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Viewpoint – Sex: The Struggle for Sexual Sobriety

Submitted by on November 16, 2012 – 10:39 pmNo Comment

Bottled up.

Most people have some idea of what an addiction is, but sex doesn’t seem to be one that first comes to mind.

When Steve McQueen’s Shame, a film about a sex addict living in New York, hit the cinema earlier this year, it provoked a lot of controversy. It seems that sex addiction is still a taboo subject that most of us have never have been confronted with.

Medical organisations have been debating whether “sex addiction” really is a condition, or whether it is just an excuse for a high sex drive. However, things might be about to change. In the US, sex addiction has recently been considered to be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a directory listing all mental conditions.

In the UK on the other hand, this is not the case, if this reply to me from a representative of the Primary Care Trust, which deals with just one London borough, is anything to go by. He said: “Given the level of sexual ill health in Hackney, sex ‘addiction’, as you have termed it, is simply not a priority for us in public health terms.” This came as a surprise, considering the NHS website has a help page geared at “sex addiction and love addiction”.

Even accurate UK statistics are hard to come by. However, MyAddiction.com, which refers to itself as a an “online addiction and recovery resource”, mentions US statistics from the Society of the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), showing the conservative estimate to be between 3 to 5 percent of the country’s population suffering from sexual compulsion disorders.

Many of the organisations approached did not want to talk to the press. Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) were happy to talk to me. Chris, not his real name, offered to be interviewed by phone. He made it absolutely clear that although he attends SAA meetings and goes to therapy, he was speaking purely from an individual point of view and not representing SAA or any other organisation. All I know about his personal details is that he is a 54-year-old British man. We had a very engaging conversation in which I gained an insight into the life of a man who has recovered from his addiction, thanks to a 12-step process the SAA offers.

He told me about the moment he realised he was an addict, and how having an honest and open life changed him. Chris said: “I have actually been taking that secret behavior and secret persona out into a supportive atmosphere. The double life thing is something that I think is very characteristic of those that are still struggling with a sex addiction. There was a stage when I thought that I was not doing anything wrong at all. An addiction is something that is harmful, but even though you know it is, you can’t stop it.”  

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