People who overuse p****graphy or have trouble controlling their s*xual urges will often use the “s*x addict” label to explain and rationalize their behavior.
Except, as the experts at the American Association of se*uality Educators, Counselors and Therapists declared in December 2016 : “[We do] not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of s*x addiction or P0*n addiction as a mental health disorder.”
So, if your partner tells you they’re a s*x addict, there are a few things you need to know to clarify the situation and get the help you need. It might just have nothing to do with addiction, though.
1. “s*x addiction” isn’t real
The word “addict” has tons of negative connotations in our culture. It can be interpreted morally: “you’re weak and a bad person.” This is a very traditional view of addiction, and one that was eliminated . scientists a long time ago. From alcohol to cocaine abuse, addictive behavior has nothing to do with a person’s morality.
There’s also nothing inherently addictive about s*x. In fact, s*x fails on one of the hallmarks of addiction, habituation (the need for an always bigger dose to get the same high). Having five orgasms one day will not make the next day’s orgasms less pleasant.
But saying to your partner, “s*x addiction isn’t a thing,” is not going to help them. If they’re talking to you about it, it means that they are distressed about their own behavior and want help stopping it. That’s a good thing. You don’t want to dismiss or invalidate their feelings . saying, “It isn’t real.” Consider simply listening to them to begin with. But knowing that s*x addiction isn’t technically an addiction can help you get started on the right path toward helping your partner deal with their actions.
2. “s*x addiction” is more often a symptom of other issues
In psychology, we use the word “comorbidity” to talk about causes that often come together, like depression and anxiety. In the same way, people who complain of s*x addiction usually come with hosts of other problems, like actual substance abuse (Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Russell Brand and Amy Winehouse are “s*x addicts” who also had drug addictions) or emotional problems linked to relationships and intimacy.
Is your partner developing alcoholism? Are they using drugs? Substance abuse often causes lapses in judgment and an inability to control urges, which can translate into promiscuous behavior. In this case, dealing with the s*x addiction means dealing with the underlying substance abuse problem.
Sober people can also be promiscuous; Tiger Woods is one famous example. In this case, there’s usually a deeper emotional problem . to commitment, faithfulness and intimacy. Seeking anonymous s*x is often a way for people to escape the pressure of committed relationships, especially when they are not emotionally mature enough for them. They may also have linked their self-esteem to s*x, which means that any problem in the main relationship can lead to seeking s*xual partners outside of it.
Either of these explanations requires support and therapy. You cannot treat the “s*x addiction” without treating the underlying issues, whether they are substance-. or emotional.
3. “s*x addiction” as a symptom of a s*x-negative culture
In our sexually shaming culture, having an overly strong appetite for s*x (especially women) can often cause people to call it “addiction” to relieve the stress from the messages around them and avoid shame for themselves and their families. When we internalize the shame surrounding s*x, it makes sense that one of the ways we might rationalize our behavior is . calling it “addiction.”
Except, some people have strong libidos. That’s just how they’re wired. There is nothing wrong with them at all. People raised with more conservative and s*x-negative values may want to label their s*x drive “s*x addiction” because they have not been taught that s*x is a natural, positive thing.
Lack of proper s*x education and a s*x-negative culture cause physical and emotional harm. Slapping a scientifically unfounded “s*x addiction” label on people with healthy s*x drives is just one of the many ways this harm manifests itself.
What can I do?
My advice is first to listen to your partner. s*x addiction not being real doesn’t mean they’re not in pain. Remember that it’s not about you.
Then, depending on the underlying problem (substance abuse, emotional issues or plain s*xual shame), you can seek out the right kind of therapy and support.
Most important, avoid s*x addiction treatments. They are not supported . science.