Like many problems, we can often chalk sex addiction up to bad parenting or childhood traumas. Very often, sex addicts were sexually abused as children and have a dysfunctional relationship with sex. Some feel like their only asset is their body or their ability to have sex. Others associate sex with getting attention from loved ones after feeling mistreated or ignored. O’Hara treated a woman who was ridiculed and physically abused by her mother and sexually abused by her uncle. In group sessions, she’d say things like, “I’ve been giving great blow jobs since I was 8!” It was less painful for her to talk about her abuse in a bragging way, and assert control over her sexuality, than it was for her to admit the real pain and confusion she must have felt as a little girl. Now, as an adult, she struggles with compulsive masturbation and performing meaningless casual oral sex because that’s how she feels a sense of self worth.
In Dr. Pinsky’s opinion, sex addiction is one of the hardest addictions to treat. It’s not as simple as “just say no” – sex addicts must be able to control their urges, while eventually being able to have sex be a healthy part of their life. For many addicts, that means entering some sort of intensive program, then joining a 12-step group and regularly attending meetings. Through this process, many are able to move on and eventually have normal — monogamous — romantic relationships.
For any of you who are still skeptical of sex addiction just being a fancy excuse, O’Hara points out, “Just because you have a disorder doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for the consequences of your actions.” An alcoholic who gets caught driving drunk isn’t any less culpable for driving under the influence than any other person who drove after having one too many. Likewise, you can cheat because of bad judgment or because of a sex addiction, but the consequences of your actions are still your fault. Addiction is not a justification, it’s just a diagnosis. Whether it’s Tiger Woods’ diagnosis – or excuse – remains to be seen.
Betty’s Sexpert Amber Madison is a sex educator and author of Hooking Up: A Girl’s All-Out Guide to Sex and Sexuality, and Talking Sex With Your Kids, to be released this March.