[Two Pronged] Do my urges mean I'm a sex addict?
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I'm an avid fan of yours since I can remember and I have been supporting your advocacy of helping people understand sex and been watching Sex Talk. My dream is to become like you someday. But for the mean time, may I consult you about my case?
Can I consider myself a sex addict? I've been wanting sex almost every day, my mind is full of sexual fantasies, and I've been meeting some men for this but of course I'm practicing safe sex. It all started after me and my husband separated. Before, my desires are so suppressed. Since he learned about my past, being molested by some guys when I was young, he became disgusted with me and has rarely had sex with me. Ten years of marriage but I can only count how many times we had sex.
So after our separation, my journey began.
The problem is, I don't easily get satisfied. It feels like I'm looking for something I'm not sure of.
I really hope you can help me.
You ask if wanting sex every day and having sexual fantasies make you a sex addict. Well, Alfred Charles Kinsey, author of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, pioneer of sex research and founder of the Institute for Sex Research, once said that a nymphomaniac, as sex addicts were previously labeled, was “someone who has more sex than you do," suggesting that the term was highly subjective. The latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not list sex addiction as a diagnosable condition for lack of empirical evidence but the World Health Organization does include compulsive sexual behavior in its International Classification of Diseases.
Whatever the merits of classification or non-classification, compulsive sexual behavior is characterized by the basic Freudian test: does it interfere with your ability to work, maintain relationships and complete your daily activities? Based on what you have told us – lots of fantasies and meeting some men – you do not seem to have this problem, despite your self-diagnosis.
It seems perfectly reasonable that after a 10 year marriage that was virtually sexless and required you to suppress your desires, you want to indulge and enjoy your sexuality. It is as though you had been on a strict diet for 10 years and are now able to eat anything you wish. Frankly, the bar was set so low that almost any regular sexual activity must now make you feel like an addict but in fact you are just rejoining the vast majority of humanity.
Your other issue is less easily dealt with. You say you are not easily satisfied but give no details. If it is merely a question of inept partners, expertise will solve that problem. If however you have complex fantasies that you need to act out in order to achieve satisfaction, then perhaps these are worth a discussion with a mental health professional. Please write again if you wish to investigate this further.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. While there are many judgmental mental health “professionals” who would like nothing more than to label you an addict, there is nothing — nothing at all — that suggest you might actually be one.
Let me explain:
Medically, addictions must meet 4 criteria:
- Tolerance. The more you use, the more you need.
- Craving. Addicts experience such intense desire for their substance that they organize their lives around obtaining and using it.
- Withdrawal. If addicts stop using, they suffer debilitating symptoms.
- Increasingly severe consequences. Addicts risk job loss, family destruction, severe illness, and death.
But the vast majority of people called “sex addicts” don’t meet these criteria…especially since the top “sex addiction” involves masturbating to porn.
But think about it a minute, Claire: being socially stigmatized, debilitating as it may be, is far less insidious than the personal shame you experienced when your husband, who swore to be by your side for better or for worse” quickly dropped you for something you had no control over (being molested by guys when you were young).
No shame on you, but shame on him, for “blaming the victim and slut shaming her” instead of trying to help her. Relentless discrimination can drive people crazy.
IMHO, I think Mr Baer’s analysis is spot on except in one particular area where it may need a wider perspective.
“You say you are not easily satisfied…If it is merely a question of inept partners, expertise will solve that problem. If however you have complex fantasies that you need to act out in order to achieve satisfaction..…”
But this problem need not be focused on sexuality alone, Claire, but on other aspects of your behavior and/or psyche. It may be more related to your past, rather than to your present or imagined future.
Forgive me for being a tad intrusive here, BUT is there anything else that makes you think you might be a sex addict? Because clearly, these behaviors do not warrant such a description — and accusation even — from you or any other sentient being. Should you want to explore your ready acceptance of being a sex addict and your past/present, please feel free to write us once more here in Two Pronged. I have a feeling we can help you a lot with this issue.
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email email@example.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.