There are now more than 315 million people living in the United States and, according to some estimates, more than 12 million of them may be sex addicts.
Sexual addiction diagnoses used to be focused on 40- and 50-year-old men, but now females represent more than 20 percent. Ten years ago, there were fewer than 100 therapists treating sexual addiction in the United States; today the number tops 1,500. Also, dozens of rehabilitation centers now advertise sexual addiction programs; yet, only a few years ago, these were few and far between.
Most of us envision sex addicts as weird-looking men who frequent X-rated movie theaters and hang out in dirty bookstores. They were portrayed as trench coat-wearing naked dirty old men flashing strangers on the street. But now grandfathers are sexting and watching porn at the same time their adolescent grandkids are doing the same – sometimes in the next room.
Dr. Patrick Carnes, author of such bestsellers as “Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction” and “In the Shadows of the Net,” is considered a top expert in the field of sex addiction. He says two-thirds of teenagers are watching pornography while they do their homework.
So what gives? Are people having more sex or are they just accessing it more behind closed doors and on the Internet? Is there a sexual revolution or is it just sexual evolution? The answer is yes to both, creating the perfect environment for sex addicts. Easy access means more opportunities to say yes and do so immediately.
The fact is online porn is not only easily accessible, but free, too. Just click the box that says you are over 18 years old – even if you aren’t. Want to be a porn star overnight? All you need is a web cam.
More than 40 million people in the United States access more than 4 million porn sites, according to the watchdog Internet Filter Software Review. It is this nonstop access and exposure to sex that not only triggers those with a heightened susceptibility to sexual addiction but also encourages using such sex-related drugs as crystal meth. This has devastated the gay community and there are no signs its impact will lessen in the future.
Now let’s take a look at our smartphones. There are a number of GPS-browsing “dating” apps: All you have to do is ask (and many times when you don’t ask) to have a picture of someone’s dick sent to you. When you learn he’s only 750 feet away and eager, you can hook up right away. An hour later, you say goodbye and on your way home you can arrange to hook up with someone in the apartment building next to yours. You got to love GPS.
Of course, surfing porn sites will not make you a sex addict. Yet, if you allow it to overpower you, it can take over your life. Isn’t that what addiction really is? The inability to control urges even if you try to ignore them.
Ninety-seven percent of sex addicts report their sexual activities result in the loss of self-esteem; 96 percent report feeling guilt or shame; 91 percent say they have feelings of hopelessness; and 90 percent say they have acted in ways contrary to their values.
Dr. Carnes found that 42 percent of sex addicts also were dependent on alcohol or drugs and 38 percent had eating disorders. And 81 percent of sex addicts report a history of sexual abuse.
So what drives a sex addict? Interestingly, according to experts, sex addicts really are looking for intimacy, so they seek out things to fill that void. Acting out sexually may feel like intimacy, but it is false intimacy. Also sex addicts seem to be looking for intense connections, and the more intense, the more satisfying emotionally. Yet, following a sexual episode, most feel empty, ashamed and depressed.
Sex addiction crosses all socioeconomic, educational, racial and sexual-orientation lines, but one thing common among addicts is a sense of shame. On the good side, there has been progress in the medical field. Today, sexual addiction is diagnosed as a disorder — and it is treatable.