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Wednesday, September 22. 2010
How much sex is a person "supposed" to want? I don't think anybody can answer that question.
Short video: Is sex addiction a disease?
One of my (many) problems with Psychiatry's DSM is one of making "diseases" out of things I might either view as symptoms, or simply as behaviors which deviate from some shrinks' view of "normal."
When it comes to movie stars and the like (as the link mentions), it's another matter. Many of them seem to live like kids in a candy shop, relatively insulated from consequences. When handsome men or lovely beauties are throwing themselves at you all day long, what's a person to do? Especially after a few drinks, a few lines of coke, etc.
Psychiatry is able to justify viewing substance addictions as diseases because, for many people, continuous substance abuse can lead to an alteration of the reward pathways in the brain, resulting in a drive which is challenging to resist.
With sex, however, those reward pathways are already built in to the system as one of the strongest animal instincts we have to grapple with in life.
As usual, I must leave this post at mid-thought, but I will pose the question to our readers:
Is "Sex Addiction" a disease? Or is the idea a "diseasification" of decadent people with lousy self-control and poor capacity for delayed gratification?
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I say it IS a disease, because it sure gave me a hell of a headache ... or maybe it was that 5-iron.
I believe that sex CAN become an obsession/compulsion -- like an eating disorder, washing your hands, cleaning your house, shopping, gambling, or substance abuse (which in turn becomes physically addictive).
Obsessive/compulsive disorders don't care much which behavior they latch on to. It only depends on the individual as to where the vulnerabilities lie.
So, any hints on how I can give my wife the "cleaning your house" disorder?
I doubt that this is an "or" question. I look at some of my own moral failings and I can point to reasons I wish justified them, but then I realize that I am only excusing what I know was wrong. No disease there.
As D points out, sexual acting out may be a symptom or a disease process, as some forms of compulsive behavior are. Perhaps the test is this: if the person does it because of the enjoyment, it's a choice. If a person does it even though it no longer provides enjoyment (or maybe never did), we may have a disease process.
I believe it is still a choice although the reasons for making that choice may have changed.
You're correct about the choice element. If the action has really moved beyond choice, it's some brand of psychosis, I think. Or how would a psychiatrist define that -- a behavior that is genuinely beyond the person's control, even if it doesn't involve hallucinations?
To which I would add that a desire to "stray" or play the field does not necessarily translate into a sex addiction. A serial philanderer is not necessarily a sex addict; he/she is more a philandering addict.
I am writing as a middle-aged male who suffered from sexual compulsive acting out for the better part of a decade in my mid 20s through mid 30s. As mentioned here in the comments it was not "enjoyable" and something I didn't "want" to do, but it was a compulsive act - I became disassociated when I went through the process and was horrified at what I did after the fact, but I kept doing it anyway.
In retrospect I do not see it as a "disease" in itself, but as noted above a type of OCD, in my case coupled with anxiety-depression and intimacy (not sex) issues.
It took a few instances of really scaring myself at what I did before I turned to therapy, which worked, but NOT by addressing "sex addiction" - it addressed my intimacy concerns, forming relationships, and being honest with myself and needs with a partner.
That, PLUS simply getting older and finding my own natural sex drive taking a natural decline, seems to have allowed me to take control and now think of this as something from my past, but I think if I were treated for "sex addiction" there wouldn't have been any progress since that wasn't the problem. It was a symptom.
I’m one of those throwback who reject the entire concept of addiction.
There can be dependence, physiological or psychological. That dependence can be managed well or poorly. Any behavior can be assessed by the question I learned from my therapist: “How does it serve you?”
What do you get from it (and what do you think you get)? What does it cost (and what costs are you blind to)? Answer those and decide if you want act differently.
So, no, there is no such thing as sex addiction. The act itself does not create dependence. Sex, if a problem, is a symptom or mask for some other issue.
I think there are some very strong impulses which drive one to do one thing or another. That such impulses might grow more urgent with denial, as one tries to overcome the impulse, but ultimately I see it as a natural aspect to life. The directions it goes and the actions it inspires might even repulse those engaged in them, but I think when a leap is made to addiction, they have to first explain how, while remaining human, that impulse goes away with denial.
In other words, for me, addiction is something that can be overcome with time, distance, and/or a change in behavior, but a natural drive only gets more urgent under such conditions.
As we learn more about the role that various chemicals, hormones and physical structures play in the brain we can start to see where what for some people never rises to the level of choice--for instance someone who has a combination of hormone levels, cultural inputs and brain structures such that sex is completely uninteresting for them--versus someone who is built such that they really do "lust in their heart" (Carter you pussy), but have other tools (strong executive function http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_functions for example) or a strong religious background which gives them the ability to say no. At the far end take someone with a combination of high hormone levels, cultural inputs, and say physical damage to the frontal lobes. Maybe for them the choice is MUCH MUCH harder.
Or more obvious--I can easily say no to beer. Don't like the stuff. I like cider, so it's tougher, but still doable. If I've already had 6 or 7, what's another one hurt? Much harder tsill.
Depends on what is willing and available,why all the deep thought ,after all it can be one of the most fun things in life.It is only a problem if you ain't getting some.
Sex Addiction as a disease is Bogus. That's what marriage is all about. Everything about being married is a sexual experience. Most people don't or don't realize what it's all about.
I think sex is strictly related to age. I remember when young and in my prime sex was something the wife and I did pretty near all night long. Now with a whole bunch of years behind me what I used to do all night takes all night to do.
True addiction, IMHO, would cause illness if the addict does not get the fix. Physical symptoms can be relieved only by a dose of the drug. Most of what we call addiction is probably not physical; the desire for the fix is strong, and distress is evident, but it's psychological in origin.
I recall reading that the scientists who first synthesized heroin did so to replace morphine, which had addicted many people. To determine whether heroin would cause addiction, the pharmacologists injected themselves repeatedly over a consideerable time, and then stopped totally. No one reported symptoms of addiction. Those men were simply not vulnerable to addiction, and whether that is genetic, chemical or psychological would be nice to know. It has been suggested that the personality type and social profile of a research scientist militate against addictive behaviors: patient, uninterested in extreme experiences, fascinated by difficult problems rather than threatened by them, emotionally stable, vocationally secure, socially accepted, and so on.
More research should be done on the placebo effect -- some astounding things have been reported in that area, and they suggest strongly that a mind-body link is of primary importance in determining the effects of drugs. Purely physical addiction may be an extremely rare phenomenon. If that turns out to be true, then sex addiction will probably be rebranded.
It seems to me that careful interviews of former tobacco users would shed a lot of light on addiction, mental attitudes, strategies for drug treatment, and the management of compulsive sexual behavior. There are millions of these people; is anyone is studying them?
Opiates do produce physical addiction but it is milder than the "drug education" programs of the 1960s and 1970s told us. People who become physically dependent, but who used opiates medically and not for psychological thrills or escapism, can usually throw off the physical dependence fairly easily (I didn't say easily).
The best description of "addiction" I've ever heard came from a CSI: Miami script. "I wasn't afraid I was going to die. I was afraid I was going to die without ever doing crank again."