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Unlike alcohol or drug addiction, there is still no formal diagnosis for sex addiction. To make matters worse, female sex and love addiction is similarly not recognized as a bona fide addiction disorder. However, most addiction specialists agree that it has risen to epidemic proportions (R. Weiss, 2011).
The term sex addiction was coined by Patrick Carnes. Carnes first used the term in his 1983 seminal book on the topic: Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction. Carnes is largely responsible for popularizing the study and treatment of sex addiction, as well as establishing a valid and commonly used diagnosis.
Because most statistics are based on sex addicts who seek treatment, statistical representation of this disorder is considered to be low. Women are less likely than a man to seek help for her problem sexual behavior for a variety of reasons – mostly related to shame. (Weiss 2011). Research and treatment fields have directed little attention to women’s struggle with this addiction. Other than an early treatment by Charlotte Kasl (author of Women, Sex, and Addiction: A Search for Love and Power) and some writings by Carol Ross and Jennifer Schneider, sex addiction in women has been largely ignored (Feree, 2001).
According to Patrick Carnes, 3% of the total U.S. population is female sex addicts. In other words, of all American sex addicts, 37.5% are female. Carnes’ research also indicates that approximately 20% of those seeking help are female. This statistic is consistent with similar statistics regarding females seeking alcohol treatment (Carnes, 1983). According to Robert Weiss (2011), an international sex addiction expert, author, educator and founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, 8 to 12% of those seeking sexual addiction treatment are women.
Over the last 30 years multiple nationally recognized researchers have studied, validated and come to agree that sex addiction is indeed a legitimate compulsive disorder (Coleman, 1995; Goodman, 1993, 1998; Irons & Schneider, 1999; Kafka & Hennon, 1999; Money, 1986; Orford, 1978; Schneider, 1991; Schneider & Irons, 1996; Finlayson, Seal & Martin 2001; Goodman 1992.
Statistical support for the prevalence of sex addiction is starting to build. According to Dr. Patrick Carnes, a nationally known speaker and expert on sex addiction issues and recovery, estimates that 5-8% of Americans are sex addicts. The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity estimates that between 6-8% of Americans are addicted to sex. Mary Ann Miller, a psychologist who founded the Chicago chapter of Sexual Addicts Anonymous (SAA), estimates that up to 6% of Americans are (sex) addicts. Robert Weiss, another well-known expert and founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, guesses that 3-5% of the U.S. population suffers from sexual addiction. The Mayo Clinic estimates that 3-6% of adults in the United States are sex addicts. It is estimated that in the U.S. there is between 9,200,000 (3%) and 24,500,000 (8%) individuals who are sexually addicted.
Sexually compulsive behavior has existed at all times in human history. Sexual excess and debauchery have been described and documented at the beginning of written history. Ancient Greeks used the term nymphomania to describe uncontrollable and excessive female sexual behavior. In the 17 century, the legend of Don Juan described a rogue and a libertine hypersexual man who was famous for seducing women. Don Juanism, after Don Juan…has since denoted male hypersexuality (Finlayson, Seal, & Martin 2001).
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