Clinical Care Consultants
Arlington Heights, IL
Unlike alcohol or drug addiction, there is still no formal diagnosis for sex addiction. To make matters worse, female sex and love addiction is similarly not recognized as a bona fide addiction disorder. However, most addiction specialists agree that it has risen to epidemic proportions (R. Weiss, 2011).
The term sex addiction was coined by Patrick Carnes. Carnes first used the term in his 1983 seminal book on the topic: Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction. Carnes is largely responsible for popularizing the study and treatment of sex addiction, as well as establishing a valid and commonly used diagnosis.
Because most statistics are based on sex addicts who seek treatment, statistical representation of this disorder is considered to be low. Women are less likely than a man to seek help for her problem sexual behavior for a variety of reasons - mostly related to shame. (Weiss 2011). Research and treatment fields have directed little attention to women's struggle with this addiction. Other than an early treatment by Charlotte Kasl (author of Women, Sex, and Addiction: A Search for Love and Power) and some writings by Carol Ross and Jennifer Schneider, sex addiction in women has been largely ignored (Feree, 2001).
According to Patrick Carnes, 3% of the total U.S. population is female sex addicts. In other words, of all American sex addicts, 37.5% are female. Carnes' research also indicates that approximately 20% of those seeking help are female. This statistic is consistent with similar statistics regarding females seeking alcohol treatment (Carnes, 1983). According to Robert Weiss (2011), an international sex addiction expert, author, educator and founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, 8 to 12% of those seeking sexual addiction treatment are women.
Over the last 30 years multiple nationally recognized researchers have studied, validated and come to agree that sex addiction is indeed a legitimate compulsive disorder (Coleman, 1995; Goodman, 1993, 1998; Irons & Schneider, 1999; Kafka & Hennon, 1999; Money, 1986; Orford, 1978; Schneider, 1991; Schneider & Irons, 1996; Finlayson, Seal & Martin 2001; Goodman 1992.
Statistical support for the prevalence of sex addiction is starting to build. According to Dr. Patrick Carnes, a nationally known speaker and expert on sex addiction issues and recovery, estimates that 5-8% of Americans are sex addicts. The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity estimates that between 6-8% of Americans are addicted to sex. Mary Ann Miller, a psychologist who founded the Chicago chapter of Sexual Addicts Anonymous (SAA), estimates that up to 6% of Americans are (sex) addicts. Robert Weiss, another well-known expert and founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, guesses that 3-5% of the U.S. population suffers from sexual addiction. The Mayo Clinic estimates that 3-6% of adults in the United States are sex addicts. It is estimated that in the U.S. there is between 9,200,000 (3%) and 24,500,000 (8%) individuals who are sexually addicted.
Sexually compulsive behavior has existed at all times in human history. Sexual excess and debauchery have been described and documented at the beginning of written history. Ancient Greeks used the term nymphomania to describe uncontrollable and excessive female sexual behavior. In the 17 century, the legend of Don Juan described a rogue and a libertine hypersexual man who was famous for seducing women. Don Juanism, after Don Juan"¦has since denoted male hypersexuality (Finlayson, Seal, & Martin 2001).
In 1886 Richard Krafft-Ebbing wrote the seminal work Psychopathia Sexualis, in which he documented cases of pathological hypersexual behavior. In this book Krafft-Ebbing described cases of hypersexual men and women who were powerless over their compulsion to engage in sexual activity. He described this hyper-sexuality as a "dreadful scourge for its victim, for he is in constant danger of violating the laws of the state and of morality, of losing his honor, his freedom, and even his life."
Our societal gender bias significantly affects the accurate statistical representation of female sex addiction. A society that regards male hyper-sexuality in positive terms has created a shameful backdrop and societal prejudice for women. Hypersexual men are commonly considered virile or studs" whereas hypersexual women are considered sluts, whores or nymphomaniacs. These unfair and egregiously incorrect conceptions of sex hyper-sexuality and addiction have marginalized and minimized the seriousness of female sex addiction. Gender bias is also found in addiction-related research. In most addiction studies, females are underreported; underdiagnosed and overlooked (S. O'Hara). For example, the American Medical Association recognized male alcoholism as a disease in 1956; but it was not until the late 1980s that significant findings regarding female alcoholism was represented in research studies.
Sexual addiction in women rarely receives the same research and popular media attention received by men, so it continues to be underreported and minimized. Moreover, media and news coverage seems to cover female and male sex addiction differently. Female sex addicts are often portrayed as manipulative, power hungry, sex crazed and shameless individuals. On the popular VH1 reality series, "Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew (Pinsky)," female sex addicts are mostly porn stars. On the other hand, media reports on male sex addicts include powerful celebrities whose sex drive has led them astray (Tiger Woods, Michael Douglas and David Duchovny). At the end of the day, men seem to remain famous, while the "famous" female sex addicts careers crumble and end in shame and disrespect.
There seems to be a mistaken assumption that sexual addiction is a "one size fits all" disorder. This could not be further from the truth. Female addiction is often misunderstood, incorrectly diagnosed and inappropriately and ineffectively treated. Although female and male addiction shares many similarities, female addiction is distinctly different.
In actuality, sex addiction tends to parallel our society's gender stereotypes. For example, men tend to prefer face-to-face anonymous contact and are more aggressive and dominant. They typically favor sexually explicit chat, cyber-porn and interactive sexual play - virtual and in person. They gravitate toward the voyeuristic forms of sexual behavior, i.e., chronic masturbation, Internet pornography, strip clubs and the use of real-time videos (webcams). The goal for most male sex addicts is to seek sexual stimulation - not the sexually stimulating relationship. To the male addict, the euphoric fix is in the act, not the relationship.
Another gender difference in sex addiction is found in the relational boundaries of the acting out behavior. Men tend to maintain distinct and clear emotional boundaries with the object of their compulsive and lustful desires - not as often seeking a romantic or personal experience. They seek sexual opportunities that come from discreet, anonymous and disconnected hookups. To the typical male sex addict, the relationship is the vehicle by which his lustful obsessions and compulsions are satiated. If there is a relationship, it is often fantasy based - lasting just long enough to satisfy his out-of-control pursuit of sexual contact. For the typical sexually addicted male, at the conclusion of the sexual act - usually at orgasm - he becomes disconnected, disinterested and even repelled by the object of his lust.
It is important to note that females can also look like stereotypical male sex addicts, as males can also look like stereotypical female sex addicts.
Our culture/media encourages women to be sexually provocative and available, while holding them in contempt if they cross the boundary of society-determined rules concerning sexual decency. Male sex addicts are afforded greater tolerance and freedom than females. The belief that women and men are held to different standards of sexual conduct is pervasive in contemporary American society. According to the sexual double standard, men are rewarded and praised for heterosexual sexual contacts, whereas women are derogated and stigmatized for similar behaviors. (Kreager & Staff, 2009)
Sexual double standards date back to earliest recorded history. Biblical archeologists and religion historians point to frequent sexist and misogynist references in religious documents and art. These scholars believe that references to sexism in religious texts were at least partially influenced by patriarchal, tribal, violent and intolerant societies. The sexual double standard also can be traced back to the 13th century during the crusades when a knight required his lady to wear a chastity belt to ensure her sexual fidelity. As hard as it may be to believe, this punishing and humiliating device is still in use today; in 2004, the USA Today reported that a 40-year old British woman set off a security alarm because of her steel chastity belt. This woman said her husband had forced her to wear the device to prevent an extramarital affair while on vacation in Greece.
Yet another historical reference of sexual double standard is illustrated in Nathanial Hawthorne's classic novel,"The Scarlet Letter, which was written in 1850. The main character, Hester Prynne, was placed in prison with her infant daughter for conceiving a child through an adulterous affair. Hester struggled to redeem herself in a society that was harshly judgmental and punishing to females who defied the sexual mores of her time. Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter has become a symbol of modern society's harmful, harsh and punishing sexual double standard.
As a leader in the treatment of sex, cybersex and romance addiction, Clinical Care Consultants is proud to announce its latest venture into the sexual addiction treatment field. CCC will be providing female sexual addiction, romance addiction, and/or love addiction therapy / counseling services. Ross Rosenberg, an expert in sex, love and romance addictions, will be leading the Female Sex Addiction Treatment Team. Included in Clinical Care Consultants Female Sex and Love Addiction Treatment Team are Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT, and Catherine Ness, M.A., LCPC. Our female sex addiction counselors are dedicated and effective therapists who have a deep understanding and mastery of female sex addiction.
For more information about our sex and love addiction services, please visit sex addiction counseling site.