In today’s world, sex addiction has become a term that is often seen in the media or discussed in the news. Celebrities, athletes, and reality show stars identify themselves as sex addicts and the media perpetuate the term by giving these stories more than their fair share of coverage—after all, juicy stories make for good ratings.
But the term “sex addiction” is tricky. First, the term “addiction” itself is being increasingly applied to many disorders; perhaps too many. Additionally, pairing the terms “sex” and “addiction” in a two-word phrase stirs up an almost unavoidable set of emotionally-charged conclusions. For these reasons, at The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) we prefer to use the term “Problematic Sexual Behavior” to help more closely identify and diagnose sexual health issues.
Problematic Sexual Behavior can be defined as any repetitive sexual behavior that exceeds a person's relationship commitments, personal values or self-control. One of the most common forms of problematic sexual behavior is the use of pornography. For the purposes of this blog, we’re not talking about pornography that involves people who are underage or acts of sexual violence.
In 2016 alone, nearly 4.6 billion hours of pornography was watched on the world’s largest porn site. That amount of time is the equivalent of 524,641 years!
While use of pornography itself is not necessarily a problematic sexual behavior, it can become one when it causes stressors to appear in a person’s life. Environmental stressors might include arguments and complaints about the use of pornography from significant others, or disruption in work or school performance. Internalized stressors include self-loathing, self-doubt and shame associated with one's use of pornography. A common response to either environmental or internal stressors is continued use of pornography despite the desire to stop or ongoing relationship issues. Ongoing behavior despite consequences also helps to determine whether symptoms of problematic sexual behavior exist.
The sexual health field is emerging and changing. New research is being published daily and changes to treatment practices are adapted based on new findings. Individuals that need care should seek out professionals that have sufficient training to ensure needs are met. One way to find treatment providers with training in sexual health issues is to search The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health’s member directory. With new research, treatments, and awareness, comes hope for recovery and a life with meaningful sexual health. Recovery does happen.