Despite the growing body of research that sexual addiction is a growing problem, there are those who continue to debate the question of whether certain sexual behavior is appropriately characterized as an addiction. It is difficult for the layperson to identify where the debate stands.
Scientific research is difficult. Even once the study is completed, interpreting the data becomes a challenge that sometimes reveals either misunderstanding of the addictive process or perhaps even a personal bias.
No one can deny that for some people sexual behavior has resulted in very negative consequences. Loss of marriage, financial data station, contracting a sexually transmitted disease are just some components of the vast array of challenges some people face in relation to their sexual experience.
It is common to define addiction as continuing in a specific behavior despite negative consequences. A person persists drinking alcohol despite frequent blackouts, repeated arrests for driving and the influence, and the deterioration of his health. Although he may be in denial behavior, his friends and family understand his behavior clearly as something profoundly problematic.
For someone who is not sure if he struggles with sexual addiction, instead of waiting for the research to become definitive, simply apply the criteria used for chemical dependency in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
This is what Alexandra Katehakis did in an article several years ago and she wrestle with the question of whether sex addiction is real.
She calls out seven specific criteria that she modifies for its application to sexual addiction.
- Tolerance—when a sexual behavior has a reduced ability to cause the desired effect, requiring a need to increase the frequency or intensity of the activity
- Withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety or depression when the sexual behavior is stopped
- Participation in the sexual behavior is in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control the sexual behavior
- A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to engage in or prepare for the sexual behavior or recover from its effects
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of engagement in the sexual behavior
- The sexual behavior is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the behavior
For someone who struggles with the sexual addiction, the ambivalence of the academic community provides a convenient place to support one’s denial of the addiction. But someone who is experiencing the genuine pain and anguish of the addictive process does not need to wait for the researchers to come to a final and conclusive decision about the nascent nature of this disease.
There is help for those who seek it. The suffering and confusion and distraction can come to an end.
Image by Jonny Wikins