Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Can Sex Be an "Addiction"?

Since the original 12 Step group, Alcoholics Anonymous, originated back in the 1930s to combat alcohol addiction, other 12 Step groups have sprung up over the years, based on the original model, to combat other kinds of addictions, both real and perceived.

Some time in the 1980s, the idea of "sex addiction" began to be talked about, with much of the early research coming from Patrick Carnes, PhD. Several 12-Step groups devoted to Sex/Love addiction naturally followed.

However, there is controversy in the medical community on whether "sex addiction" even exists as a valid diagnosis -- currently, it is not listed as either a disease or disorder in the most current edition of the psychiatric diagnostic manual, the DSMIV.

And though books have been written, treatment centers have been opened to combat this "addiction", many mental health professionals remain skeptical.

Dr Ian Banks, posits that the emergence of sex addiction may be more to do with changing cultural views of sex rather than any actual psychological defect.

"There have always been a wide range of libido levels in society, and a high libido may be viewed as acceptable in one country, and unacceptable in another country, such as the US," he said.

"Part of the problem is that while in cases of low sex drive we can often identify a medical condition underlying and causing it, I'm not aware of any medical condition that could contribute to a very high libido.

"My feeling is that this is a reflection of the societies we live in. Sometimes there is an awful lot of pressure on people to conform sexually."

Dr. Marty Klein, a Licensed Marriage & Family Counselor and Sex Therapist, takes the same view as Dr Banks.

Dr Klein believes that the notion of "sex addiction" is "a set of moral beliefs disguised as science" that assumes sex is dangerous. The examples he gave are: that sex should be within the context of a committed and monogamous heterosexual relationship, that masturbation should be confined to once a day, and that having sex to escape problems is unhealthy.

He pointed out that sex addiction has also been used as a political justification for censorship, eliminating sex education and birth control clinics and opposing equal rights for gays and lesbians.

Eli Coleman, PhD. cautions against the tendency to pathologize unconventional sexual behavior, per se. He wrote that this phenomenon, “may be driven by anti-sexual attitudes and a failure to recognize the wide-range of normal human sexual expression.” He noted a long history of labeling disapproved sexual behaviors as pathologies. Coleman warned that it’s important to distinguish between someone engaging in obsessive sexual behavior and someone who simply has mixed feelings about his or her sexual values and behavior.

Annie Sprinkle, PhD. argues that the only difference between a “sex addict” and someone with a varied and active sex life is the feeling of shame. What feels shameful for one person can be a “non-issue” for another.

Amen to that. No shame here.
To read more:
Does Sex Addiction Exist?

Why There's No Such Thing As Sex Addiction and Why It Really Matters

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