For some time now the hype of sexual addiction has been swelling like a body in a Miami heat wave. With movies like the soon to be released “Shame” and TV shows like “Californication”, it’s no wonder people are now questioning their sexual behaviors for signs of the dreaded sex addiction.
As a sexual health nurse I meet a variety of people from different sexual backgrounds. I don’t judge, I just help.
More and more people are coming in and asking about sexual addiction. I’m not a therapist, but here’s what isn’t being said in the media.
“Sexual Disorder Not Otherwise Specified” is the only technical term in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. What does this mean in plain English? That there are disordered sexual behaviors, not addiction. Just like an eating disorder may at times feel like an addiction, it’s not, it’s disordered eating.
How is a disorder different from an addiction?
A disorder is about behavior that is troubling a person. Not about an abused substance. With sexual addiction there is a lack substance to become addicted to. There have been no proper scientific studies that sex is addictive. Sex is actually a healthy and helpful part of an adult life. You cannot go through “sexual withdrawl”, no matter what Dr. Drew says. There is no physical addiction.
There is the lack of consistency on what defines a sex addict. With disorders it’s far more clear cut, things are just out of whack and not normal for the individual. This varies from person to person. There are some people who have sex every day and feel great. There are others who have sex daily that feel as though they are “addicted”. Same goes for watching porn, going to strip clubs and open relationships. For some people this feels like a ruinous decline, for others, just a fun and normal part of life. No consistency.
There is a cultural aspect to sexual addition.
In America right now, sex is being vilified like never before. Some say it started with the Tiger Woods scandal and was pushed forward with the Jessie James fiasco in the year that followed. Sexual addiction is an excuse for natural behavior that is unacceptable in society today. In the gay world, men are free of judgment about how many sexual partners they have. Yet get a guy like Tiger Woods in the spotlight, who has probably turned down ten times more sexual opportunities than he took and suddenly he’s “sick”. People don’t want to admit that human beings aren’t naturally monogamous, so in order to explain men (and women) who cheat or have high sex drives and open relationships, they are labeled sex addicts. People seem to forget that sex is healthy.
If you think you have a problem with sex, you might.
That doesn’t mean you’re an addict though. It might be that you actually have another mental disorder (like manic depression) that is pushing you to act out. Perhaps you have some unresolved issues from childhood that need to be hashed out with a therapist. Or maybe, you’re actually feeling guilty for no reason, other than the world we live in today.
Trust your own judgment and if you’re worried, see someone. At the end of the day your sex is your business. As long as you’re playing safe with condoms and not breaking any laws, there’s no reason to beat yourself up about being a sexual human being.