Tuesday 20 March 2018

You're not a sex addict, you're a cheater

Claiming to be hooked is just a way for egomaniacal stars to avoid taking responsibility for their illicit romps, writes Eamon Keane

Eamon Keane

HELP! I'm an sex addict! I just had to have a romp with the neighbour's wife last night. Couldn't help it, you see. It's a disease. Poor oul Ryan Giggs has it awful bad. Probably picked it up from Russell Brand or Michael Douglas. It's an awful dose of a thing with no cure in sight.

In fact sex addiction is possibly the greatest load of tosh ever peddled in the field of New Age psychology.

A sex addict is, to use the official addiction jargon, 'powerless' over his urges. In the traditional model of 12-step programmes, the first step is to admit you have no control over the addiction. So sex addicts just can't help it. Let's look at this in the context of other addictions.

Sexual activity does activate the reward centres in the brain by increasing dopamine levels. Dopamine is the craving chemical, producing the feel-good factor in areas like the prefrontal cortex. This process also occurs when drugs are introduced into the system. But the same effect is also produced when we eat or drink water. So that in itself is not enough to warrant calling sexual activity an addictive process.

Rather than addiction, what we are talking about is poor decision making. However, just because you woke up beside Paudge from office supplies after the Xmas party doesn't make you a sex addict.

Poor impulse control is also a factor. However, there is always a choice implicit in our actions. Frequently drink is involved. Remember the high-profile case of the English businesswoman who had oral sex on a flight with a man after drinking champagne? That activity, while destructive for her and her family, does not make her a sex addict.

There may also be an element of obsessive compulsive behaviour for some people. This applies particularly to masturbation. Some well-known people have suffered public humiliation because of this. But does it make them sex addicts?

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There are others who are borderline psychotic or sociopathic personalities. They behave without thinking about the consequences for others. Into this category you can put the person who perpetually sexually harasses women when drunk. They always deny their behaviour and its impact. However, this does not render them addicts.

I believe that power plays a part for some. There are certain men and women who have multiple sexual partners because it reinforces their feelings of power. Somewhere lies an insecurity and sex masks or defends against those feelings.

Psychotherapist and author Scott Peck spoke of 'delaying gratification' as a requisite for mental health. Controlling sexual impulses is difficult. But psychologically we need to invent something that permits us to avoid the pain of having to delay the gratification, or, worse still, take responsibility for it. Hence sexual addiction is the new buzzword.

The addict tag also deprives people of that most important of human constructs -- choice. To pretend you are 'powerless' over sexual behaviour is to undermine your capacity to choose. Additionally, the use of the word 'disease' is an insult to those who suffer genuine illnesses.

Besides, what exactly is too much sex for an addict? I mean, are there a certain predefined number of orgasms that addicts are allowed? Or is it like AA, which is a genuine recovery programme, where people are asked not to indulge at all?

Years ago I did a post-grad course in counselling in UCC. I had been working with drug and alcohol addicts and I saw people go through withdrawal symptoms. There was also clear evidence of a 'tolerance' pathway. People needed more of the drug just to get the same high. I do not see any evidence of either in so-called 'sex addiction'.

This is not to deny the devastating effects of uncontrolled sexual activity. From the suburban housewife who contracts HIV, to the man who loses his marriage, lives can and are destroyed.

But it's about choice. Giggs doesn't need treatment for sexual addiction. He does need to stop scoring. Simple really. Whether it's banking or bonking, people don't want to take responsibility for their actions, do they?

Sunday Independent

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