Representative Anthony Weiner has taken a leave of absence to go into treatment. It would be reasonable to presume it is for sex addiction.
Is there such a thing as sex addiction? Many men would say no.That's because they think sex addiction is about being a highly sexual person who wants to have lots of sex. There is nothing illegal about that unless it is with an underage girl.
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But sex addiction is not really about sex. It's about obsessive behavior. It's about doing something over and over, even though it presents a risk to your job and family stability. It's like a tic you can't control. You know the action doesn't serve your goals or fit into your values, and that it provides only a brief jolt of serotonin, adrenaline, and dopamine. That, in turn, is often followed by shame. But you keep doing it, like a ritual that relieves stress and decreases pain even while it is causing stress and pain.
Speculation is that Weiner will be visiting Tiger Woods' alma mater, the Gentle Path program at Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Director Patrick Carnes is the author of Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction. ThirdAge: Is Sex Addiction For Real?
What is wrong with Weiner's habit of sexting and tweeting naked pictures of himself? Even if he wasn't married, it would have created a scandal as inappropriate behavior for a member of Congress. But as a newly married father-to-be it seems even more crass. Yet what is the damage other than to his wife?
Because our culture is obsessed with sex, it is hard to put one person on trial for inappropriate behavior when a crime has not been committed. The problem is the compulsive nature of the actions; the inability to stop even though it may lead to loss of job and public trust and it is hurtful to family members. Another factor is the accompanying lies he tells when the behavior is revealed. One who has something to hide has something to lose; that becomes a bargaining chip for others who may then assume power or influence over the sex addict's choices in other arenas. That's particularly problematic for a lawmaker.
A leave of absence to go into treatment, even for something undefined, is a step in the right direction to breaking the cycle of compulsive behavior. Sex addiction is often coupled with illnesses such as personality or mood disorder. It is best assessed and treated in a controlled inpatient setting.
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Judy Kirkwood writes about mental health issues for thirdage.com.
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