December 11, 2009
Posted: 01:49 PM ET
Dr. Drew Pinsky is host of VH-1's "Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew" and is a frequent guest on Larry King Live. In this LKL Web Exclusive, Dr. Drew talks about Sex Addiction - how to diagnose it, deal with it, and eventually beat it.
When I was approached to create a program about Sex Addiction I knew that this would be new territory for much of the television audience. I also understood that this disorder had become truly commonplace in this country and the stories of the suffering of the afflicted needed to be told.
Not only that, but it is time that we begin to take account of the lack of health in our interpersonal lives, and how profoundly childhood trauma has come to bear on our relationships and choices.
According to the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health a “conservative estimate of those who could meet the criteria for sexual addiction and compulsivity is that of about 3 – 5% of the United States population.” It is unfortunately too easy to make light of this disorder and my hope is by showing the profound pain that underpins the problem this disorder can begin to be taken seriously.
Sex Addiction is really no different than any other addictive process. There is a loss of control over the behaviors that do not stop, even when the individual wishes they would. And there are mounting consequences as the result of the behavior, yet it still does not abate. Consequences meaning untoward effects upon important areas of a person’s life – relationships, health, work or school; financial or legal status. And very frequently the sex addict can identify traumatic experiences in childhood such as physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect and most often sexual abuse. There is evidence that some of the same brain systems involved in chemical addiction are responsible for the distortions of drive that manifest in sexual addiction.
I am frequently asked, “How do you know if you are a sex addict?” Dr. Patrick Carnes was one of first professionals to work with sexually addicted people and he designed the Sex Addiction Screening Test (SAST). The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health offers screening tests for this condition. CLICK HERE to find out more.
These screening tests are not conclusive but they are suggestive and you may want to seek formal evaluation by a professional trained in this area of you are concerned that you meet criteria for this problem. The treatment for sexual addiction can be very arduous. Dr Carnes believes that it can take generally 3-5 years to completely treat this disorder. It takes a great deal of work, often as you see from the Sex Rehab program, requiring looking at material that is quite painful.
If you believe you may be involved with a Sex Addict you, too, will have to be prepared to do a good deal of work if that relationship is going to survive. We generally tell couples not make any impulsive decisions when sex addiction emerges as a problem.
We often find that when couples commit to one another and if both partners are willing to participate in treatment, the outcome can be surprisingly good. If you are the partner of a sex addict, you must remember that there is a reason you were attracted to this person. And whatever those issues might be they will carry over to your next relationship as well.
The media is replete with stories about sexual transgressions that have many of us shaking our heads. When many of these cases are examined it is often the case that Sex Addiction is a prominent feature. Here once again it is very easy for the public to decry the transgressions as merely the excesses of wealth and power but the fact is that it is often the behavior of someone who is not well.
Yes, indeed, the behavior may have continued had the individual not been caught. But the same can be said of any addiction. After all it is usually the family who brings in a drug addict once their addiction comes to light. And when the family fails to successfully intervene it is other consequences that bring the drug addict to treatment. Whether it is the courts because of legal consequences, or the medical system because the addict falls physically ill from their using, there is always something that brings the addiction out of the shadows. The very same is true of sexual addiction.
Finally I want to point out how courageous the individuals were whom viewers are following on VH1’s Sex Rehab. Many of them are doing very well in their recovery and I want to extend my deepest gratitude to them for allowing the viewing public to learn from their experiences. It was a privilege to serve them in the initial phases of their treatment. They serve as in inspiration to us all.
From around the web
Go Behind The Scenes
LARRY KING LIVE'S Emmy-winning Senior Executive Producer Wendy Walker knows what it takes to make a great story.
With anecdotes, provocative emails, scandals, show transcripts and insights into Walker's long working relationship with Larry King, her new book PRODUCER issues readers an invitation to listen in on the most intriguing conversations on the planet.