You’re Addicted to What? | The Humanist

You’re Addicted to What? | The Humanist.

In response to questions such as “Is there such a thing as sex addiction?” and “How should we conceptualize sexual behavior that appears or feels like it’s out of control?” I’m astounded by the number of professionals who collapse into responding, “What does it matter what we call it? The goal is to help these poor people.”

When homosexuality was called a mental illness, it mattered. When women were called frigid or nymphomaniacs or hysterics, it mattered. When a patient is diagnosed as possessed by the devil instead of schizophrenic it clearly matters: it determines the treatment to be used, and who is qualified to administer the treatment. How can people who make their living using words say that it doesn’t matter what you call it?

It also matters what you call it because the model of sexuality is built into the model of disease. In obsessive-compulsive disorder, we don’t say the problem is hand washing, and we don’t send people to hand-washing clinics. But in sex addiction, the problem is sex, and people are sent to sex addiction clinics.

Finally, it matters because calling this behavior an “addiction” validates the idea that these people are out of control. Instead, we need to say that feeling out of control isn’t the same as being out of control. Most “sex addicts” don’t like the consequences of their sexual choices, but they keep making those choices. We have a word for this behavioral pattern—neurosis; and we have a treatment for it—psychotherapy (sometimes supported by pharmaceuticals). The addiction model starts with “we admitted we were powerless.” The therapy model starts with “you’re responsible for your choices; I wonder why you keep doing what gives you what you say you don’t want?”

-Dr. Marty Klein

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