Sexual Health  Sex & Sex Education  Sex, Media & Culture  Sexual Health  Mental Health 

Is Sex Addiction a Real Thing?

Ailsa Keppie  |  Feb 17 2021

Is Sex Addiction a Real Thing?

I have to say that questioning whether sex addiction was a real thing was only recently brought to my attention. I have, along with most of us, become accustomed to the idea that ‘addictions’ are afflictions that a person can be treated for and receive help with as a therapeutic intervention.

We have mostly come to a societal agreement that alcoholism or drug addiction is something that calls for support and healing, rather than condemnation of the person themselves.

Historically, addiction literally means to devote oneself to something. In modern use, addiction is defined as a physiological dependence on a substance, which comes from the chronic use of the substance. Currently, we are also broadening this definition, according to David Ley in “The Myth of Sex Addiction”. There are in our understanding three areas of behavior affected by addiction:

  1. Managing and responding to motivation or reward.
  2. Regulation of our emotions.
  3. The ability to restrict one’s impulses.

These three areas are something I feel as a society we have overlooked in our understanding of ‘growing up’. I see how we have come to expect instant results and rewards, we have idolized the ups and downs of drama-filled relationships in the media, and we don’t feel we should have to restrict our desires or wants at all.

Has this led to us becoming more prone to ‘addictive’ behaviors, especially around sex?

Perhaps yes.

Does this make sex addiction an actual disease?

I’m not sure.

Just what should we expect of ourselves in regards to self-restraint, responsibility, and the ability to choose a wise course of action?

In my mind, this is important to reckon with.

“When you accept the victim or addict label, you are saying that you are powerless over your problems, and therefore have no responsibility for them; because you are not responsible, you do not possess the power to change…On the contrary, most people can achieve complete recovery only if they accept the responsibility and power of their own choices.”

Stan Katz and Aimee Liu “The Codependency Conspiracy”

The other glaring issue with the sex addiction theory is the fact that it pathologizes wanting a lot of sex. This implies that wanting sex is bad on some level. I do believe that there are people for whom sex has become addictive and negatively impacts their lives, but is this really an addiction on par with say - heroin? Or is this an impulse or urge that could have more complex underlying factors?

I have still come to any sort of judgment about whether sex addiction is a thing or not, but I do know that there is so much more to learn and explore human sexuality.

Bringing compassion and kindness along with curiosity can be a powerful lens with which to open our thoughts and feelings around sex. This non-judgemental stance is something we attempt to hold with all people in our work as Somatic Sex Educators.

If you are looking for a safe space to explore your own desires and wants, I am happy to offer a free half-hour consult to see how we might work together.

Contact me through my website



Originally posted on Pleasure for Health.

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