Sex Addiction: What the Tiger Woods Story Forces Us to Confront

From Tiger Woods to Lifetime movies, there has been no small amount of conjecture about the slippery concept known as ‘sex addiction." 
But does such a condition really exist?

Finding out requires sweeping aside the presumption,
dismissiveness, and shame that clouds the subject.

The phenomenon didn’t have a name until 1983 when
psychologist Patrick Carnes published the influential book, Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual
. Prior to that, the behavior was described as “hyper-sexual
arousal.” In short, the term “sex addiction” is used to describe a pattern of
frequent, progressive, and often secret sexual behavior, even when the behavior
jeopardizes a person’s time, employment, financial stability, relationships,
and reputation. While often conflated with adultery, sex addiction does not
necessarily mean cheating—or even intercourse. Rather, it can manifest as a
dependency on pornography, masturbation, phone or Internet sex, and other
related behavior.

People who struggle with sex addictions are of varying ages,
genders, and sexual orientations. The Society for the Advancement of Sexual
Health estimates that 3 to 5 percent of the American population wrestles with
addictive or compulsive sexual activity.

Re-framing compulsive sexual behavior has led the
therapeutic community to look at it through the lens of addiction for the last
twenty years, noting how the behavior activates the same pleasure centers of
the brain, releasing the same chemicals as drug use does, and providing the
addict with the same kind of euphoric high, and numbed escapism that addictive
substances cause.

Maureen Canning treats sex addiction both in her private
practice and as a consultant at The Meadows, a recovery center in Arizona.
She said the therapeutic response to sexual addiction parallels that of
chemical addiction. Its diagnosis uses the same assessment tool, gauging, for
example, whether the behavior progresses over time and has negative
consequences on the person’s life.

If an addiction is assessed, Canning said, the treatment she
provides hinges on listening.

“We listen to what they’ve been doing, how they’ve been
doing it,” Canning said. “We listen for the story around their childhood, how
they were influenced sexually, both overtly and covertly. Sometimes they were
abused, or exposed to something traumatic.”

She added that treatment guides people into stabilizing
their lives—they often begin recovery while in chaotic circumstances—and then
helping the individual learn to manage their feelings, set boundaries, and find
healthy coping mechanism. The process can be painful.

“For many sex addicts, they’ve been acting out for most of
their lives and (treatment) is like a death—this was the one thing they could
count on to make them feel good,” Canning said.

She also noted that there is an anorexic cycle to sex
addiction, where an individual compulsively avoids sexuality. Others, she said,
especially women, can become addicted to the process of seduction rather than
the sex per se.

Especially with the advent of the Internet, there have been
more and more diagnoses of sex addiction.

“We called (the internet) the crack cocaine of sex
addiction,” Canning said. “It’s affordable, accessible, and anonymous. People
who have addictions are likely to experience them more intensely, and those who
might not have had them (without the internet) develop them.”

Dean W., who asked that only his first name and last initial
be used in this story, said that he was addicted to pornography and phone sex
for more than ten years; he continues to be actively engaged in therapy. While
he spent 30 to 40 hours a week acting out, he said, sex addiction is “much,
much easier to conceal” than other addictions—which is why very successful
people, such as CEOS, can find themselves struggling with it, and why he
believes the disease is still not well known.

“When I’ve told
people, they think it’s funny, not true, or that I’m a pervert,” Dean said.
“The biggest thing that hurts as a person is that (sex addiction) is so

To underscore the reality of his situation, Dean points out
to the addictive patterns that played out in his life—twelve to fourteen hours
of looking at pornography at a time, he said, and extended phone sex binges.
One of his phone sex binges lasted 36 hours, in which Dean neither ate nor
slept, and which cost him $2000. In all, Dean estimates that he spent more than
$150,000 on phone sex over the course of his addiction.

The addictive pattern, Dean said, was a way to escape
feelings of low self worth and loneliness. These deep feelings had roots in
both his parents and his grandfather being alcoholics; his brother has a
gambling problem. Dean said that he was emotionally, physically, and sexually
abused as a child. His steep investment in his therapy—he has been through many
intensive programs and has been in a weekly program for more than two years,
most of which is not covered by his health insurance—is in part an effort to
ensure that his own child is not affected by his addiction.

Elle can attest to the pain that sexual addiction can cause
a family. The Canadian mother, who asked that her real name not be used, never
heard of sex addiction until her husband confessed to her that he was seeking
recovery from it.

“I was floored. (Sex addiction) …  what the hell was that?” Elle said. “I worried that it meant
he was a pervert. The very next morning (after he told me about it), we had a
conference call with his counselor who helps set up treatment programs for sex
addiction. Thankfully he laid out the facts, assured me it was treatable,
explained to me that my husband was doing very well and desperately wanted to
put his past behind him.”

That past involved betrayal that Elle said nearly destroyed
her. What she initially thought was one affair turned out to be a pattern of
secrecy that was difficult for her to accept.

“I had a very hard time with it. Felt very, very lonely.
Felt duped. Ripped off,” Elle said. “My perfect world wasn’t so perfect after

Elle and her husband didn’t discuss the details of the sex
addiction with their young kids, but Elle said that the process of recovery has
made it possible for her husband to reconnect with his whole family by spending
more time together; his addiction had led him to detach from the family.
Recovery, she said, “involves a lot of soul-searching, a lot of reparations,
total disclosure, total transparency.”

There remains, however, a strong segment of the population
that believes that sex addiction is merely a manufactured phenomenon. John
Wilder is one of them. A retired Baptist minister from Newcastle, Indiana who
serves as a marriage and relationship coach, Wilder contends that sex addiction
is so much “pop psychology.” A true addiction is distinguished by a chemical
dependence, resulting in painful physical withdrawal, he argues. While many
people have obsessive-compulsive patterns of sexuality, often out of a need to
be soothed, Wilder said, it is misleading to call it an addiction.

“There’s simply no physical (withdrawal) component with
so-called sex addiction,” Wilder said.

In the most recent version of the American Psychiatric
Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM-IV), published in 2000, “sex addiction” is
not listed as a diagnosis

Nonetheless, Canning said that in the last ten years, public
awareness about sex addiction has developed—though it has a long way to go. In
no small part, this is because American culture itself is sex-addicted, she

“As a sex-addicted culture, we carry a lot of sexual shame,”
Canning said. “We haven’t really been able to accept it, we like to act out, and
we objectify people sexually. This all reinforces the belief that sex is the
most powerful thing.”

It is a point where she and Wilder actually seem to agree.

“This society teaches people, especially girls, that sex is
a nasty, dirty thing,” Wilder said. “Sex is a great gift from God, but you
never see that taught in churches or Sunday school. … Most of us get stuck in
an adolescent mode: ‘Hurry up, get it
over with before someone catches us
.’ … There’s very poor communication
about sex.

Canning added that, “oftentimes as a culture, we confuse
intimacy for intensity.

“We think the goal is to have the most intense kind of
experience—that’s where the high is, the power, the excitement. We need to
shift our paradigm of what healthy sexual experience is. When we make someone
an object, we depersonalize him or her. When we depersonalize them, there can’t
be intimacy.”

Both Dean and Elle were able to relate to the idea of objectification.

“I learned (in therapy), even though its still difficult,
not to objectify women,” Dean said. “Objectification in our culture is just

Elle said that she was particularly surprised about one
woman her husband had an affair with because she was someone he typically would
find unappealing. But as she learned about addictive behavior, she realized
that this woman was ‘safe’ because her husband knew he’d never have an
emotional connection with her.

“Sex addicts usually—not always but usually—seek out
partners they can objectify. That are really nothing more than sexual
partners,” Elle said. “My husband feels a lot of shame that he treated people
that way—that he didn’t even really see them as human beings, but as objects.”

Elle added: “Believe me, there’s nothing sexy or passionate
or exciting about (sex addiction). It’s generally two sick people feeding off
each other.” 

The public reaction to Tiger Woods’ personal struggles has
ignited this sex-addicted culture. The top athlete is reported to have sought
treatment for sex addiction at a recovery center in Arizona.

Canning said that while the publicity of his treatment
provides an opportunity for discussion, which can ultimately normalize struggles
with sex addiction, she’d like to see the conversation about it be more
educated—and less joking.

“I think if we are more educated about it, there’s less
shame for an individual to reach out for resources and help when they need it,”
she said.

In his support communities, where he connects with about forty
people each week who are seeking treatment for sex addiction, Dean said that
there is almost unanimous hope that Woods will speak out about his experience.

“There’s a glimmer of hope (in the therapy groups) and a
sense of understanding,” Dean said. 
“I hope he gets the help he needs.”

Dean said one of the most important things that could happen
for sex addiction would be the emergence of a spokesperson like Tiger Woods, as
well as active support from the National Institute of Health and coverage from health
insurance companies. He added, though, that he knows that recovery takes many
years of reducing shame and guilt—and he suspects that Woods will probably not
go beyond making a public statement indicating, “everything’s taken care of.”

Elle too hopes that the conversation about Woods leads to
more public understanding. While emphasizing that there’s no clear confirmation
that Woods is indeed receiving treatment for sex addiction, she admits that the
signs seem to indicate that it’s so.

“I would hope that (the Woods story) might bring sex
addiction to the public arena and perhaps educate more people, particularly
those who know their sexual behavior is causing them pain, but don’t have a
name or understanding of it,” Elle said. “And I would hope that maybe, just
maybe, we might become more compassionate about it.”

Elle added, “My husband isn’t the least surprised that his
background is similar to Tiger Woods. The domineering father who demanded
perfection, the high pressure career… the false sense of invincibility. … I
ache for (Woods’) wife, who has to be witness to her pain being played out on
the world stage.”


  • Sexual Addicts Anonymous, which models the
    Twelve Steps principles of recovery from Alcoholics Anonymous, offers a network
    of in-person meetings around the world—single gender or mixed, open or
    closed—as well as tele-meetings and online meetings.
  • The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health is
    a membership organization founded in 1987 “dedicated specifically to helping those who suffer from out of control
    sexual behavior.”
  • Dean uses
    Safe Eyes for Internet access. Costing $40-50 a year, Safe Eyes is one among
    several tools that blocks sexually explicit websites. Dean, who struggled
    particularly with pornography, said it has “helped a lot.” He added that he
    looks forward to the day when sex addiction is no longer so taboo that people
    feel like they can’t have it installed on their work computers.

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  • zencat

    As a substance abuse counselor, I’m very familiar with addictions and related conditions. Many conditions that are called addictions clearly are not; they are compulsions or other types of psychological disorders. Sexual behaviors, while they may activate pleasure centers in the brain, simply are not true addictions in that there is no physiological dependence on sex. In other words, no on gets the DT’s or dies from a period of celibacy. If that were so, becoming a priest would be suicidal and not an act of religious piety.


    I’m disturbed about the "industry" that has grown up around pathologizing certain socially unacceptable sexual behaviors as "sexual addiction." This is pop psychology at its worst. The whole thrust (pardon the pun) of the sexual addictions field seems to be geared toward maintaining that sexuality is only non-addictive in terms of a long term, hetrosexual, monogamous relationship. Anything else can be treated at some horribly expensive clinic, a la Tiger Woods. Viola – a happily adjusted monogamous married man in just six weeks time! What a miracle! Especially for his badly damage PR machine…


    Womens’ sexual expression really fares badly when defined as addictive; women are sex addicts if they are having too much sex outside of marriage or having it without some sort of nebulously defined intimacy. Even more ridicules is the assertion that if a woman is not having sex, she may be a sexual anorexic and therefore a sex addict. What a degrading and contradictory concept! It seems a woman can’t win for losing in the sexual addictions arena.


    Sexual addictions counseling does a great deal of shaming about common sexual transgressions such as infidelity or promiscuity while refusing to explore more obvious and much more likely causes of serious sexual compulsions. A "sex addict" may have anger issues, may be unhappily married, ill suited to monogamy, have been sexually abused, etc. In short, "sex addict" is a term most Victorians would have embraced unabashedly because it is so narrowly moralistic. Sexual addictions counseling has no legitimate place in contemporary counseling venues unless the goal is to support a narrowly defined, upper middle class version of human sexuality.Again, sexual behaviors can be harmful compulsions but they are not truly addictions.

  • meg

    Somehow I have no sympathy whatsoever for these people, wealthy celebrity Tiger Woods – whom I am very sick of hearing about and now he gets written about here – and this guy Dean. This behavior originates in that belief of entitlement and superiority, that many or all of the other sexually objectifying behaviors originate in. That is all it is. The objectification of women and the viewing and evaluating of the female as a means to an end (getting off), the absolute fascination with pornography even – or especially – the degrading stuff, the disconnect with females as if they are not real – not really other people… all this sounds like what many of the boys I went to school with, from elementary to college, had as their mindset. Now it is validated as some kind of "addiction" with the seeming blessing of Reproductive Health Reality Check??? It’s far too common to be an addiction. It is culture and socialization. Blaming others (parents) for bringing you up badly so that you have these problems (when other people raised worse than you do NOT), "not being able to quit or control" behaviors, betraying the trust of people who love you so you can get a piece on the side, the distance and disconnect from family – this is far too common to be addiction. This is immaturity. And selfishness. Addiction? Okay so the guy f___’s someone, or several someones, he doesn’t even like. He gets off. He sees her as some "thing" to use to get himself off. Pleasure centers in his brain get stimmed. The same thing happens when he looks at porn. He likes the feeling so he does these things all the time. Because he CAN. Because he can get away with it. Because he is a gifted liar and deceiver for his wife. Maybe simply because he HAS a wife in the first place and is secure in that – there is someone who belongs to him. His life must be so boring…poor, poor, poor man. Now he has to go to counseling to learn not to be a jerk to his family because he suddenly cares more about them than about ass. There are people who objectify animals, and get a thrill from killing them. You can bet pleasure centers in their brains are activated, they are "acting out" or whatever. They may or may not have good excuses as to why they do it but mostly it comes down to FUN. There are rich kids who shoplift for the thrill. The thrill is… getting away with it because they can. Being bad because it’s fun. Rich kids motives are different for shoplifting than poor kids. You do no one any justice when you say these things are far more complex than they actually are. This one is relatively simple. Bigotry towards the opposite sex, cavalier and just plain indifferent attitudes towards wives and families, entitlement for being a man (reinforced darn near everywhere in a lot of media and elsewhere in culture). Now Tiger Woods case… come on the man is a celebrity. Women threw themselves at him. It goes with the territory of being a celebrity. In the loftiness of his celebrity, he was going to turn down a nice piece of ass when there was so much to be had? From a willing consenting woman? We have to hear about him all the time now BECAUSE WE HAD THIS MEDIA IMAGE OF HIM AS THIS PERFECT GUY now destroyed. He is a celebrity living the celebrity’s life and fulfilling that role, andd in this he is really no better or worse than most, just did not keep his private life private enough and got caught…and embarrassed his wife.

  • heather-corinna

    Great comments and so well spoken.  In absolute agreement (like, well, most people who work in sexuality/sexology).


    Good piece too, Anna: not sure where you land on this (since your journalistic skills so beat mine, so you often don’t show your hand per your own opinion like I do!), but I’d agree with zencat.  In short, I think we can talk about the attitudes, feelings and behaviours of sexual compulsivity and address them very well not only without calling them addiction, but do so better when we don’t.  I have to confess that my feelings are often that those calling it addiction who make their living in doing so do in part because of the impact (including economic and media impact) that term tends to have.  That may not be fair of me with all who use it, but there it is.

  • deanw

    zencat: ok, let’s not call it "sex addiction".  but however we decide to call or wordsmith it, some folks have a legitimate issue that can jeopardize that person’s time, employment, financial stability, relationships, and/or reputation.  i wanted to stop.  i hated myself for what i was doing.  after the act out, i felt shame, guilt, fear, embarrassment, and sadness.  one might say, "well, then don’t do it again".  I didn’t want to do it again!  But I kept doing it.  finally, after realizing what the "problem", "compulsion", "issue", "disease", "perversion", "addiction", what have you was…I got help. and the help, helped.

  • deanw

    meg, i don’t want sympathy.  i shared my story to offer a "reality check" for folks that ARE suffering from this "problem".  in recovery, you learn about your past, grieve about it, and then move on.  there is no blaming, just learning about how the actions of others may have affected one’s self.  there are many misunderstandings, opinions, biases, and "blushes" when it comes to talking about sex, that I’m glad that authors like Anna are stepping up to shed light on this disease/issue that still is "in the shadows".  think of it this way Meg: imagine for the next 16 to 18 years you live with a man (or a woman) that puts you down, calls you names, intimidates you, almost daily…for 16 to 18 years.  after the end of those years, you finally leave this person and start living in a different country.  how do you think your self-esteem, attitudes towards people (men, women), trust levels would be?  i share that example because many folks think that childhood was "so long ago" or they say "i was just a child", etc.  but, if something similar happened in your adulthood, it would be devastating.  now, think about how a child feels after growing up in an abusive environment for 16 to 18 years and then "escapes" off to college.  i don’t ask for sympathy, but i do ask for understanding.

  • zencat

    I’m happy to hear that the help helped.  And, if you re-read my comment, I state that some people do have serious sexual compulsions that negatively impact their lives.  However, it isn’t mere "wordsmithing" to disagree with the pop psychology label of "sex addict."  It speaks to core issues of how counselors/therapists deal with serious issues in client’s lives.  Sexual addiction counselors are generally involved with a certain viewpoint that grossly over simplifies complex behaviors and therefore generally glosses over the real issues instead of solving them.  It is also an inherently a sexist construct that harms both sexes, although female sexuality bares the brunt of it. Merely labeling a person a "sex addict" and providing treatment within this narrow context is a recipe for eventual failure.  Nobody wants that.

  • meg

    It happens to a lot of us.

  • robson

    Rob S.

    A fine article Anna; well done, and as far as I’m concerned, as a recovering person from what I call “sex addiction,” very accurate indeed. I am 80 years old and have been in Sex Addict Anonymous for 20 years.
    It’s always interesting to see the verbose effluvium emanating from those who have differing opinions about an issue. And very soon it seems to degrade itself from the “issue” to persons, personalities, personal bias, and rhetoric that does little to bring light upon the subject at hand.
    Any mention of the word “sex” brings angst to most of the human community. Repression of reality, by the use of reason, seems to be the order of the day.
    I’ve found that most of those who holler loudest, and longest, may have some issues of their own. Like I did for years and years; it takes one to know one perhaps.
    Until the human race begins to use reason to bring knowledge, and hopefully, wisdom, to who we really are as lving beings, and what makes us “tick,” I aver we’ll pass to our children the same inability to think. And we’ll keep them in the world of fantasy, covering neatly the family secrets of generations, as well as the use of any science which could, if allowed, rid us of the stench of ignorance, and the rantings of the self proclaimed “experts.”
    So to those whose rants are long and tedious, and filled with little but opprobrium, seek some wisdom, beginning with reason.
    And to Mr. Wilder, the retired minister: Now that you are retired, perhaps you have time to use some reason to ascertain the validity of those fantasies you’ve been spreading during your active tenure. Maybe reality will put a different spin on your assertions about the universe, and those of us in it.
    Life is for us, the living, let’s make it peaceful for all, and support each other in our need. Truly, it’s the only one we’ll have; lets’ recover together.
    And yes, sex addiction is real. A pathological relationship to a “substance,” person, or behavior, that has life threatening consequences, just ask me…

  • wildorchid

    Many sexologists and professional sex therapists don’t believe in sex addiction. They acknowledge that some people experience sexual compulsion but the etiology of their behavior is very different than when it comes to substance abuse.
    I suggest reading dr Marty Klein’s critique of the concept of “sexual addiction”.
    The whole “sex addiction” campaign harms two kinds of people. Those who use sex to act out because of psychological conditions and wounds – they don’t get treatment for the cause, only learn to hide the symptoms. The other kind is perfectly healthy people who have enough self-doubt and sexual shame to believe that there is something wrong with them just because they wank three times a day.

  • meg

    Dean, it is brave and generous of you to share your story here, and I can’t imagine that it was easy for you, knowing you would face the opinions of people like me. The world at times is short on understanding, not that I haven’t given you mine. I have understood you about as well as I can. I have a lot of “understanding” to do; survivors of child abuse, sexual abuse and assault, domestic violence,and the consequences of all these things… what little I have is for them. I guess I just do not have all that much left over for grown adults who make bad or self-centered choices, sometimes at someone else’s expense, and then develop patterns of behavior that govern their lives.

  • crowepps

     I have a lot of "understanding" to do; survivors of child abuse, sexual abuse and assault, domestic violence,and the consequences of all these things…what little I have is for them. I guess I just do not have all that much left over for grown adults who make bad or self-centered choices

    The problem there is that once you do understand the damage that is done to people who have been affected by child abuse, sexual abuse and assault, and domestic violence, it gives you some insight into why grown adults who have suffered those traumas may make bad or self-centered choices.


    If they deserve understanding and compassion at the time the trauma happened, to insist that they are fully responsible for any bad choices which result or that using ineffective, self-destructive means of escaping their pain is ‘self-centered’ implies that once the trauma has ended the understanding and compassion end and they should be able to shrug off the effects and just ‘get over it’.

  • saltyc

    I disagree with zencat that addiction needs to have a physiologic component, because the psychological component of addiction is the most powerful and hardest to overcome. Consider cocaine: yes there is withdrawal, but the physical symptoms wear off within a day, it’s the need to get high that keeps cocain addicts coming back. You could say well it’s physical because the depression of a cocaine addict in withdrawal is the consequence of over-excited brain chemistry that now is flat due to no stimulation, but consider gambling addiction: They also feel depressed and anxious if they are cut off from their addiction, due to overstimulated brain chemistry that is now flat. But I don’t think you’d say gambling can be addictive either?


    Also, I wonder what you, as a drug addiction counselor, think is narrow and simplistic about the addiction model. Would drug abuse counselors perhaps have a better success rate if they saw their clients as having compulsive behavior issues rather than addiction?

  • crowepps

    It seems to me that what they’re doing is dividing not by whether or not there is a physiological component but whether the change in brain chemistry is caused by an external or internal source.


    If the brain chemistry change is caused by an external source like cocaine, alcohol, etc., then it’s an ‘addiction’ to that substance and addiction treatment based on avoiding the substance may be effective.


    If the change is caused by using a pattern of behavior to boost an internal source of a naturally occurring brain chemical to get a high, adrenaline, testosterone, etc., then they don’t believe treatment found to be effective for ‘addiction’ will work because an internal, naturally occurring source cannot be avoided.


    The question of the effectiveness of the current paradigm of treatment for ‘addiction’ itself is a more difficult question.  Old and perhaps outdated information states:

    In 1998, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration funded a study about rates of recovery for different drugs. The two drugs where relapse rates were extremely high were alcohol and heroin–86 percent and over 90 percent respectively. Cocaine has a relapse rate of 55 percent, while crack (a form of cocaine) has a much higher relapse rate of 84 percent. The highest rates of recovery are to be found among inhalants and hallucinogens, where only about 40 percent will relapse within the five year frame. For all narcotics taken together, including legal pain pills that are abused, the relapse rate is 69 percent.

    The reasons identified are:

    Major rehabilitation communities such as Sober Place have identified five reasons for the failure of drug treatment programs. These include a lack of long-term planning, the refusal to see the underlying psychological causes of addiction, the absence of coping skills, remaining in unhealthy relationships and low self-esteem.

    I would assume that the plans of treatment now used are much more effective than 20 years ago, and that the five issues that contribute to relapse are now dealt with in those plans, but it seems to me like dealing with those five root causes would be equally effective whether the source of the brain chemistry changes was internal or external.  As a matter of fact, it’s hard to think of any type of unhealthy living choices which wouldn’t be improved by dealing with them.

  • zencat

    Substance abuse withdrawal is far different than the psychological depression and anxiety created when an individual attempts to alter compulsive behaviors.  I believe that you(Salty C) misunderstand how chemical dependency alters the brain chemistry.  The need to get high is physiologically part of the withdrawal process. With some chemicals, the acute withdrawal phase appears short, but neurological damage remains, hence chasing the high.  If the definition of addiction is broadened to include anything that makes some one uncomfortable when he is unable to behave in the way he sees fit, then we have a nation of overgrown toddlers on our collective hands.  This renders it useless as treatment model for a very serious problem.  A snit fit because there is no chocolate about is far different from a meth head killing someone for their valuables. Substance abuse counselors have long recognized that clients have co-existing behavioral issues along with addiction issues – there is a strong correlation.  And yes, there is a much higher success rate when counselors treat each issue properly instead of saying "oh, well, just an addict -just send ’em to NA, GA, AA, etc."  Look up "Dual diagnosis": that will give you a clearer idea of what I’m saying.

  • saltyc

    Yes, very interesting, your points too.

  • saltyc

    I don’t think anyone here is broadening addiction to mean anything that makes someone uncomfortable when he’s unable to behave in a way he sees fit. What I’m arguing is that it over-emphasizes the physiological aspect if you make that the definition of addiction.

    Even with the physiologic component, addicts are still making choices. Cocaine addicts will adhere to certain norms for instance not taking more than their share when sharing with others, etc, which indicates that there is quite a lot of behavior and culture governing addiction than looking too closely at physiology would indicate.

    Also I don’t know  about the chasing of the high being due mostly or all to neurological damage rather than cultural-behavioral explanations, I’d like to see the studies on that. I don’t think I’m alone in not understanding the ways chemicals alter brain function long-term. Perhaps you have better science on that.

    As for your "meth head" (your term not mine) murderer,

    People do get driven to extremes to satisfy their cravings for addictions other than drugs, for instance love addiction. Look up Scarsdale diet doctor. ;-)

  • zencat

    Well, choices are a difficult thing when the neurological areas involved in making those choices are not functioning. As for murderous jealousy, that is a well known psychological occurrence – not an addictive “love.” See Shakespeare. I don’t argue that sub cultural norms don’t reinforce addictive behaviors; they do. I’m merely saying that there is a huge difference between substance abuse and a “sexual addiction.” Once again, in sexual addiction, this primarily an emotional/psychological disorder. Very different animal and that is my point. And yes, I do have access to better information about the processes involved in addiction than most. Trust me, if it were as simple as “making choices” the addict’s addiction would be easily ended by the horrendous consequences many addicts suffer from their abuse. If it were simply about choices, I’d be out of work and thrilled to death about it. Stated flat out and speaking to the point of this article, sexual addiction is not a true addiction in any sense of the word. It is a compulsion. period.

  • daredevil

    I think on the Tiger Woods issue, if he did have an affair with one of Gloria Allred’s clients, as stated today, and he played her for that many years, he needs to come clean and apologize to her. I have to agree with Allred somewhat there. Yes, her client was wrong to carry out an affair with a married man. But still, that does not mean the feelings were not there for him within her.

    I don’t care she is a porn star, as some are using against her. (Yes, I do find it immoral, and it also hurts her physically, sexually, spiritually, psychologically, etc.) At the end of the day, she is still a flesh and blood human being who made a mistake of getting into an affair with a man who made her believe he loved her those years. It is easy for folks to say no sympathy for her since she cheated with someone she knew she was married. But that does not change the fact that if what was said was true, he played with her feelings and used and threw her away, it looks like.

    Don’t know who is telling the truth here. But if what she said is true, then I have to wonder if he did it to other women.

    If so, he needs to be a man about it- and owned up to it. Yes, the first person he wronged is his wife, then his family. And those mistresses were wrong to get into affairs with him. But if he is the one who pursued them actively, as it seems, then he is more wrong than them, and he also wronged them, too, in that regards. So, Tiger, be a man, and apologize for 1) leading them into wrongdoing with him, 2) wasting their time and energy pursuing false hopes with him, and 3) breaking ties with them in terms of relationships but still owning that they are less to blame then he.

  • daredevil

    And yes, if he can, make some amends with the other women, if his actions ruined them in some way.

  • daredevil

    There is a term in the Bible for addictions: idolatry.

    And all of us are guilty of some form of addiction. It does not have to be sex. It could be other things.

    I can’t judge Woods for his failures there but I can hope he do the right thing out of this and right some wrongs and mend some fences.

  • saltyc

    I was hoping you’d have something more substantial on scientific evidence of the neurophysiological difference btw drug addiction after other biological withdrawal effects have passed and gambling or other behavioral addiction, other than "trust me, I have better information than you do." You don’t even know me.


    To say that a behavioral addiction is simple or to claim that I am saying it’s easy to change persistent and damaging behavior is itself extremely simplistic. To say that something would be easy to quit doing if there weren’t a physiological withdrawal is absurd. many people can’t stop bad behavior that is not drug addiction. And I don’t see how citing Shakespear means that love can’t be an addiction.From my own experience and from living life I know that it’s the behavioral-psychological side of drug addiction that is the hardest to overcome and I think I’ve said that.


  • meg

    We all are responsible as adults. And I am not implying that compassion ends. I am simply implying that MY compassion ends somewhere, and that I have more understanding to give to the people to whom things are done and the consequences of what gets done to them, than to the people who do the things to them. For example Do I have to be overwhelmingly compassionate to every rapist, or bully or thief when it’s the people they raped or bullied or stole from who have to live with what has been done to them – and the doers of these things only really live with it if/when they get CAUGHT? There can be compassion for what led them to be this way… but the responsibility is still there. Man I wish you hadn’t done it but you did. And here we are. Our guy Dean, above, is taking responsibility, in a huge way if he did not get caught and came out and ‘confessed’ to his wife … but he is saying it is “this thing” that controls him. An addiction. Perhaps as a society we are turning to the addiction model for “treating” this problem because we have not yet developed a better way for this specific range of behaviors and the addiction model seems like the best possible way now. And 50% of children abused DO NOT repeat what was done to them They choose not to.

  • meg

    When confronted with fame and fortune, and then all these beautiful women who admired him as a famous man and clearly wanted to be close to him and have sex with him, he was way out of his element. He probably did like each and every one of them. Perhaps it would have been more honest of him if he had just only used each one of them and not even liked them at all, or thought of them at all, or had these ongoing ‘relationships’ with them. Perhaps it would have been more honest of him to use them for a time or two and then throw them away afterwards. For now he is sort of owning up to it, and doing an okay job compared to other famous guys who have created the same problems in their lives.

  • wendy-banks

    "And to Mr. Wilder, the retired minister: Now that you are retired, perhaps you have time to use some reason to ascertain the validity of those fantasies you’ve been spreading during your active tenure."

    Sic em, Robson!


    You know I used to hate gays (part of my up-bringing) untill I realised what I was so angry about– I’m bi… And even though I may not choose to act on that (I still prefer to chase males — although I may look at girls once and a while). Now, I support gay rights. I took me a lot of work on myself and the shit I went through as a kid (alcoholic mother) to become the sane adult pink-haired-weirdo goth I am today. Sure, working on yourself is very hard, but to mis-quote the Peace Corp "It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love"

    Good luck to all those who recover and thrive.

  • daredevil

    “Perhaps it would have been more honest of him to use them for a time or two and then throw them away afterwards.”

    That is where it bothers me the most about it all- if that’s the case then Tiger really played with their hearts, feelings, emotions, etc. Granted, they were immoral to have an affair with him being a married man. But if any of them love him, and we all know love can be blind and can lead folks to do things they would not otherwise do, it makes his actions more reprehensible.

  • anon2010

    I feel moved to respond to this issue. I am a 67-year-old woman who is a recovering sex, love and relationship addict. I first discovered SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) in 1993 and it has saved my life. I strongly feel that the major reason sex addiction is treated so lightly or denied altogether is because it is so all pervasive that people are not even aware of its existence. In my opinion S L and R addiction is the basis for all of the other addictions. It is not just about sex: S L and R addiction is about all of our relationships. And where did we first learn about relationships? In infancy and in our formative years.

    Zencat feels that only drugs qualify as addictions, but I started with addictions to food and reading in childhood. My mother used to say of me, “She always has her nose in a book.” Reading was one way I used to escape the craziness going on in my household, and the battering I was receiving.

    There are process addictions, such as work and gambling. An addiction is anything that a person “uses” to fill the emptiness within and to escape pain.

    Sex and love addiction can be as subtle as two people in a lifetime marriage situation using each other as a crutch to fill each other’s needs instead of being whole people who are complementing each other or as blatant as a man who kills his partner out of his dysfunctional rage. It encompasses and affects every relationship in one’s life, not just those that are sexual.

    Blame is not necessary to recover, in fact, blame takes away one’s power, as then one is expecting the other to change and make things right. In my very dysfunctional family, I am the only recovering person. How can I recover if I do not look at the reality of the situation? However, by placing blame I remove the opportunity for my own change and recovery. For me at least, this is one of the hardest parts of recovery. Growing up, I was fed a steady diet of finger-pointing.

    Zencat feels that only addiction to drugs is life threatening. If he could meet Don (not his real name, of course), a man I met at my first SLAA meeting, he would feel differently. Don was a gay pedophile addicted to dangerous sexual practices such as hanging. The courage he displayed in overcoming his addictions on a daily basis was inspiring.

    Certainly my promiscuity endangered my life as well. I now realize that my promiscuity was an attempt to avoid intimacy, and I’ve now reversed the pendulum. Hopefully one day I will have a viable relationship.

    I am so glad that Tiger Woods is bringing sex addiction to the forefront. Sometimes it takes a celebrity to open people’s eyes. I find it interesting that, as much as he is condemned for his promiscuity, his efforts to change and heal his sex addiction have garnered even more criticism.

  • crowepps

    So, Tiger, be a man, and apologize for 1) leading them into wrongdoing with him, 2) wasting their time and energy pursuing false hopes with him, and 3) breaking ties with them in terms of relationships but still owning that they are less to blame then he.

    I just don’t see that "they are less to blame than he".  They are not cattle following blindly into the pasture with the bull.  They knew he was married. That alone should have told them their choices were wrong and that their hopes were false.


    Blaming him for the stupidity of their actions based on their protestations that they had "feelings" is as illogical as those men who protest "the woman tempted me".  Seems to me everybody involved should accept their own portion of the blame, and it would be a great favor to the rest of the country if they could all do it somewhere other than the media.

  • rinam

    Saying that sex addiction isn’t technically an addiction doesn’t seem to make it any less so. I’m not a clinician, and the term “addict” to describe the sexual behavior exhibited by the men in the article seems pretty accurate.


    Zencat said:

    “Sexual behaviors, while they may activate pleasure centers in the brain, simply are not true addictions in that there is no physiological dependence on sex. In other words, no on gets the DT’s or dies from a period of celibacy. If that were so, becoming a priest would be suicidal and not an act of religious piety.”


    Of course someone who is addicted to sex won’t go through withdrawals if they always have access to it. What would withdrawals be like for a drug addict if they pretty much always had access to the drug?


    Meg said:
    “Do I have to be overwhelmingly compassionate to every rapist, or bully or thief when it’s the people they raped or bullied or stole from who have to live with what has been done to them – and the doers of these things only really live with it if/when they get CAUGHT? “


    Who asked you to feel sorry about rapists, bullies, and thiefs? The article is about sex addiction.



    “And 50% of children abused DO NOT repeat what was done to them They choose not to”


    But no one is talking about sex addicts abusing children.


    It seems like there are many people making sweeping judgments, and stating opinions, about this issue without actually knowing much about it; to do so is to create a breeding ground of ignorance.