SEX ADDICTION SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT EXPLAINED
ATLANTA, Georgia (January 21, 2010)
Recent reports that golfer Tiger Woods has entered a rehabilitation center for treatment of sex addiction has sparked much interest in the symptoms and treatment of this disorder. Bill Herring, LCSW, a local psychotherapist who specializes in the treatment of sex addiction, reports that sex addiction actually affects millions of people nationwide, including thousands in the Atlanta area.
Herring explains that sex addiction isn’t defined by the frequency of sexual behavior or the types of behavior a person engages in. “Sex addiction is more than just liking sex a lot. It’s being unable to stop engaging in secret and unhealthy sexual activity despite a sincere desire to do so.” Even the awareness of negative consequences is not enough to cause a true sex addict to stop. The eventual results can be devastating, including damage to a person’s health, job and relationships as well as a loss of integrity, trust, time and self-esteem.
Sex addiction is almost always accompanied by deep levels of secrecy and deception, Herring explains. “This increases a person’s isolation and increasingly distorted thinking. Eventually sexual excitement becomes an all-purpose ‘high’ that intensifies, soothes, rewards or numbs almost any situation of feeling.” The easy availability of pornography and sexual intrigue on the Internet causes many otherwise moral and loving people to get caught in a downward spiral of uncontrolled sexual obsession.
Sex addiction affects people from all walks of life, all of whom generally feel great shame at their inability to stop. Promises and remorse, no matter how sincere, usually aren’t enough to keep a person from returning to the ‘false intimacy’ of compulsive sexual behavior. This can be particularly devastating to spouses and others who find their trust shattered by being betrayed, often repeatedly.
Specialized treatment for sexually addictive behavior is increasingly available, according to Herring. Individual counseling can help reduce shame, increase coping skills, integrate sexuality with integrity and true intimacy, and identify the root causes for the behavior. Couples counseling can also be extremely useful in healing damaged relationships. Support groups, often modeled on the approach pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous, are a confidential and no-cost resource for guidance, support and accountability. There are over 50 of these meetings in the Atlanta area, according to Herring . A few people find that their behavior is best addressed in specialized treatment centers, such as the one Woods recently entered into.
The recent stories about Woods, as well as other well-known figures such as actor David Duchovny, who admitted checking into a treatment facility for sex addiction last year, are helping to increase public awareness and acceptance of this disorder. “Until recently, sex addction was never discussed except in crude jokes, much less admitted. People are slowly coming to understand what an epidemic this really is.”