David Duchovny first broke it to the mainstream media, Bryan Jenkins, the reality TV show contestant who allegedly murdered his wife, was rumored to have suffered from it, and now, ex-ESPN analyst Steve Philips is seeking rehab for it after a sordid affair with a young production assistant. We're talking about sex addiction and the gossip media is all abuzz about this newfangled condition since these three recent, high-profile cases.
PsychCentral.com defines sex addiction as, "a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts." Obviously, this is frustratingly vague—what's to keep any serial cheater from using it as his excuse? Well according to many psychologists in this field, plenty. Here are some interesting facts about sex addiction to keep you in the know:
1. It isn't about the sex.
According to Carnes, the psychologist who first coined the phrase "sexual addiction," people who suffer from sex addiction see sex as a means to an end, not the goal itself. "It's really about pain … or escaping or anxiety reduction,” he said to Dateline NBC in 2004. The difference between being merely promiscuous and actually having an addiction is the way one feels about the sex afterwards. It's one thing to enjoy the act, but an addict tends to view sex as relief or distraction from other problems they are unwilling to face. They usually feel ashamed of the act.
2. Around two-thirds of sex addicts are male.
Since scientific interest in this area only came about in the past decade or so, it's hard to say if this gender gap is biological or cultural in nature. Sure, men are considered more sexually driven than women according to genetics, and thus more prone to falling into the addiction. But also consider the possibility that many women are reluctant to come forward for fear of being branded a whore—especially since some psychologists don't believe it's an actually an addiction at all.
3. The sexual thoughts are compulsory and disrupt normal life.
Like any addiction, a sex addict's everyday life is substantially hindered by consuming thoughts about sex—be it masturbation or intercourse. From an article in AllPsych Journal by Roschbeth Ewald, "They may not be able to understand why they are acting out sexually or why constant thoughts either of having sex with someone or compulsively masturbating fill their minds, and push out other avenues of interest."