In this age of celebrities and politicians coming forward with their claims of sex addiction following a cheating incident, I'm often asked whether sex addiction even really exists. My answer is both yes and no. According to the medical community, more specifically, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), it doesn't exist. That aside, and looking purely at patterns of behavior and what's going on inside the person's head, well, that's a different story.
Although not formally recognized by the medical establishment, there are troubling behaviors that resemble a compulsion. If you're the person who is consumed by sexual urges, activities, and fantasies, and your behavior is directed at achieving the goal of sex at all cost, then you have a problem. If this continues despite such adverse consequences as getting in trouble at work for looking at pornography, running up credit card debt for sex services, contracting an STD, and even getting caught, literally, by your significant other with your pants down, then you definitely have a serious problem.
Substance abuse, food addiction, sexual compulsion -- whatever the demon -- similar mechanisms are at play: One feels depressed or anxious, stressed, or seeks a high and reaches for the bottle, drugs, food, or sex. Feelings are numbed, a high or thrill is reached, and the perpetual reward process in the brain is triggered. This powerful reward system targets the area of the brain that releases dopamine, the "feel good" neurotransmitter and the behavior is reinforced. Throw into the mix the often larger-than-life sense of entitlement and narcissism that runs amok in the world of celebrities and there's even more potential for cheating, compulsive behavior, and ultimately the label of "sex addict." However, it should be noted, claims of "sex addiction" seem to be the diagnosis du jour as society and Hollywood are quick to label celebrities who cheat as "sex addicts." This sometimes is more of an excuse to gain public sympathy than it is fact. Addiction or not, with dedication, expert help, and lots of hard work, one can improve and learn healthy ways to cope and to make better decisions.
For more tips on healthy living check out my book Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.