Sex Rehab- Is sex addiction a real addiction?

By • Dec 15th, 2009 • Category: For Couples

Recently I’ve been watching an interesting new show on VH1 called “Sex Rehab“. I watch these online, like I do most shows, since that gives me the opportunity to watch on my own schedule. At any rate, this show has its pros and cons… it is modeled after “Celebrity Rehab”, except focuses on sex addiction rather than alcohol and drug addiction. It does a good job of showing the pain and vulnerability of the pseudo-celebs on the show, but actually does not really address what sex addiction really is, where it comes from, and whether or not the show’s participants were really sex addicts after all or not. There was just an unspoken assumption that everyone there was a “sex addict” who was overpowered by their “illness” and everything they ever did was motivated and informed by same addiction, rather than any other motivations. Everyone was a victim even if nothing particularly traumatic had occurred in their childhood. When nothing obvious was found, Dr. Drew acted as if the individual wasn’t trying hard enough to find something, since it was obvious that something traumatic MUST have happened to trigger their overpowering sex addiction. In one instance, Phil a guitarist who toured with various hair-metal bands, not being able to find a source for his addiction, decided to blame its source on the death of his mother which occurred in his 20s. That’s really as far of a reach as can be humanly imagined. I’m surprised no one blamed their addiction on the death of a pet. In all, I did not see any mention of personal responsibility and accountability, but rather a concerted effort to create a sanctity out of victim-hood. Granted, some of the women on the show were severely abused and molested during childhood, but again based on what was presented on the show, I have to wonder how much of the treatment approach was really helping them.

Some of the people on the show seeking treatment had a mountain of problems, ranging from substance abuse to co-dependency to low self esteem to depression and anxiety, that in most cases I think sex addiction was the least of their problems, if not just a convenient excuse to brush all the other things under the carpet. There is no doubt that most of the participants had trauma issues and self-esteem and intimacy problems as a result, but I would not regard “sex addiction” to be their primary diagnosis.

So what exactly is sex addiction and does it actually exist. Actually, sex addiction is a very controversial concept and its etiology (or origins) is even more controversial. Some professionals regard it as a true addiction, while others view it more akin to an obsessive-compulsive disorder while others see it as a symptom of personality disorder, particularly narcissistic disorder. Most troubling, no one can agree how it is formed. Is it always a case of acting out due to childhood trauma, does it have biological origins, or is it simply a case of an overpowering ego run amok? What isn’t disputable, however is that sex addiction is a power and control issue. In other words, those who are addicted to the act of sex, everything from the seeking of it to seducing targets, is addicted to the power one feels when engaged in the sex act. This is why so many celebrities, from Tiger Woods to Elliot Spitzer act in obsessive and personally damaging ways in regards to sex. When someone is famous, powerful and rich they have the status that women crave after, and so they often have hordes of women throwing themselves at them. All those women only serve to stroke these celebrities’ egos even further and make them feel even more powerful and invincible. Eventually it becomes a nasty habit which threatens to undermine the celebrity’s image and personal life, but by this point the celebrity refuses to stop because they are so attracted to the feelings of power and strength they derive from fawning women. So where is the real addiction here, is it the addiction of sex or the addiction of ego and power? Is it accurate to assume like Dr. Drew does on the show, that Tiger Woods or Elliot Spitzer or countless other pro athletes, musicians and actors whose ego is stroked by dalliances with strange women, that they are all driven by some form of traumatic childhood abuse? Give me a break.

In this sense, it is probably best to differentiate the type of sex addiction that Dr. Drew is referring to, the kind where the individual feels helpless and alone with their self-hatred and low self-esteem and engage in compulsive sex acts in order to gain some control over their emotions and loneliness from the type of sex addiction we see in the headlines- the kind where a powerful individual gets hooked on the feelings of power that their status provides them.  In the case of Sex Rehab, I’m not sure that everyone in the room is speaking the same language.

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