Is Sex Addiction Real?

Actor David Duchovny, a Golden Globe-winner playing a sex-crazed man on the Showtime series "Californication," has voluntarily checked himself into rehab, saying he's addicted to sex.

It's certainly a case of life imitating art for Duchovny, who also starred in "The X-Files."

Some people may think a claim of sex addiction is a convenient excuse for fooling around; some may snicker that it's a "problem" more people should have.

But therapists say sex addiction is a very real and destructive disorder, and that rehab serves a purpose.

On The Early Show Saturday, psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere said he's proud of Duchovny because, like most addictions, this isn't something to be proud of. In fact, it's embarrassing and, for most, a sign of being weak. Even after he gets treatment, he'll always be known for having that addiction.

Gardere offered an overview of sex addition:

HOW WIDESPREAD A PROBLEM IS IT?

There are no hard numbers, since many experts debate whether sex addiction is truly a mental disease or more of a narcissistic indulgence. Many experts feel it may be part of a manic-depressive, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or depression condition.

WHAT'S SO BAD ABOUT BEING ADDICTED TO SEX?

With a sexual addiction, you become so preoccupied that everything else in your life is put on the backburner, including relationships, family, jobs, and even your health.

THE FIRST WARNING SIGN IS OBSESSION...

You become consumed by thoughts of sexual activity, to the point that sex becomes the only goal in life. Everything you do is about getting to sex and sexual satisfaction. It's all you can think about, and that's why everything else in your life starts to fall apart.

AND THEN COMPULSION (lack of control):

Even when you know you shouldn't be doing it, you know you must stop - at the office, for instance, or when you're with strangers, or when you should get off the Internet because you have something else you should do - you can't, because you're on a porn site. Another example: You don't have money, but still spend on strippers or prostitutes.

ANOTHER WARNIGN SIGN: TOLERANCE

This is when you need to increase the activity to achieve satisfaction, like an alcoholic who needs more and more drinks: You need more and more of the sex to feel better or even to deaden or numb feelings.

AND FINALLY, DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR

The behavior could result in the collapse of a marriage, a job loss, etc. Think about the STD exposure: As with any addiction, you may practice safe sex at first, but often in a frenzy, or in serial sex, protection may take a back seat. Some sex addicts masturbate until their organs are cut or become raw. Some masochists allow themselves to be beaten to the point of serious injury.

YOU CAN OFTEN CLEARLY SEE IF SOMEONE HAS A DRUG OR ALCOHOL PROBLEM. WHAT ABOUT A SEX ADDICT?

It's often hard to tell, because we are a sex-obsessed society, and we reward male sexual promiscuity. We are often titillated and find sexual addiction funny or interesting in a romantic way (look at the roles Duchovny has played).

CAN SEX ADDICTION APPLY TO WOMEN AS WELL?

Absolutely, and it's even worse for them, since they're more prone to STDs. Society may forgive the male sex addict, even while laughing at him, but females are often viewed as loose, damaged, or even prostitutes.

TREATMENT OPTIONS:

  • Individual and group therapy, as part of a "12-step" program.

  • Couples therapy, looking at the pain sex addiction causes to spouses.

  • Medication, especially if someone is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, generalized anxiety, or OCD - the same types of drugs that are used to treat anxiety and depression could be tried to combat sex addiction.

    AT WHAT POINT DO YOU FIND PEOPLE WANTING TO SEEK HELP? IS IT USUALLY WHEN THEY HIT BOTTOM?

    It's almost always when they hit rock bottom.
    • CBSNews

    Comments

    CBSN Live

    pop-out
    Live Video

    Watch CBSN Live

    Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.