I was recently asked why I want to work with sex addicts, their partners and their families. There is no single or simple answer and as I reflected on the question I found four specific factors and one over-riding principle.
First, the numbers.
In 2011 there were an estimated 9 Million Americans, comprising 3 to 4 percent of the general population that reported compulsive sexual behavior. In 2014 we saw a dramatic increase to upward of 12 million people reporting sex addiction.
Most recently, The National Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity estimated that 6%-8% of Americans are sex addicts, which is 18 million – 24 million people
By the end of 2014 we saw the population in the DFW Metroplex, the fourth-largest metro area in the nation, grow to more than 6.8 million, an increase of nearly 385,000 since 2010. If the NCSA statistics are unchanged that means there is the potential that we have between 408,000 and 544,000 people suffering from the symptoms of sex addiction.
Combine those statistics with the fact that there are fewer than 70 CSAT trained therapists in the same
geographical location, some of whom are associated with residential programs. (CSAT remains the
professional standard for sex addiction treatment.) The problem is obvious: we are facing an ever growing number of people succumbing to sex addiction while available resources that are not keeping pace.
Second, the disease.
Among the galaxy of addictive behaviors, sex addition remains one of the most misunderstood, undiagnosed, untreated and stigmatized of all.
Modern research in the field of sexual addiction is now separating this disorder from many of the common myths and stigmas. Contrary to the way society, the entertainment community, and mass media portrays sexual behaviors, sexual addiction is a serious disorder that involves many complex factors and is a respecter of no particular population or income bracket. The phrase sex addict has been taboo in the common society we live in and reserved for the high-profile, public figures like Charlie Sheen, who has the nickname “Charlie the Machine”, Tiger woods, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn. But what about the average American, can they suffer from sex addiction?
Sex Addiction describes a person that feels a lack of control or restraint concerning their sexual thoughts, urges and behaviors. Their lives are marked by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts along with difficulties with intimacy. It can manifest itself under a variety of behaviors: compulsions with pornography, masturbation, phone sex, cybersex, escorts, prostitutes, meaningless affairs, strip clubs, voyeurism, and exhibitionism to name a few. Untreated, the disease takes over and these behaviors increase along with consequences to relationships (loss of friends and family); health (decrease in vitality and natural immunity, and the increased risk of sexually transmitted disease including HIV/AIDS); work and career; and finances.
Effective treatment of SA is possible for the addict who seeks to recover. The most effective protocol
includes a combination of individual, marital, and group therapy. Key tasks for recovery include breaking through denial, learning about the addiction process, and establishing sobriety. And, like all addictions, SA is a “family” disease, and an effective treatment plan will also provide help for the partners and children affected by the behaviors of the addict.
Fourth, the need for information and advocacy:
Sexual addiction is a condition that impacts countless individuals across the world and it important to increase understanding by distinguishing myth from truth.
For example, men and women, who suffer with compulsive sexual behaviors, share similar characteristics that define their beliefs, decisions, and choices. In fact we are seeing a rise in cases of women who are seeking treatment. We are also seeing younger patients presenting with debilitating problems linked to sexual addiction fostered by readily available internet pornography. And because of the denial and shame associated with sexual behaviors, it is only recently that the reality of sexual addiction has been acknowledged.
Those are the factors, and now for the principal or philosophy behind my decision.
Addiction remains the largest mental and physical health problem facing mankind today. It is estimated that in America along, one in every seven people, about 15% battle one or more addictions, and many think this is a low estimate. Untreated addiction costs the United States alone approximate $560 Billion a year in increased health care costs, crime, and lost productivity.
Then there’s the cost to the family. In 2004, during testimony before the United States Senate, Dr. Jill Manning shared research results that indicate 56 percent of divorce cases involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites. That same year, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, polled 350 divorce attorneys in 2003 where two thirds of them reported that the Internet played a significant role in the divorces, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half such cases. If half of the people divorcing claim pornography as the culprit, that means there are 500,000 marriages annually that are failing due to pornography.
And there’s the obvious pain experienced by the addict. The ravages of addiction destroy self-esteem, confidence, relationships, physical health, and mental acuity, along with moral and spiritual integrity. The person afflicted with the brain disorder we label sex addiction ceases to be an authentic person, loses all sense of direction and purpose, and ultimately, if left untreated, loses life itself.
I know the addict, I know the disease, and what motivates me to work with this population is that I know there is hope and recovery, and I want to be part of the solution.