Is It Sex Addiction? What's Wrong With These Men?!

Love, Heartbreak

When celebrities get in trouble for sexual misconduct and infidelity, we are fascinated.

Men behaving badly are in the news regularly. We are riveted by the stories of Anthony Weiner, former governor  and San Diego mayor Bob Filner. These public figures create spectacular media sensations when their actions become exposed. When the famous are exposed they attract headlines as well as our fascination, think of Tiger Woods or Eliot Spitzer or Mark Sanford  or Kobe Bryant or Bill Clinton or Arnold Schwarzenegger. This type of drama goes on in private too, causing pain and heartache to thousands of families out of the public eye.

As I watch the coverage on TV, the question everyone repeats is, “Why?”  It is unfathomable to most why such successful men with so much to lose would take the risks they do. People assume there is logic involved or look for a train of thought that allows these very successful people to take the actions that lead to such public humiliation. They are looking in the wrong place. Logic and thinking has nothing to do with it. Not even sex drive is at the core of it . An addiction to danger and thrill seeking lies at the heart of this behavior.




A recently published research study on sex addiction attracted a great deal of attention as it undercuts the theory that compulsive sexual behavior is an “addiction.” The study is certainly interesting and bears repeating but one study is not sufficient to disprove the observation and experiences of many working in this area. Researchers find that sexually compulsive behavior, like gambling, eating disorders and other behaviors that are engaged in repetitively and destructively parallel chemical addictions in their force and ability to destroy lives.

A common question is, “How could they be so stupid, didn’t they know they would get caught?” It’s when emotion and drive overtakes reason that behavior is viewed as compulsive or addictive. Reason is not powerful enough to overcome the urges which control these men any more than a compulsive handwasher can use reason or evidence to help them reduce their behavior.


Why did Mark Sanford say he was on the Appalachian Trail?

Why did Anthony Weiner allow himself to be interviewed by People Magazine to announce that he was cured or say at a press conference after being exposed that his sexual misconduct is “in the past.” 


Addicts lie to themselves and to others constantly. Have you ever known an alcoholic? They will say, “I’m going to stop…I don’t drink that’s not that bad…I’m not an alcoholic”.  Alcoholism and drug addiction are the most well-known forms of addiction and most of us either know someone suffering from alcoholism or feel familiar with it following the trials of Lindsay Lohan or other famous sufferers.  The mental gymnastics engaged in by addicts are beyond the comprehension of people who don’t experience compulsions.  Addicts convince themselves that the behavior isn’t that harmful, that they can stop any time they want, that others will forgive or excuse them, that it won’t ruin their relationships or careers or finances even when this result is already occurring. They truly believe what they say-at least some of the time. Self-hatred and remorse may be a part of the picture and can encourage loved ones to stay involved and supportive but often the compulsion is much more powerful than guilt.


Part of the public image rehabilitation for the famous is always a stint in therapy or an in-patient program. Treatment centers and therapists for sexually compulsive behavior are growing in number. Therapy can certainly improve the odds for a better outcome but is not yet a guarantee or a panacea. 

Studies of recovery rates for alcoholism are estimated at about 40%. This statistic is on a par with rates of recovery from other serious diseases such as heart disease or cancer but means that many will still struggle.  Sexual compulsivity is deeply shameful and not often admitted by those who suffer so good research studies on outcome are not available but if we consider it an addiction, the 40% rate is probably a fair estimate. So yes, therapy can be greatly beneficial, but when a public figure says, “I’ve been in therapy” that does not mean the problem is over or solved. As those who participate in organizations like Sexaholics Anonymous or Sex Addicts Anonymous will report, overcoming sexual compulsions can be a difficult and lifelong struggle. It’s definitely not a “one and done” deal.

The public shock and revelations parallel what the not so famous go through with their families and loved ones. Pain and trauma are inflicted on those who believed that the behavior didn’t exist or was gone. With these public figures our shock and fascination is directly related to the level of admiration we previously felt for a charismatic political figure, a star athlete or a handsome movie star.

For more on this issue read Tiger Woods-Infidelity Or Sex Addiction.

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