“Sex addict, eh? Wish I was that!” you say, winking and jabbing your obnoxious elbow into your friend’s side - the friend who is trying to confide in you that he is, in fact, an actual sex addict. But you know what? You don’t wish you were that, because it’s actually far more serious than just ‘wanting to have a shag often’.
Deborah Schiller is a therapist and director of Pine Grove’s sexual addiction treatment program in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and she’s spoken out about what it means to be a sex addict, in the wake of Harvey Weinstein blaming sex addiction for the sexual assaults he is being accused of. Writing for The Cut, she mentions:
“I’ve never met people who suffer more than these folks. It’s not like we’re going around knocking on doors looking for people. They crawl through the doors asking for help. It’s like torture.”
It’s a serious, debilitating condition, and stretches far further than many people who reckon they’re ‘addicted to sex’, because in actuality, they’re likely not. She continues:
“We have the more classical sex addiction, which is progressive over time — like going from masturbating to porn to calling chat lines to meeting people anonymously — and there’s often trauma in the person’s life. But now we’re seeing young people come in who’ve grown up looking at porn all their lives. They don’t necessarily have trauma or neglect in their childhood.
“There’s no progression. But the people growing up with this porn get addicted right away, and it becomes their lives. We have a guy coming in who said he’s looked at porn every day since he was four years old. When somebody comes in and says — and this is not uncommon — ‘I masturbate six hours a day,’ do you want to call that addiction?”
But how is it treated? Once you’re addicted, how do you stop?
“The first two weeks they get here, the only time patients leave campus is to go to supervised 12-step meetings. During those two weeks they’re really learning tools about how to not objectify people, what you do if you’re sitting there and you’re having fantasies, or euphoric recall, because that’s not okay for them to be out in the world doing those things.
“So we help them to, in a sense, sober up.
“The thing that helps with addicts is to be around another… The big emphasis is on group therapy. We want [them] to have lifetime bonds with one another, so that when [they’re] going to pick up the mouse to look at porn, [they] pick up the phone instead, and [they] call somebody. Many of our patients call two or three peers a day for years after getting out of here.”
However, she mentions that it’s important to make a distinction between sex addicts and those that commit sexual assault:
“Rape is a violent assault. It’s not about sex. It’s about dominance. It’s like beating somebody up. That’s not sex addiction. Now, someone might be a sex addict with other compulsive sexual behaviors and look at porn for hours and hours a day. A person who has more assaultive behaviors could have an underlying untreated sexual addiction, but we don’t see offending behaviors and sexual addiction in the same snapshot.”
Either way, it’s clear it’s not what your mate down the pub reckons he has (most likely anyway), and if he does, it’s probably best he goes and sees a professional. Instead of you, an unprofessional.
If you reckon you might actually be in the grip of sexual addiction, you can find a bunch of info and help right over here.
(Images: Pablo Heimplatz / Rex)