What is Sex Addiction?

by | Feb 15, 2012

by Nancy Travers,LCSW

Thanks to Tiger Woods, sex addiction and sex rehab have been all over the news. Woods recently checked into the Pine Grove rehab clinic in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for its six weeks? sex rehab program. But what is sex addiction and does Woods have this condition, or is it merely an excuse? Says Rob Weiss, executive director of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, ?This isn’t just another guy who is having affairs, this is one of the most famous athletes in the world . . . someone who is attractive, intelligent and has money.?

According to Weiss, sex addicts have a process addiction in that they act on the adrenalin rush of sex. Here are a few manifestations of sex addiction:

  • An impulse for lewd, inappropriate and even violent sexual activity
  • Frequently engaging in inappropriate behavior over a long time and spending considerable amounts of energy in obtaining sexual gratification
  • Not being able to stop these behaviors

Experts differ on what sex addiction is

The DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), most recently published in 2000, does not list sex addiction as a disorder on its own, but instead makes sex addiction fall under ?Sexual Disorders Not Otherwise Specified.? Experts differ in their opinions in what causes sex addiction. Some say that it is a legitimate addiction disorder like alcohol, drugs, or food. Others say it is a form of OCD and compulsion, and yet others like Michael Bader, a psychologist and psychoanalyst who practices in San Francisco say that sex addiction is not like having an addiction to drugs or alcohol because sufferers don?t ?have physiological tolerance and withdrawal are usually not present, and if they are, they don’t govern the addict’s life in the same way that, say, opiates do. Sex addicts get anxious when they can’t get their ?fix??they don’t go into DTs.? Bader is frustrated at how so many self-labeled sex addicts use their ?condition? as an excuse for bad behavior. Instead, he reasons, these sufferers need to zero in on their painful personal histories and take a good look at themselves where they might find loneliness, depression and anxiety issues that need to be addressed.

The TV show, Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew premiered on VH-1 November 2009 and in it eight patients participated in group therapy for 21 days with Dr. Drew and Jill Vermeire, a licensed marriage and family counselor. Bader?s views of treating sex addiction are very much in line with Dr. Drew?s: Both probe into the patients? childhoods and emotional histories.

Drew emphasizes that substance abuse issues should always be treated first before treating the sex addiction and that many sex addicts have chemical dependencies. When asked about Tiger Woods?s sex addiction, Dr. Drew says that Tiger Woods has a long road ahead of him for recovery and that Woods may have a prescription painkiller dependency. ?The whole treatment takes about 3-5 years, it is a 12-step among other things and usually involves very delicate therapy and trauma therapy as well as a lot of education,? Pinsky says. ?More often than not, the sexual addiction comes under control and is managed in the process of the overall recovery.?

How to treat someone with sex addiction

Treatment and recovery plans do vary and many include 12-step recovery programs modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. Some of these programs include

  • Sex Addicts Anonymous
  • Sexaholics Anonymous
  • Sexual Compulsives Anonymous
  • Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous


These above groups also offer online support and face-to-face meetings. A sex addict can also get help through a private counselor or an in-patient program, similar to what Tiger Woods is now doing.

Experts may disagree on what sex addiction is, but they all do agree that it will take a long time for the sufferer to recover and that it takes a lot of work, family support and internal motivation in order to heal.

Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.


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