Is Sex Addiction a Legitimate Disorder? Practitioners' Efforts Could Be Marginalized a Changing Health System

By Ley, David J. | Addiction Professional, July-August 2013 | Go to article overview

Is Sex Addiction a Legitimate Disorder? Practitioners' Efforts Could Be Marginalized a Changing Health System


Ley, David J., Addiction Professional


Sex addiction has been a powerful and enduring phenomenon of pop psychology, but its privileged status may be coming to an end. Since the early 1980s, the idea that sex can be addictive has become embedded in American popular culture and media, despite a consistent lack of scientific evidence or endorsement of the concept by behavioral health professionals. Sweeping changes in the social, healthcare and scientific communities signal that the field of sex addiction treatment might have to change quickly or face increasing marginalization.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Young counselors in the addiction, mental health and sexuality fields face a dilemma when it comes to sex addiction. On the one side, there is a powerful and vocal industry promulgating sex addiction and its treatment, with hundreds of self-help books, treatment programs and 12-Step groups supporting the idea that sex can be addictive and destructive. Conferences on the topic are well-attended, and professional organizations have certified hundreds of providers to treat sex addiction. In 2012, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) included sexuality in its new definition of addiction, framing sex as a behavior that can become destructive and can affect the brain of sufferers.

The sex addiction industry has benefited from extremely effective and timely marketing efforts, though it prefers to term these "public education" campaigns. For several years, savvy sex addiction treatment providers used sex scandals in the media to further their agenda. Breaking news involving public figures caught with their pants down triggered press releases describing the dangers of sex addiction and implying that the "scandal du jour" might be the result of untreated sex addiction. These education efforts offered advice on seeking sex addiction treatment for oneself or loved ones.

Oftentimes, these scandals led to sex addiction therapists being invited to discuss the issue on national news and talk shows. Under such a media onslaught, it is no wonder that young therapists, not to mention the general public, are often confused as to whether sex addiction constitutes a legitimate disorder.

The wake-up call for young counselors comes when they see a patient and attempt to render a diagnosis of sex addiction. Simply put, there isn't one. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has played what I call the "hokey pokey dance" with sex addiction, including it in one edition of the DSM and removing it in the next. Since the DSM-IV, the only available, related diagnosis has been "sexual disorder not otherwise specified," which includes language regarding clients who view sexual relationships as "conquests."

This language harkens back to dark days when the condition was called Don Juanism in men and nymphomania in women. This long, often tragic, history is one reason for traditional mental health's resistance to the concept of sex addiction. Carol Groneman's excellent work The History of Nymphomania details the disturbing history of the use of the nymphomania diagnosis to suppress and pathologize female sexuality. Modern psychiatry is understandably loath to take up the issue without substantial scientific arguments, and evidence that this is not merely a moral debate.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Society's acceptance of the concept of sex addiction has not swayed the APA or most other traditional institutions. For decades, sex addiction proponents have been challenged in the academic press to produce scientific research to back up their theories. Thirty years later, the sex addiction field has produced countless articles, but these articles are roundly criticized as subject to severe sample bias, based largely on anecdotal reports, with no "gold standard" studies employing randomized designs and control groups where sex addiction-specific approaches could be compared with traditional therapy techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Is Sex Addiction a Legitimate Disorder? Practitioners' Efforts Could Be Marginalized a Changing Health System
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.