Sex addiction is a very real and dangerous problem - and, like drug and alcohol addiction, can destroy every area of life.
That's according to Stefanie Carnes, Ph.D., CSAT-S and president of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP), a company that provides training and materials to addiction professionals. She's hitting back at sexologists in the psychotherapeutic community who believe sex addiction is not a real disorder, arguing that those who continue to go without a diagnosis are unable to receive the help they so desperately need.
In fact, "even though all major professional organizations in the field of sexual health agree sex addiction exists, there's no official diagnosis for sexual disorder," she said.
Carnes emphasized that contrary to the view espoused by sex addiction deniers, properly trained sex addiction therapists do not force moral, cultural, or religious values onto vulnerable people already tortured by sexual shame.
"The simple reality is neuroscientists worldwide are studying the actions and brain responses of sex and porn addicts, comparing those reactions and responses to what occurs with other addicts (usually substance abusers). There is an accumulation of compelling evidence suggesting sex and porn addiction manifests in the brain in much the same way as any other addiction-the only real difference being the substance/behavior of choice," Carnes said.
Recently, Ji-Woo Seok and Jin-Hun Sohn of the Brain Research Institute at Chungnam National University in South Korea published revealing sex addiction research that parallels the findings of earlier sex addiction studies. Such studies found that:
Sex addicts focus a higher-than-normal share of their attention on addiction-related cues (i.e., pornography), doing so in the same basic ways and to the same basic degree as other addicts.
The brain response of sex addicts exposed to sexual stimuli (i.e., pornography) mirrors the brain response of drug addicts when exposed to drug-related stimuli.
Compulsive porn users crave porn (greater "wanting") but don't have a higher sexual desire (greater "liking") than non-addicts. These findings are in complete alignment with current understanding of substance addictions and other behavioral addictions.
Sex addicts have a greater preference for sexual novelty than a control group. Because of this, usage escalates (more of the same activity or more intense activity), just as it does with alcoholism, drug addiction.
Reports have indicated that sexual addiction is the most prevalent addictions in the United States - and the church is not immune to this disease. As much as 50 percent of lay men and clergy said they viewed porn within the past year, and an estimated 8-10 percent of the U.S. population are sex addicts, according to Mike Richards, Jr., director of Recovery Ministries for International Bible Society (IBS).
Writes T.C. Ryan, author of Ashamed No More: A Pastor's Journey Through Sex Addiction, "God has created us in his image and we are relational creatures. But living in this disordered realm, many of us do not relate in healthy or appropriate ways with others, with ourselves and with God. Sexual addiction is an intimacy disorder, and for whatever reasons, we have stumbled into an inappropriate and unhealthy attachment to our own sexuality."
He continues: "We need help. Oftentimes we need professional help. We need others in our lives, others with whom we can increasingly be open and honest, self-revealing and self-yielding."
Thankfully, help is available, and there are a number of ministries across the United States where the counselors have training in sexual addiction and work with ministers. Some of them include: Pure Life Ministries (www.purelifeministries.org); Faithful and True Ministries (www.faithfulandtrueministries.com); Healing For the Soul (www.healingforthesoul.org); and Be Broken Ministries (www.bebroken.com).