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Sex Addiction Debate Heats Up Psych Community

Sex Addiction - Disease or Excuse?

Sex Addiction - Disease or Excuse?

“A healthy relationship completely abolishes the need to search for fantasies and everything that can become a false refuge. Healthy relationships include the ability to communicate, express feelings, and not keep secrets.”

~ Gabriel Gil

by Rachel Schindler

Five to ten million Americans attend group meetings each year for sexual addiction. In-patient facilities, such as La Jolla’s Aide to Navigation (AToN) program, cost $14,000 a week or more and are growing in popularity. Fifteen years ago, similar programs such as Gentle Path in Mississippi, Malibu’s Promises, and AToN didn’t exist.

John Cloud reports for TIME that psychiatrists are still debating whether sexual addiction is an issue of disease or morality.

“When it comes to addiction, the line between morality and disease has always been blurry,” Cloud writes. “But only in the past 25 years have we come to regard excesses in necessary cravings — hunger for food, lust for sex — as possible disease states.”

Adding sex addiction to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders could be big business for psychiatrists and psychologists, Cloud reports.

“The addition of what the APA is calling ‘hypersexual disorder’ would legitimize sex addiction in a way that was unthinkable just a few years ago, when Bill Clinton’s philandering was regarded as a moral failing or a joke — but not, in the main, as an illness. APA recognition of sex addiction would create huge revenue streams in the mental-health business. Some wives who know their husbands are porn enthusiasts would force them into treatment. Some husbands who have serial affairs would start to think of themselves not as rakes but as patients.”

Gabriel Gil leads programs for recovering sex and porn addicts in Miami, Florida. Gil said the two addictions are related.

“Both are compulsive behaviors that lead to a final sensation of unsatisfaction, a profound feeling of guilt, and  lack of self control,” Gil said.

Gil said strong relationships can help prevent destructive behaviors.

“A healthy relationship completely abolishes the need to search for fantasies and everything that can become a false refuge. Healthy relationships include the ability to communicate, express feelings, and not keep secrets,” he said.

The vast majority of people seeking help are men. Gil said it’s important for spouses to know they are not responsible for their partner’s addictions and advises focusing on the problem, not the person.

Gil said there are still important lessons to be learned when it comes to treating sex addictions.

“Successful treatment depends on the type of program,” he said. “Addiction compromises the person as a whole –  mind, body, and spirit.”

Programs that address all three aspects of addiction and provide ongoing support to hold people accountable are more likely to prevent lapses, he added.

RELATED:

TIME: Is Sex Addiction a Real Disease – or an Excuse?

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Rachel Schindler

Rachel Schindler, a member of PAIRS Foundation’s research and grant support team, earned her BA in Psychology and Sociology. She is workin