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Category Archives: Sexual Addiction

Is Christian Grey a Sex Addict?

Rob Weiss and the staff at Sexual Recovery Institute (SRI) give thoughtful, succinct consideration to the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon.

Original Post

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve likely heard about the new adult fiction trilogy that’s currently sweeping the nation, called “Fifty Shades” by E.L. James. Briefly, the series is about the relationship between a innocent recent college grad, Anastasia Steele, and billionaire playboy, Christian Grey. When Anastasia meets Christian she is a sheltered virgin. Christian not only takes her virginity, but introduces her to a world most of us have only heard rumors about — bondage and discipline.

Before Anastasia, Christian lived in his life believing sex was about possession and pain, not love. However, at least for Christian, it was always about pleasure. As the tale progresses and Anastasia becomes tormented between her love for Christian and her reluctance to adapt completely to his sexual proclivities, we watch Christian learn how to compromise his need for truly kinky sex in order to get his girl.

Like the “Sookie Stackhouse” and “Harry Potter” series before it, “Fifty Shades” has something to teach close-minded American adults about letting lose and truly thinking outside the box. But, what’s the message? Is E.L. James offering a glimpse into the life of someone suffering from a mental disorder, such as sex addiction, or is she, instead, teaching us that sex outside the missionary position can still be considered “normal”?

Let’s face it, if Sookie and Harry were real people and you ran into them on the street, you would likely give them both a wide berth. One of them thinks she has been blessed with the ability to read other people’s thoughts and spends her days cavorting with dead people. The other thinks he has a bit of immortality and is friendly with giants and trolls. Both exhibit signs of hallucinations and delusions of grander, bordering on schizophrenia. But, if Christian Grey lived next door to you would you think of him as mentally ill as well?

Between Tiger Woods, Anthony Weiner, and all the other cheating husbands who have made headlines in recent years, Americans now believe that any guy who likes sex, has multiple sex partners or engages in “deviant” behavior (such as tweeting a picture of his weenis), they must be a sex addict. This is just not true. Sex addiction is a very real and debilitating illness, don’t get me wrong. And both Tiger and Anthony may really be addicts — who knows? But in reality, very few people really have the disease and it takes more than a few weeks in rehab to recover from it.

Christian Grey isn’t a sex addict. He just likes a type of sex that is outside both the mainstream and the comfort level of the majority of Americans. That is not to say that he doesn’t have problems — he is seeing a therapist after all. But those problems have more to do with his childhood than his sexual appetites.

The problem with labels is that they are based on the thinking of beings who are still evolving, both intellectually and morally. Twenty or thirty years ago homosexuality was considered a deviant behavior. Now, most of us consider it just another type of “normal”. In most societies, “normal” is dictated by a mixture of culture, religion and law. “Abnormal” (including sex addiction) includes behavior that is not practiced by the majority of members but that also causes some sort of mental, physical or social problem. And this is how Christian Grey avoids the label sex addict and stays just-this-side of “normal”- his sexual appetites may be in the minority but he is healthy (both physically and, arguably, mentally), wildly successful in business, and can even quickly modulate his behavior to conform to the wishes of those most important to him. I think we all could use one or two of his “Fifty Shades” in our own lives.

All ideas contained in this post are the unique intellectual property of SRI and its affiliated individuals.  For more information about this organization, visit their website.  To view other postings, visit their blog.  

Sex Addiction Deniers: What Makes Them So Mad?

Author:  Linda Hatch, Ph.D.  

Original Article 

The mere idea of “sex addiction” gets a lot of people angry.  I’m talking here about the writers who rail about the “myth” of sexual addiction and who argue that the whole idea of sex addiction is just a cop-out for the addict and a money making scam for the professionals.

The anatomy of a sex addiction denier

I prefer to see these “deniers,” as I call them, as a part of a larger societal pattern and one that is worthy of study in its own right.

Currently the opposition to the concept of sex addiction comes in two main flavors.

1.  Sex addiction is really just normal behavior.

These men and women have a defensive reaction to the whole field of sex addiction treatment as an attempt to restrain normal sexual freedoms.  Sometimes their blogs and online commentary seem to be jokingly, (nervously?) defending behavior around which they have some unacknowledged shame.  The message is “we all do it and you just think it is ‘sick’ because you are so uptight!”  This is an uninformed bias that seems to resist logic.

2.  Sex addiction is really just irresponsible behavior.

This argument comes from all quarters including some in the scientific community.  It minimizes the seriousness of the problem and the suffering it can cause, and the message is often “you so-called addicts are just behaving badly and you need to take responsibility and shape up!”

This second argument sometimes takes the form that “if sex can be an addiction then anything can,” or “if we let people off by calling it a disease then there’s a slippery slope which will lead to nobody ever taking any responsibility for anything.” (OMG!)

Both of these arguments have the net effect of saying that we shouldn’t medicalize the issue of sexually compulsive behavior and therefore that we shouldn’t actually do anything about it.  See the New York Times Op-Ed for an excellent discussion.

We need to understand the deniers, not condemn them

“Deniers” have always existed in relation to almost every unwelcome phenomenon that has emerged throughout history.  Sometimes they have taken a socially acceptable position which conforms to religious or other dogma and have acted accordingly, as in burning heretics or imprisoning the mentally ill.  In other cases they have simply veered off into crazy-sounding conspiracy theories such as that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were really a government plot or that the holocaust never happened.

These are elaborate attempts to explain or deal with something that is experienced as incomprehensible or intolerable.  In this regard they are all defense mechanisms and nowhere more obviously so than in the area of sexual addiction.

Sex addiction deniers are trudging a road well traveled in earlier eras by those who wished to defend themselves against a trend or theory that they found very threatening.  This is especially true in recent history in the evolution of the disease model of mental health. It has been very gradually that the “deadly sins” have been recast as very human psychological afflictions.

Fear and loathing as a developmental phase

Because I believe sex addiction deniers are genuinely reacting to some unconscious fear, I think professionals cannot dismiss them but rather need to understand them.  If we don’t they won’t go away and will keep confusing the public and getting in the way in much the same way that global warming deniers get in the way of protecting the biosphere.

As the superstitions and fears surrounding a social ill begin to dissipate, the issue moves through a predictable sequence in public awareness from demonization to criminalization to medicalizationto reintegration.  First the problem, say alcoholism, is a moral failing, then it’s a legal problem, then a medical disease, and finally a larger societal or public health issue.

Leaving aside the issue of illegal sexual behavior, this mans that society’s current approach to sexual addiction is moving beyond demonization and criminalization but has not yet reached medicalization.  This transition to full medicalization will mean the evolution of awareness. This involves dispelling fears, confronting judgmental attitudes, and persuading people to suspend those judgments.  It is up to us to patiently explain.

The information contained in this post is the intellectual property of Dr. Linda Hatch, Ph.D.

Online and Telephone Support Forums For Sex Addicts and Their Partners

One of the things you will find on my site is a list of self-help resources for various concerns.  Recently, a colleague of mine compiled some information I have been meaning to for sex addicts and their (past and present) partners.  I have reproduced Bill Herrings’  posting about the different support options available that go beyond the in-person 12-Step meeting.  I highly recommend  poking around his blog for a wealth of helpful articles and information.

Submitted by Bill Herring on Sun, 2012-08-05 22:34

People whose lives have suffered because of the ravages of misguided sexual desire often find themselves emotionally isolated from others due to their shame and the fear that others will not fully be able to comprehend what kind of support is truly helpful.  This is just as true (and sometimes even more so) for the partner of a person who has repeatedly engaged in deceptive sexual behavior.

The opportunity to benefit from the shared experience of others in a similar situation is invaluable.  Nobody understands a problem better than somebody who has walked a similar path.  Family, friends, therapists and others may all have something to offer, but each have their own limitations.  Truly mutual help offers a benefit unobtainable anywhere else.

This is why support groups can be so very helpful.  For issues related to repeated sexual loss of self-control, 12-step groups are a primary resource for the “experience, strength and hope” that are available there.  I encourage anyone who is reluctant to attend a 12-step group to read my article “12 Step Groups: Twelve Objections and Twelve Responses.”  I also suggest to people who are planning to attend such a meeting for the first time that it’s far better to listen for at least one message that may be helpful rather than using some aspect of the experience that is less than useful as a reason to not return.  Anyone can find something to not like about a 12-step meeting, but extracting something extremely valuable is like panning for gold: the effort is ultimately highly rewarding.

However, for a variety of reasons a person may not be able (or may not choose) to attend a support group in person.  The good news is that there are many online and telephone versions of support groups that are easily available to anyone, no matter where they are in the world.  I encourage anyone suffering from the pain, isolation and confusion that accompanies sex addiction and related problems to give any of these a try.

  • Sex Addiction Support Group – This forum is located at SupportGroups.com, whose mission is “providing concise, up-to-date information and a meeting place for individuals, their friends and families, and professionals who offer pathways to help.
  • Reddit NoFap – this is a forum specifically to help people break the cycle of compulsive masturbation to porn (i.e. “fapping”).  Unlike any other venue, this community utilzes unique, often earthy and frequenty funny jargon,  and has an atmosphere and attitude that is often missing anywhere else.  “Whether your goal is to casually participate in a NoFap week or monthly challenge as a test of self control, or if fapping has become an addictive problem in your life and you want to quit for a longer period of time, you will find a home and friends here.”
  • Through the Flame, “the only International online support network for those affected by ponography addiction”.
  • COSA telemeetings – online meetings for COSA, which is a 12-step “recovery program for men and women whose lives have been affected by someone’s compulsive sexual beahvior.”
  • Sex Addict Codies – a support forum hosted at the Junkie’s Wives Club, whose motto is “We’re all here because we’re not all there.”  Note: this forum requires a simple registration.
  • Marriage and Family — a Blazing Grace Christian forum (see description above), populated by both addicts and partners.
  • Sisterhood of Support – a fee-based online support group for spouses and partners of sex addicts, hosted by MarriedToASexAddict.com.

Note: there are also many for-pay online support and therapy groups that are not listed here.  The forums on this page are free (with the exception of “Sisterhood of Support” which has a modest cost and is included here because of its value).

It is worth emphasizing that support forums are only representative of the people who are on them, so that the quality and extent of support and guidance can vary from group to group and time to time.  Most forums have far more readers than contributors.  Even without joining into any discussions, the wide variety of topics covered by these sites can be very useful to anyone desiring more information and understanding about this complex problem, and they are excellent places to ask questions that may not be able to be addressed almost anywhere else.

I encourage anyone who has information about additional online and telephone support forums to contact me so that I can include them here.

Remember, addiction and despair breed in isolation, while recovery and hope thrive in connection.

Note:  The information reproduced in this post is the intellectual property of Bill Herring, LCSW, CSAT.  

Archetypes of Sex and Love Addiction

I have been working the addiction field long enough to see both the commonalities of my clients and the vast difference and individualities of each one.  One of the leading experts in trauma and addiction therapy, Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S, authored clinical vignettes summarizing the most common ways people develop an out-of-balance relationship with themselves that includes sexuality issues.  I really liked these because they not only include the challenges faced, but also the most common route to help.  Take a look…do you recognize any of these people?


Always Ready: Gary Gay ‘Pride’

The Double Life:  Successful Steve

Sex on the Brain:  Porn-Obsessed Paul

How to Decide, Wife or Mistress:  Frank the Philanderer

All the Wrong Places:  Professional Pete

No Limits:  Reputation Ronald

Trauma Survivor:  Sammy Sleaze


Dying for Love:  Lucy the Love Addict

Risky Business:  Dora Danger Girl

The Horny Housewife:  Suzy Soccer Mom

The Empty Nest:  Connie Cougar

All or Nothing:  Betty Binger

13th Step:  Rita Relapser

Bad Boys:  Penny the Party Girl

Over the Borderline:  Narcissist Nancy

NOTE:  While I identify with these descriptions, none of the content here is mine or is taken from actual client data, nor is similarity to any of the profiles here a diagnosis of any kind.  The information posted here is purely for educational purposes.  For a confidential assessment in the Bay Area, contact me.