In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many people are asking if sex addiction is real.
Is out of control sexual conduct and compulsive or erratic sexual behavior a sigh of a “sexual addiction?”
Does being sexually inappropriate and acting, reacting or perpetrating against someone sexually mean that, regardless of the circumstances, that person is not responsible for their actions if they are a “sex addict?”
Does the label “addict” give someone an excuse to continue or excuse their behavior?
Is Your Sexual Behavior Out of Control?
The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece (available for subscribers) that examined this very question and included a number of questions to ask to determine who might be a sex addict.
“Ask yourself some questions. Sari Cooper, a certified sex therapist in New York, suggests these: What about my activities makes me feel out of control? Is my behavior against the agreements I have made with my partner, my ethical guidelines and my sexual and emotional health? Do I ruminate about the next encounter to such an extent that I can’t focus on my work, partner or family? Do I feel tremendous self-disgust when I engage in these behaviors? …Is your behavior impairing your functioning, physical, or mental health or relationships?”
Is Sex Addiction Real?
Sexuality is complex. Cooper states that sex “addiction” is a concept the American Association of Sexuality Therapists Counselors and Educators agree is not a diagnosis. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual does not include Sex Addiction as a diagnosis. Neither is it recognized by the American Medical Association as a medical diagnosis that can be reimbursed for insurance providers, or prescribed medication for healing.
Yet many therapists can’t agree on what to call compulsive sexuality, the desire to act on sexual behaviors that aren’t in one’s own best interest, and may in fact create chaos or harm.
Out of control sexual behaviors can resemble an addiction, but may originate and manifest in many different ways. It’s impossible to create a blanket diagnosis and hard to define if we look at sex “addiction” from a clinical perspective.
Related story: “Is Sex Addiction Real?”
However, if you’re struggling with sexual behavior that feels problematic for you or your partner, and if you find that you’re having difficulty stopping that behavior, regardless of the negative consequences, it may be time to consider getting professional help.
What Qualifies as Problematic Sexual Behavior?
It’s important to note that many sexual behaviors are not problems in and of themselves, such as watching pornography or engaging in rough sex. Even infidelity, while problematic, does not qualify as an addiction or a mental health issue. But when any of these behaviors are engaged in compulsively, they can start to create pathological patterns and interfere with healthy relationships.
Where Can You Find Help?
A qualified sex therapist is your best bet for getting the help you may need. There are several ways to find one in your area. You could try the directory listed on the AASECT site (the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists). Or you can contact me for a session or a referral.
If you’re a clinician wanting to learn how to treat out of control sexual behavior (OCSB), consider attending the March session of the Integrative Sex Therapy Institute (ISTI).