Anthony Weiner's behavior likened to addict's: What will treatment involve?

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 06: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.) Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) leaves a press conference after admiting to sending a lewd Twitter photo of himself to a woman and then lying about it, at the Sheraton Hotel on 7th Avenue on June 6, 2011 in New York City. Weiner said he had not met any of the women in person but had numerous sexual relationships online while married. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
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Anthony Weiner after admitting his embarrassing behavior at press conference in New York City on June 6.
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(CBS/AP) A "better husband and a healthier person." That's what Anthony Weiner says he hopes professional treatment will help him become.

But the New York congressman, mired in a sexting scandal that threatens to drive him from office, hasn't said what kind of treatment he's getting, or where. If it's inpatient treatment, experts say there are just a handful of facilities where he could be, including a Mississippi clinic where Tiger Woods reportedly got help in the aftermath of his philandering.

Another possibility is that Weiner is getting outpatient advice on sexual addiction.

Experts say Weiner's actions - making electronic sexual contact with strangers - mimic the characteristics of drug addicts, alcoholics or problem gamblers.

"He's exhibiting behavior of an addict," said Robert Weiss, founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles. "The secrecy, the risk taking, the denial. I am sure he understood on some level what he was doing. When someone like that is not in a state of arousal, they can have a more intellectual, nuanced view of things. But that gets lost in the euphoria. And he begins not thinking clearly."

Kimberly Young, clinical director of the Center for Online Addiction in Bradford, Pa., called Weiner's online behavior "very commonplace." Plenty of men and women secretly live out their fantasies on the Internet, sometimes in compulsive fashion.

The treatment for online compulsion, she said is usually twofold. Patients must first modify their online behavior. That might mean not using the computer during certain hours, or at certain locations, or only communicating with certain types of people online. Next, they must examine what mental health issues might underlie the behavior.

"Is he depressed, is he anxious and stressed out?" she said. "First you need to deal with the behavior, then deal with the reasons why that happened ... It will probably take more than a 28-day rehab program. ... The treatment has to fit the person."

Timothy Lee, a licensed clinical social worker who runs New York Pathways, which treats sexual addiction on an outpatient basis, said Weiner's proclivity for sending photos of himself to strangers likely has escalated over time.

"He didn't wake up and just start sending pictures," Lee said. "I assume this is some type of voyeuristic exhibitionism type behavior. But it does show how delusional one must be to engage in this behavior. To think that the person on the other end is going to get off on it?"

Lee said if the congressman has gone for inpatient treatment, he would likely have to be in a program for 30 days or more. He said Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services in Hattiesburg, Miss., where Woods reportedly went, has a 45-day program. The Meadows in Wickenburg, Ariz., has about a 30-day program, The Keystone in Chester, Pa., offers a 14-day program, other experts said.

Dr. Jeffrey T. Parsons, a psychology professor at Hunter College in New York City, said that sexual addiction is officially recognized as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The next edition is due out in 2013 and there has been talk about including a passage on the topic, describing it clinically as a hypersexual disorder, he said.

Taking an alternate view from some his colleagues, Parsons questions whether Weiner indeed is a sex addict in need of treatment.

"I'm not so sure," he said. "He certainly has a media relations nightmare and saying he needs treatment sounds a lot better than the alternatives. It's a lot harder to bash someone who says he is seeking treatment and help."

WebMD has more on sex addiction.