- The concept of sex addiction began gaining traction in the 1980s
- Professionals are divided on whether it should be officially classified as an addiction
Ian Kerner is a licensed psychotherapist, certified sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author. Read more from him on his website, iankerner.com.
(CNN)From Anthony Weiner to Tiger Woods, there's no shortage of so-called sex addicts these days. But is sex addiction a real condition?
Is sex addictive?
What does the research say?
- Mental health concerns such as depression. In my experience, when people are depressed and isolated, they tend to masturbate more and kill time watching porn, which contributes to their low mood. But the main issue that needs to be treated is the depression and not its symptom. On the other extreme, a person with bipolar disorder might experience bouts of mania that lead to hypersexuality, but again, this is not an addiction issue.
- Sexual gratification as a primary coping mechanism. In theory, there's nothing wrong with having an orgasm as a way of distracting oneself. But sex shouldn't be the only way we manage anxiety and difficult emotions.
- A libido discrepancy. When one partner in a couple has a higher libido than the other, they may worry that they are an addict rather than just different.
- An erotic conflict. Someone who doesn't want to admit that he's gay, for example, may self-label himself as an addict when having sex with men or watching gay porn. In short, he's trying to disavow a part of his identity that he's uncomfortable with.
- Avoiding responsibility for one's actions. For example, a serial cheater may feel more comfortable self-labeling as a sex addict than meaningfully exploring why he's unable to stay monogamous.