Sex Addiction is Real – Does Science Agree?
On April 14th, 1994 seven tobacco executives stood before congress and denied that nicotine was addictive or that cigarette smoking had any ill effects on smokers. Even as late as the year 1994 they stood with their hands to the square asserting again that there simply was not enough scientific evidence that their product was addictive.
This group of men with a business background denied the findings of a committee commissioned by the Surgeon General 20 years earlier. This committee was comprised of individuals with backgrounds in medicine, surgery, pharmacology, and statistics. Equally important and maybe more so, we now know that this group of men were hiding the internal documents that confirmed repeatedly the same findings that this committee had found – that their is in fact a causal effect between cigarette smoking and lung cancer
Tobacco executives knew they had a problem with their product. The problem they were fighting behind their closed doors was not how to protect the public, it was how to squelch the truth and mislead the public. They had no desire to bring the truth to the consumer, in fact they were in fear that anyone would bring the truth to the public. This fear was exposed in one uncovered internal document that stated, “…salient problems now facing the cigarette industry”, which includes “increased educational programs to prevent young, non-smokers taking up the practice of smoking.” (Brown and Williamson, 1973). Their most pressing concern 20 years earlier than their day in congress was that the youth would be educated!
As an industry their stance has come a long way. Fast forward another 20 years from that tragic day in congress and the you will find that the Chairman of the Board of Reynold’s now states, “Cigarettes are deadly. They kill people. But at the same time, it’s a legal product” (Wajnert, 2014). They have no more defense. The truth of the matter is that millions will die from this legal product and a very few will make millions from producing it.
Why would I bring up old, well-known news about a cover-up in the cigarette industry? Recently in my own industry, the treatment of those struggling with sexual addiction, groups have begun to attack individuals who self-report as addicts and those of us who help them on their journey into recovery. It appears that they have learned from the tobacco industry how to use deceptive tactics to make erroneous claims. Claims, such as, their is no scientific research that supports sexual addiction or that because the diagnostic manual that clinicians use doesn’t include sexual addiction it must not exist. Neither statement is true; let’s look at the facts on just these two false claims.
What Does Science Say
The fact of the matter is that there is scientific evidence supporting what many clinicians see in their offices, individuals are struggling with a sexual addiction. Based on this scientific evidence, in August of 2011 the American Society for Addiction Medicine (ASAM) updated their previous definition of addiction to include process addictions (food, sex, gambling). This update was a collaborative effort led by Michael Miller, M.D. This group consulted more than 80 addiction and medical experts in the field of addiction. They based their updated definition on scientific evidence based on what we now know about the brain, not just subjective observations of behaviors. ASAM does a terrific job of answering questions about their updated definition. I would encourage everyone to take the time to review the Q & A on their site. Click here to read.
Another mistruth this vocal minority is perpetrating is that sex addiction cannot exist because it is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is what therapists use to bill your insurance. If the condition is not in the DSM, the client cannot receive reimbursement from the insurance company. Qualified therapists learn, usually in their undergraduate career that the DSM is a field manual that clinicians use to diagnose and treat based on observation and interview, because of that it is considered atheoretical. Again, ASAM’s Q & A sheds more clear light on how a process addiction can exist and still be excluded from the DSM.
So, why not just ignore this group and move forward treating individuals struggling with sexual addictions? Because this type of misinformation has the ability to harm individuals, couples and families searching for help and there are many searching for help. One of five anonymous sex addiction recovery groups, SAA, has 40,000 visitors a month to their website. In addition, their office fields 1,000 call per month. The need for SAA 12-step meetings increased from 730 in 2005 to 1716 in 2016 (See attached chart). Based on this information, we can see that tens of thousands of individuals are self-identifying as sexual addictions and searching for help to overcome their unwanted sexual behaviors.
At The Center for Hope and Healing, we counsel individuals struggling with a variety of mental health concerns. In order to give the best treatment available, we need to correctly identify the problem. To do this we listen to our clients, we give them assessments based on solid research, we analyze what they our sharing with us against what we see in their assessments. Then, we move forward with the treatment plan that is best suited for their individual needs. As increasing evidence mounts that process addictions exist, we will continue to move forward as a team to bring our clients the best care available.