While the term is used a lot, New York City sex therapist Ian Kerner, Ph.D., who treats people who identify as sex addicts, points out that there actually isn’t an official “sex addict” diagnosis. Though there was a lot of debate about including it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 [the standard for mental disorders], he says there wasn’t enough empirical research to support the diagnosis of sex addition.
So why do so many people label themselves or others as sex addicts? “We live in a culture where people use the term ‘addiction’ very loosely and have gotten used to the idea that behaviors are addictive,” says Kerner. While he acknowledges that using sex as a person’s main coping mechanism to regulate anxiety and emotion can be a problem, he says that doesn’t mean it’s an addiction.
And then there’s sex fact that it’s a pretty good excuse for certain behaviors, especially when cheating is involved. “Many people find it’s easier to blame their behaviors on an addiction than actually take responsibility,” says Kerner.
Myth 1: Losing Weight Makes You More Likely to Be a Sex Addict
Some people have theorized that people can displace their cravings for food with cravings for sex, but Kerner says there has been no research to suggest that.
Myth 2: Sex Addicts Are Cheaters
Sure, some sex addicts cheat, but you don’t have to be a cheater to be a sex addict, says Kerner. “Somebody who is a sex addict may be somebody with a high libido who is distressed about it,” he says. However, that high libido doesn’t automatically make them have sex with anyone willing to get it on.
“A person can be in a relationship where they want to have sex once a day and their partner wants to have sex once a week,” he says. But they can still have a monogamous relationship—a sex addict might just masturbate in between or think about sex a lot more.
Myth 3: Sex Addicts Shun the Label
It can actually be the opposite, says Kerner: “People are very quick to diagnose themselves as sex addicts.” The danger in that is that they’re not getting to the root of the problem, which means experts can’t help solve it. “They may say, ‘It’s not my fault, I’m a sex addict—I guess I have to live with it,’” says Kerner.