A few weeks ago I was speaking with a colleague who teaches at an institution on the West Coast whom I converse with several times per year. We were able to catch up on a lot of things. Everything was going well for him and his immediate family.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for one of his relatives. This was due to the fact that my friend’s relative had been diagnosed as a sex addict. My friend had spoken to me in the past about the “renegade, devil may care,” carnal-like behavior this particular relative of his had long exhibited. Thus, when he mentioned this piece of unfortunate news I was somewhat shocked, but not surprised.
The fact is that sexual addiction is a disease that is a slowly but surely growing epidemic in American society. Given the varied methods that have been used to determine what accounts for sexual addiction, precise statistics as to its level of prevalence are difficult to determine. Nonetheless, it is estimated that between 3 percent and 6 percent of Americans suffer from some form of sex addiction, according to the National Association of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity. It is a vice that affects men and women, people of all races, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual persuasions and religions.
Some psychiatrists and sex therapists argue that there are a number of factors that can result in a person devolving into a cycle of sexual obsession and dysfunction. A traumatic childhood, excessive drug use, social insecurity are just a few examples. Some sexologists and other sex experts argue that a person’s genetic composition can be a factor in their sexual addiction. Regardless, for its victims, it can result in a traumatic life of risk and frustration.
While the signs can be multiple and varied, among the most prominent symptoms are:
· Chronic, obsessive sexual thoughts and fantasies
· Relations with multiple partners on a frequent basis, especially with strangers
· Preoccupation with having sex, even when it interferes with daily life, productivity, work performance, etc.
· Inability to stop compulsive sexual behaviors or restrain sexual activity
· Putting oneself or others in danger due to sexual behavior
· Engaging in illegal sexual activity with prostitutes, minors, or children
· Need for dominance and control in sexual liaisons
· Feeling remorse or guilt after sexual episodes
· Negative personal or professional consequences due to sexual behavior
Sex addicts often get a sense of euphoria that goes beyond the average person who has a normal or healthy sexual appetite. For addicts, the sexual experience is not about intimacy. On the contrary, they (addicts) use sexual activity to seek pleasure, avoid unpleasant situations, suppress feelings or respond to external pressures such as work difficulties or interpersonal problems. Similar to those who suffer from alcoholism, the pleasure gained from such brief experiences soon evaporates, and, in a number of cases, feelings of depression and guilt can set in. Unfortunately, the cycle of denial often repeats itself again.
To be sure, sex addiction is not confined to average Joes and Janes. A number of celebrities such as Michael Douglas, Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen, Nicole Marin, David Duchovny, Melanie Brown (former Spice Girl) and Russell Brand are just a few prominent public figures who have been linked to the disorder.
The fact is that all is not lost to those stricken by sexual obsession. Dr. Michael Herkov, a prominent sex therapist, argues that group therapy can be a very effective method for those seeking to control their sexual impulses. This typically consists of a health care professional working with a group of between six and 10 patients. Herkov argues that connecting with other addicts allows other addicts to see that their problem is not unique. It also enables them to learn about what strategies are effective and those that are not. Moreover, it provides a reinforcing support system where individuals can rely on one another.
There is no doubt that, in our age of deadly sexually transmitted diseases, sexual addiction is a form of dysfunction that can potentially destroy a person both physically and mentally. Those who struggle and suffer with such a powerful and tormenting disorder must make an effort to combat it through whatever acceptable means necessary.