I regularly read the various scholarly journals and popular press on articles related to addiction. Psychology Today is regularly included in my studies. It is disconcerting to me that the major contributor at the magazine on articles related to sex addiction doesn’t believe that it is a bona fide diagnosis. To those who are suffering from this disorder, and looking for help, this can be a very dangerous message.
Dr. David Ley is the author of “The Myth of Sex Addiction”, a controversial book that is based on the premise that Sex Addiction, unlike substance abuse, is not a disease. It would not be fair of me to review the book at this time, because I have not read it. (I have requested a copy through my library, and will post specifically on the book after I do read it)
It is fair game for me to comment on an article that Dr. Ley posted on Psychology Today, titled, “The Profit in Sex Addiction”. where he views sex addition as being a diagnosis created largely for the gain of for-profit rehabilitation centers. He argues that because leaders in the field of sex addiction, like Patrick Carnes and Steven Arteburn make a living off of their work, that they are not objective advocates for the field of sex addiction.
Dr. Ley neglects to mention that he doesn’t do his own work out of the goodness of his heart, in fact, he is considered by the media as one of the “go to” people for the contrarian view that sex addiction is not a valid diagnosis.
The thesis that sex addiction does not exist because there are people making a profit off it is flawed and dangerous. Sex addiction does exist, without a doubt to all of those people who regularly attend 12 Step Meetings like those of SAA and SA. Denying that this is a problem denies people a chance at salvaging lives that were destroyed by inappropriate sexual conduct. Although these people are powerless themselves over their sexual compulsions, many have effectively changed their lives with the help of the group, their sponsors, and a Higher Power.
Many of those who are addicted need help, and those with the financial means may chose ways to replace or supplement the benefits they receive from being part of a 12 Step Program. Like substance addiction, some of these people enter for-profit programs. That a program is for-profit does not necessarily make it bad (it doesn’t necessarily make it good, however).
It’s not correct to write off sex addiction as fake because there are some charlatans out there. Nor is it right to write off sex addiction because some people who aren’t addicts hide behind the diagnosis to justify inappropriate behavior. There are many otherwise good people who struggle with this problem, and many who are able to change their lives with help. I sincerely hope that the thoughts of those like Dr. Ley. dissuade those out there who need help from getting it.
More work needs to be done in this field. As of yet, there are neurological studies that deal primarily with sex addiction. The arguments that pro sex-addiction therapists give regarding addiction and brain chemistry (affecting dopamine levels. oxytocin levels, and pathway changes) have not been studied directly with sexual addiction, because this research is not being funded.
What we do have are lots and lots of people, who, despite their own self will, are unable to manage their sexual behaviors. Lives are lost, marriages are destroyed, and financial hardship is endured because of sex addiction.
We also have lots and lots of people who find treatment works for them, with a 12 step program, and/or other kinds of therapy. Let’s keep that door open, until the science proves otherwise. I’m almost certain it won’t.