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“Everybody wants to have sex and needs to have sex and it’s a healthy party of life. So it’s hard to understand how we can call sex addiction a disease,” says Dr. Saltz. But there are groups and psychiatric professionals that can help a true sex addict.
“Like most addictions, it can be a lifelong struggle,” says Dr. Saltz. “But, you can get better and not do those behaviors anymore,” which is the goal when treating sex addiction. “In mental health, cure isn’t the word so much as ‘that’s resolved’ or ‘I’m symptom free.’”
There also isn’t any scientific data on what treatments work best for sex addicts. Dr. Saltz and Dr. Kafka agree that right now 12-step programs are the predominant treatment model, which treat the addict in a group setting, giving him or her coping skills to deal with personal triggers and patterns. Depending on the nature of one’s addiction, it can also be treated with psychotherapy and/or medications if the person has another psychiatric disorder that frees or uninhibits sexual behavior.
Dr. Kafka is encouraged that sex addiction is being taken more seriously as a condition. He likens current attitudes about sex addiction—is it real or just an excuse? —to how people viewed alcohol abuse 50 years ago. “Alcoholism was in the same place; it was just considered bad behavior.” But progress is being made in dealing with it. “I view it in positive terms that there are treatments centers for this. [This] is more complex than just being a bad choice.”
Still, Dr. Saltz understands why we may be dubious of a man saying he cheated because he’s an addict. “People are angry at the idea of sex addiction because it lets the person off the hook. Having a diagnosis doesn’t mean you are not responsible. You need treatment and you are responsible for that,” she says. “[Giving it a name] is not condoning the behavior or deferring the responsibility.”