations of pornography, masturbation, and extramarital affairs, and that if we yield, we become “addicted.” Without question, being a sexual person is complex, and we are vulnerable–to our sex-negative heritage, shame about our bodies, and conflict about the exciting sexual feelings we can’t express without risking rejection. Sexuality per se, however, is not dangerous–no matter how angry or frightened people are.

When nearly anyone can be a sex addict OR treat a sex addict, it's easy to create panic that being too sexually expressive will lead to the disease. Sexual repression is latched onto like a tool to control and limit the public. Klein points out,

It obscures the role of society in distorting our sexuality.

Sexologists understand that our moralistic American society constricts healthy sexual expression. We all know the sexual and intimacy problems this creates; in fact, we are now beginning to understand how such distortion even helps create sex offenders. But the sexual addiction movement only sees society as encouraging “promiscuity,” instead of discouraging pleasure and healthy sexuality. This simplistic analysis cannot see how the media and other institutions make gilt-free sex almost impossible.

If someone has a serious physiological or psychological disorder, they'd probably see a medical professional for treatment, not their Pastor. It is detrimental to assume that because one's partner, child, co-worker or friend might be more sexually inclined than them that they have a sex addiction. And it doesn't help the climate when one's clergy, parents or government makes them feel that they are very limited in the sanctioned ways in which to use their own body.

Consensual sexual activities, no matter how frequent or deviant from the mainstream, are not very likely to be problematic. Politicians, parents and pastors like to point out how one perverse sexual behavior begets another until the person is totally out of control and needs to seek help for their hedonistic tendencies.

What's the Truth?


This addiction is largely "treated" by the religious (as are most 12-step programs.) It isn't clinically defined and it's being used by laymen in power as fuel to deter people (children especially) from masturbation, pornography, kinky sex, sex toys, non-monogamous relationships and just about any other non-procreative application of sexual behavior.

Sexual behavior may be the manifestation of a problem; however, focusing on removal of the "wrong" kind of sexual behavior as the "cure" only serves to perpetuate the notion that sex is negative. When people obsess about sex to a detrimental degree, it isn't actually about sex.

Is sex addiction real?

See results

If someone cannot stop washing their hands, we don't blame the sink, nor do we treat them for soapy water addiction.

"That's a common misconception," says Rory Reid, PhD, LCSW, a research psychologist at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. "It is no more about sex than an eating disorder is about food or pathological gambling is about money." - Is Sex Addiction Real? (Web MD)

Anyone with an obsession or compulsion finding themselves incapable of forming or maintaining relationships, or functioning in their daily life should probably seek professional medical help.

Note: Any Hubs listed below are not personally recommended by me. Most will have an alternative stance on the ramifications of "sex addiction."


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