Is sex addiction even a real thing? We take a look at a very modern affliction



Is sex addiction even a real thing? We take a look at a very modern affliction

Statistics reveal that sex addicts do not necessarily become sex offenders. Also, not all sex offenders are sex addicts

What is sex addiction?

Experts define sexual addiction as compulsive sexual behavior that are damaging to the individual and/or others. Some prefer to use the term “hypersexual disorder” to sex addiction.

Examples of such risky behaviour include men spending most of their income on prostitutes, employees surfing porn during work even after receiving a final warning, and compulsive need for sex with new partners with no regard for safety, which increases their chances of HIV and other STIs.

After a long debate and a few work-group tests, the American Psychiatric Association purposefully excluded sex addiction from the DSM 5 (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders)—a strong statement by the medical community.

A distant cousin of it, related to performance anxiety and dysfunctions, appear under a broad term ‘sexual disorders.’

The primary reason for this divide in opinion is lack of research. Here are a few key points to throw light on either side of the argument:

1. Therapists who work with sex addicts explain that they are not just folks craving a lot of sex. There is always an underlying problem: depression, severe stress, anxiety, or immense guilt and shame. For example, someone with depression or anxiety may be using sex as an escape. This clarifies the fact that not everyone with a big appetite for sex is an addict.

2. A key commonality across individuals identified with this addiction is a huge sense of shame and guilt along with a desire to stop their behaviour. However, due to the nature of their compulsion, they have little or no control over their actions.

Harvey Weinstein, seen here with Meryl Streep, claims he's in rehab for sex addiction

3. Most addicts are likely to indulge in extensive use of porn, compulsive masturbation, phone or online sex services. For a few others, it may involve voyeurism and exhibitionism, both of which are illegal and offensive in nature.

4. Lab research done on addicts do not yet have clear evidence to prove that the brain responds to sexual stimuli the same way as it does to someone with drug or alcohol dependency.

5. However, a key difference between drug addicts/alcoholics and sex addicts is the nature of the stimuli. Drugs and alcohol were never a means for survival, neither have they played a role in evolution. Sex, however, has. It is one of the basic human needs. This makes it hard to draw the line between normal and abnormal behaviour. Like food every human’s appetite for sex varies.

Can sex addiction cause sex offenses?

Statistics reveal that sex addicts do not necessarily become sex offenders. Also, not all sex offenders are sex addicts.

As a society, we have come to believe that sex offense is not all about sex, but more about power. However, recent studies on the brain suggest that there could be a link between chemical imbalance in the brain and a need for sexual gratification. Whether this link is strong enough to trace sexual offences to brain dysfunction is debatable.

For instance, a depressed person typically has low levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Sex releases good doses of these, along with other feel-good hormones.

The fact that there is a chemical mechanism at play may justify a person’s dependency on sex, drugs or any other stimuli. But given the lack of research in the field, it clearly doesn’t add up as legal defence against sexual assaults such as molestation and rape.

Sex Addiction and Legal Consequences

Weinstein’s claim that he is struggling with an addiction and is willing to commit himself to a facility doesn’t seem to deter the public outcry over the assaults. For Weinstein to prove not guilty on the basis of mental health, a number of factors need to be considered. The critical ones are:

Has he been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or any other disorders in the past and has he undergone Has he spoken to anyone or reached out for help regarding his condition?

In case of sexual behavior, a compulsive pattern is categorized as an addiction only if the person has tried to stop himself and wants to change but is unable to do so.

His statement that he doesn’t consider any of the encounters to be non-consensual or forced rings a warning alarm.

Every incident reported so far suggests a carefully designed, well-thought through plan that also involved others to aid him.

The fact that others aided him by arranging for the women to meet him in lone hotel rooms indicates no shame or remorse on his part. Instead, there seems to be a sense of power and entitlement. 

Also, from what we know so far, no one who was aware of his behavior or aided him in it seemed to have suspected an illness. They were quiet about it, which indicates control rather than helplessness. 



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