AUSTRALIA—An article in News.com.au yesterday indicated that psychologists in Australia are reporting a marked increase in the number of people seeking help for sex or pornography addiction. The author of the piece, Helen Davidson, interviewed a number of mental health professionals for the article, all of whom said that treating people for the affliction now dominates their practice. The reason for the uptick in people who believe they are in the throes of sexual addiction is in part traced back to the revelations about Tiger Woods and other celebrities, such as Russell Brand, Michael Douglas and David Duchovny.
“It's saying, ‘if the famous and wealthy are addicts and get into trouble, I am not alone nor am I a horrible nasty person,’” Janet Hall, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist, told the site. “It is a help actually for those who see that treatment is available and it's not the end of the world to say you need it. Sadly there would also be some who say, ‘The celebrities get away with it, so why can't I?’”
According to the article, “Sex addiction manifests itself in a variety of ways. Many seek out multiple partners to avoid the intimacy of relationships. For others it is an addiction to pornography—an easy vice to access on the internet. Or it could be a number of regular sexual partners.”
One doctor thought the swell of new patients was a good thing.
“There's a lot more push. A lot are coming in and saying ‘I think I'm like him,’” said Dr. Michelle Thomson, principal psychologist and owner of Life Resolutions in Cheltenham.
“It's great. A lot of men were keeping it from partners and now they're coming forward.”
The doctor added that referrals for sex addictions have increased from one every two months to about 24, and now account for the majority of her clients.
The article does note, however, “Sex addiction is not currently recognized by any official diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), considered the definitive word on psychological disorders.”
Not surprisingly, the psychologists interviewed for the article were not convinced that the lack of recognition means the addiction does not exist.
Thompson, for example, said that she believes “the majority of psychologists recognize sex addiction as a real issue,” adding, “I define sex addiction as when an individual is unable to control their sexual behaviors and they interfere with their day-to-day living such as work and their relationships.”
Another mental health professional interviewed for the article said, somewhat predictably, that the available of porn is one cause for the rise in addiction.
"It seems to be correlated with internet porn," Adam Szmerling, the counselor at Bayside Psychotherapy, told News.com.au. He added that he did not think the celebrity effect was to blame for the increase in people seeking help, but rather that “the numbers ‘quite likely’ reflect an increase in people having a sex addiction, as opposed to seeking treatment for it.”
And yet another interviewed therapist said that the numbers of people afflicted are much higher than they appear. “The thing with sex addiction is it's the most hidden addiction,” said Shirley Smith, a clinical psychotherapist and author of Set Yourself Free.
In fact, not one psychologist or therapist interviewed for the piece refuted or even questioned the premise that sex and porn addiction exist and are on the rise. In the United States, as AVN has reported, there also exists a rise in the number of therapists who note a similar increase in patients seeking such treatment, and also in the number of corporations underwriting the creation of new specialized treatment centers, many of which cater to a high-end clientele suffering from alleged sex addiction.
In an article written for the January 2010 issue of AVN, however, sex-positive clinical therapist Marty Klein questions the now almost universally accepted belief—especially in the “therapy industry,” as he calls it—that sex addiction is the “new tobacco.” There is a problem, to be sure, he said, but it is one of monogamy, not pornography.
“The two main issues that therapists see about pornography are, one, men coming in and saying, ‘I’m out of control. I sit down for 15 minutes and five hours later, I realize I’m still doing this.’ And that is a problem; I don’t think the problem is pornography, but it is a significant phenomenon that the porn industry doesn’t talk about ever.
“The second configuration that therapists see is men who look at pornography on the internet, jack off a lot and don’t have a lot of sex, or enough sex, with their sweethearts, and women are in pain about that and are demanding that men stop masturbating and stop looking at porn. And the therapy industry has completely bought into the idea that [porn] is this product that snares men and pulls them away from women, and the addiction model is very comfortable for therapists and patients in that configuration.
“What nobody wants to talk about,” he continued, “is what could possibly be going on in a sexual relationship that a person would choose to turn away and look at pornography instead of fuck his wife. And because that is so uncomfortable for couples to look at and for therapists to look at, everybody is colluding in this alternate model—which is, the problem is not that people are making these decisions; the problem is that the product is so seductive that it is taking away people’s decision making.
“Everybody wins with that model,” Klein concluded. “The woman wins because she hasn’t been criticized or abandoned; the man wins because he’s not a selfish bastard, he has an illness; and the therapist wins because he gets to treat an illness and doesn’t have to deal with sexuality as a force to be reckoned with, or deal with what you do when people have been together for eight years and the sex sort of fades away.”
The real problem, said Klein, is that “the therapy industry does not have an answer to that, and American culture does not have an answer to that.”
Neither, apparently, does the Australian culture.