There has been a recent debate over the actual existence of sex addiction. Many wonder if it is just an excuse for bad behavior, or if it’s an actual addiction that is difficult to control.
David Ley, a clinical psychologist who blogs for Psychology Today, just released his book, “The Myth of Sex Addiction,” making clear his stance on the issue. The response from mental health professionals and people who are familiar with sex addiction is mixed.
Nicole Prause, a research scientist for the Mind Research Network, has been working on research associated with sexual compulsivity in both women and men.
“We have completed first study of tolerance in men and women who report problems with sexual compulsivity using measures of brain activity,” Prause said in an email. “We found no evidence that they actually have developed tolerance to sexual stimuli. Does this mean that sexual addiction doesn't exist? Not necessarily, because it depends what you think the essential parts of addiction are.”
She added that in general there is not enough research to suggest the existence or non-existence of sex addiction. As a clinician, she has seen some cases where the label of sex addiction actually helps a couple move on, but it might not be for the correct reasons.
“I have seen couples for whom the sexual ‘addiction’ label was useful in their being able to move past sexual behaviors of a (male or female) partner,” Prause said. “For example, I have seen couples in whom a male partner who had sex with another woman who was not his wife claimed to be sexually addicted. This gave the wife a way to understand his transgression and, while I did not agree that he needed to be in treatment for sex addiction for infidelity, it gave the couple enough compassion for one another to participate in a couple's therapy, for which there was good scientific evidence to support.”
Prause said in general it seems many clinicians are willing to accept the existence of sex addiction and treat it, even though there is not enough research to support its existence, so Ley is unique with this approach and the book that he released.