What would you do with Tiger?

If you were treating Tiger Woods and his wife, would you have the tools to help?

There are many reasons someone experiences hyper sexuality.  The term Sexual Dependency Syndrome (SDS) as Dr Joe Kort describes in his recent newsletter, (go to http://www.joekort.com/newsletter/ for more info) allows for many possibilities, including sexual addiction.  

Sexual fantasies and desires are the erotic code underlying addiction, and this information, when understood, can help us decipher if someone is really addicted to the process of pursuing sex and scoring it, or if they are compulsively using the act of orgasm through masturbation and sex acts with another person to change their brain patterns and feel a chemical high. 

Sometimes, people compulsively cheat on their partners, and this relationship dysfunction becomes an addictive pattern, but is more closely related to childhood issues and pathology around intimacy and connection.  Actual addiction to sex itself is difficult to define.  If someone has a relationship pattern where they move closer to a partner, and then they get scared and sabotage their commitment by acting out with someone else, this may be a sign that psychotherapy is necessary to help process the meaning of these patterns and restore health and balance to their lives.

If someone is repeatedly paying for sex through prostitutes, online sex, or with internet porn, and not telling their partner, this is a different sexual dependency.  If this behavior interferes with their lives, and with their relationships, the dependency can then be defined as crossing over into addiction.

As one of my guest writers shared in a previous column in this blog, Robert Lowe came up with this list to determine if pornography is a problem.  I think it’s actually a quite accurate diagnostic tool and I have modified it to include all sexual behavior.

Here’s a quick unscientific questionnaire that may help someone to identify themselves as addicted to sex and as a result being ‘unfaithful’ to their partner.
1. Are you hiding the fact that you are acting out sexually from your partner?
2. Are you using sex with something or someone else as an  emotional substitute for sex your partner?
3. Is sex taking up a significant amount of the free time in your life to the detriment of other things that are more important to you?
Answering yes to any one of these questions identifies a significant risk that should be diagnosed and handled by a professional.

In order to make a true differential diagnosis of Sexual Dependency Syndrome (SDS) whether we are talking about Porn addiction or Sex addiction, there has to be a thorough assessment by a licensed professional.  Only then can there be accurate and empathetic treatment for the sexually dependent person and their partner.

If you want a true diagnosis with real empathic treatment, a good therapist with experience treating sexual dependency syndrome (SDS) should be sought out.  A Certified Sexologist, a Certified Sex Therapist or any licensed psychotherapist with good clinical knowledge and experience in addiction and relationship treatment may be able to help.   For a referral please write to tammy@tammynelson.org or to joekort@joekort.com

If you are a professional  and  want more help treating clients like Tiger Woods or other sexually dependent types, or want to examine your own counter transference which often interferes with treating sexually disordered patients, look for our upcoming teleclass on Sexual Dependency Syndrome beginning this March, 2010.  For more info go to http:///www.tammynelson.org.teleclasses or email tammy@tammynelson.org


Best wishes to Tiger and his family and everyone else out there brave enough to work on their issues,

Dr. Tammy Nelson


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