Monday, November 15, 2010

Sex Addiction??

From the Chicago Tribune, on a tip from Robin McGinnis...,0,2505230.story

So, what's all the fuss about "sex addiction"?

Tiger Woods, Jesse James, and a whole lot of other "famous" people are coming out of the woodwork claiming to be addicted to sex. The article in the link above from the Chicago Tribune suggests that sex addiction is something of a celebrity issue-du-jour, as if somehow celebrities (and others, for that matter) haven't been sexually misbehaving for eons (think Gene Simmons).

Just to be clear...There are certainly people who spend too much time obsessing on sexuality and who ultimately get themselves into trouble because of it. The fact that the internet is rife with sexually explicit materials can result in a virtual "kid in a candy store" scenario. But, is this actually addiction, in the same sense as we understand it for alcohol, heroin, and other substances?

As I understand it, there are neurochemical effects from engaging in certain behaviors, just as there are from ingesting certain substances. Typically, these activities/substances are supposed to result in some sort of positive experience (e.g., euphoria, a "high", "mellowing out", a feeling of being energized, or at least feeling more at ease). But, don't we also get this from eating when we're hungry or drinking when we're thirsty. For that matter, even less socially appealing activities (e.g., defecation, urination) generate a certain degree of pleasurable sensation. Presumably, this is so that we will be sufficiently encouraged to engage in those behaviors, etc. that ensure good health or the propagation of the species. But, again, how does this figure into the concept of addiction?

My training was that you couldn't be addicted to a natural process, and that doing too much of something you would do naturally was "maladaptive drive reduction" or some kind of dysregulation. That still sits better with me. In reading the article, it seems that the traditional definition of addiction doesn't necessarily map well onto things like sex; particularly, in regard to aspects like withdrawal. Check out ATSA's own Marty Kafka, giving his two cents worth. Of course, Hypersexual Disorder (Marty's baby) is being proposed in the modifications to paraphilia diagnoses that may or may not come with DSM-5.

I was at a presentation given by Patrick Carnes at an addictions conference in Bermuda some years ago. I remember listening to him talk about "sex addiction", but thinking, "he's describing maladaptive drive reduction". Who knows? One thing is for sure, as long as there are celebrities...


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