This question has sparked many debates amongst therapists, friends, families and relationship partners for years. Some argue that it simply comes down to choice…
Someone chooses to watch hours upon hours of pornography while being disengaged from family.
Someone chooses to put their marriage or job on the line for sexual experiences.
Someone chooses to put sex central in their life over family, friends, hobbies or work.
Someone chooses to go against their own personal values and live a double secret life.
Some feel the term addiction is really just an excuse for bad behaviour.
The WHO (World Health Organization) in July 2018 begged to differ. The list, called the ICD-11, is the foundational document that scientists and therapists around the world use as a means to identify health problems. This is groundbreaking!
The ICD-11 defines compulsive sexual behaviour disorder (sex addiction) as a “persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour.” Further, the WHO definition of sexual compulsive disorder goes on to say that sexual behaviours are the “central focus of the person’s life to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities and responsibilities.”
Those of us who have made it our professional work to help those suffering from the deep pain resulting from compulsive sexual behaviours, know all too well the sorrow of those struggling with the addiction and the families that love and care for them. Finally, a credible and well-respected professional organization is willing to acknowledge that Sex Addiction is REAL.
At LifeStar Alberta we have helped hundreds of people who have not had the ability to control or stop unwanted sexual behaviours despite dangerous and harmful consequences to themselves and their loved ones. We have also treated hundreds of partners who have experienced Betrayal Trauma.
As both the person with the addiction and the betrayed partner work on their own recoveries amazing growth happens, people heal, and often the couple becomes connected in meaningful emotional ways.
Yes, from our perspective at LifeStar Alberta and the WHO, sex addiction IS REAL and so is recovery! Professionals at LifeStar Alberta see recovery for the person struggling with the addiction, recovery for the partner, and recovery for the relationship. Healing is possible!
Jennifer Thibodeau MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist-Supervisor