The Myths Of Sex Addiction The term "sex addiction" is often used pretty loosely. See what Dr. Read considers normal and abnormal sexual behavior. BY DR. TRINA READ
If your spouse is a super freak? Does that mean they're a sex addict? Maybe not.
“ I get countless inquiries from people asking how to help their spouse. When they explain their situation, itís usually a gross self-misdiagnosis”
There are two camps when it comes to sex addiction: those who believe itís a real affliction and those who donít.
Iím in the "donít" camp. Sexual addiction is, in my opinion, an easy and convenient label for a very complicated problem. As it stands, there is a lack of empirical evidence and scientific agreement on whether such a condition exists.
The trick to what makes up a sex addiction is defining what are "normal" sexual pursuits. An exercise in subjectivity, as every person has their own comfort level and preference: some couples want sex three times a day (or more); some have exotic tastes; others favor vanilla sex.
Consequently, itís extremely difficult to do any scientific study that can set guidelines to say what is an acceptable way to express sexuality.
That said, when you look at what sex addiction advocatesóand what has developed over the last 15 yearsótheir standards are based around heterosexual, monogamous, long-term sex. Other forms of sexual expression outside these boundaries could be construed as a sex addiction.
Apparently a lot of people agree with this belief system. Over the last few years we see the term sex addiction popping up all over the media. In fact, Oprah and Dr. Phil have christened it as a real condition.
Not surprisingly, all this media attention has filtered down to the average couple. I get countless inquiries from people asking how to help their spouse. When they explain their situation, itís usually a gross self-misdiagnosis: "He wants sex everyday. I think heís an addict."
Please understand, it can be incredibly harmful to a coupleís wellbeing when an incorrect diagnosis is put on their sexual dilemma(s). When you self- diagnosis, itís difficult to impartially gauge if the behavior is obsessive and harmful to you and your spouse, or youíre uncomfortable with the behavior and donít know how to manage the circumstance.
However, all my nitpicking does not help an individual or couple who is in the middle of a serious sexual struggle. After eight years together, one couple revealed their marriage started to unravel quickly. The husband was having an affair, compulsively self- pleasuring, as well as seeking out prostitutes.
His wife decided to work on saving their marriage. She first started to read books and research the web. After trying eight different counselors, they both felt they were getting nowhere fast.
It was only when she stumbled upon the term sex addiction, she says everything clicked into place and their situation made sense. Author, Patrick Carnes, defines sexual addiction as, "any sexually-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones and one's work environment."
After they took Carneís online test (http://sexhelp.com), it showed the husband was a sex addict. He started to attend Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) and she S-Anon meetings. Both of them agree that SAA and S-Anon has been instrumental in fixing and changing the way they are as a couple, parents and individuals.
He confides, "It is the only place where I can be 100 percent completely open. I feel like I belong." They are grateful both groups have taken away the shame and stigma of what was happening in his sex and their overall life.
In this situation, the husband caused, "Severe stress on family, friends, loved ones and one's work environment," as well as possibly giving STIs to his partner. Obviously, itís a good thing when someone can get immediate and free help if they feel their sexual behavior is out of control.
Yet, itís been my experience this is the rare exception and not the norm. For the record, here are a few things that are normal sexual behaviors.
1. If a person has a high sex drive and wants sex far more than their partner.
2. If a person wants to experiment in outside the heterosexual, monogamous boundaries and try such things as S&M, swinging or cyber sex.
3. If a person wants to look at porn in moderation.
If you are in the middle one of these typical couple difficulties, itís best worked through with a professional counselor. If you feel strongly that you are dealing with a sex addiction, remember the road to recovery is not a quick fix, cease and desist the behavior immediately. Itís a lengthy, soul-searching process where both partners must be 100 percent committed to fixing themselves and their relationship.
So the next time you read that someone in the news has a sex addiction, please take it with a grain of salt. Most likely they donít. But it does make for very sexy, headline-selling news.
Dr. Trina Read has a doctorate in human sexuality. Dr. Read is also an international speaker and offers free sex tips on her website www.bestsextipsever.com. To order her book, "Til Sex Do Us Part," click here.