I believe it was the media frenzy surrounding the Tiger Woods scandal that made sex addiction 'real' to people. Ironically Tiger probably doesn't have a sex addiction. Poor judgment certainly, but a sex addiction, maybe not.
But what does a small matter like possibly misdiagnosing a celebrity have to do with it when it gets in the way of selling headlines?
And what a dangerous predicament it has created for the average couple's sexual health.
There are two camps when it comes to sex addiction: those who believe it is a real affliction, and those who don't. I'm obviously in the 'don't' camp.
Sexual addiction is, in my opinion, an easy and convenient label for a very complicated problem. As it stands, I think there is a lack of empirical evidence and scientific agreement on whether such a condition even exists.
Dr. Marty Klein, a leading expert in this field of psychotherapy, gives the best explanation about sex addiction in this video.
You see, I think the trick to defining sex addiction is to determine 'normal' sexual pursuits. An exercise in subjectivity as every person has their own comfort level and preference: some people want sex three times a day (or more), some have exotic tastes, and others favour vanilla sex.
Consequently, it's extremely difficult to do any scientific study that can set guidelines to say what are acceptable ways to express sexuality.
That said, when you look at what sex addiction advocates have developed over the last 15 years, I think their standards are a moral judgement -- rather than a scientific conclusion -- based around a heterosexual, monogamous, long-term sex lifestyle. I think that any 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 as we see the term popping up all over the media. In fact, Oprah and Dr. Phil have christened it as a real condition. Dr. Drew Pinsky had an incredibly popular television show helping B-list celebrities. Sex addiction does make fantastic TV viewing.
Why don't you see if you are a sex addict by taking the Carne's online sex addiction test. Chances are, if you've done anything outside the norm, you are indeed a sex addict.
But don't worry if you are. I believe you can self-cure. It's usually involves twelve steps, a religious awakening and modifying your sexual behavior (not abstaining like a proper addiction would dictate).
Not surprisingly, all this media attention has filtered down to the average couple. I get countless inquiries from people asking how to help their 'sex addicted' partner. When they explain their situation, I find it's usually a gross self-misdiagnosis: "I've caught him looking at porn on his computer. I think he's an addict."
When you self-diagnose, it's difficult to impartially gage if the behavior is obsessive and harmful to you and your partner, or, more likely, you're uncomfortable with the behavior and don't know how to manage the circumstance.
I do believe there are people who are obsessive compulsive about sex and cause severe stress on family, friends, loved ones and their work environment. These people do need to seek out help. Yet, it's been my experience this is the rare exception and not the norm.
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 don't. It's about feeding the insatiable public its next salacious headline rather than giving people a proper sex education.