Sexual Addiction – Excuse or Affliction?

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Henry the VIII: Infidelity or Sexual Addiction? Portrait by Paolo Veronese

How are Compulsions and Addictions Different?

The term “addiction” is not to be found in the DSM-IV, rather it refers to substance dependence and substance abuse (substance being the defining word), with or without physiological dependence.

“Addiction” has been applied to a wide variety of behaviors in recent years, including sexual behavior.

Steven and Allan Sussman point out that compulsions do not involve the higher-order thinking necessary for planning complex behavior such as break-ins, robbery, or prostitution that often support substance abuse.

Compulsions temporarily relieve anxiety, but are not usually experienced as pleasurable, whereas addictive behaviors result in appetite satiation or prevention of the physical discomfort of withdrawal, achieved through purposeful actions aimed at obtaining a substance.

The distorted cognitions that provide the rationale for using the substance are referred to as “stinking thinking” in AA or NA groups.  The Sussmans conclude that the term addiction is not adequately defined to be used as a diagnostic term.

Sex Addiction

Individuals who plead for compassion regarding their sexual behavior outside of their relationship, and seek relief from guilt, will probably continue to describe themselves as addicts – but they would not receive a psychiatric diagnosis as such. Whether or not it is used in divorce court to excuse infidelity depends on expert testimony, and the diligence of lawyers involved.

References:

Hersh, D. and McKenzie, D.  Sex Addiction Epidemic?  No, it’s the Getting-Caught Syndrome. (2012). Insights into Clinical Counselling.  Accessed September 30, 2012.

Sussman, Steve and Sussmand, Alan. Considering the Definition of Addiction. (2011). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Accessed September 30, 2012.

Fong, T.  Understanding and Managing Compulsive Sexual Behaviors (2006). Psychiatry. (Edgmont). Accessed September 30, 2012. 

Paul, S. Top Craziest Laws Still On The Books. (2007). LegalZoom. Accessed September 30, 2012.

Bergstrand, C. & Blevins-Williams, J. Today’s Alternative Marriage Styles:  The Case of Swingers(2000). Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. Accessed September 30, 2012.

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