Denise Cote, the federal judge who on Monday sentenced Anthony Weiner to 21 months in prison for sexting a minor, said the disgraced former congressman had “a disease that involves sexual compulsivity; some call it a sex addiction.”
The once-promising politician, who had two previous — and very public — incidents involving sexually explicit texts and tweets, has been attending Sex Addicts Anonymous and group therapy after pleading guilty to the incident with a then-15-year-old girl, which Cote said is “effective treatment for this disease.”
But to learn a little more about sex addiction beyond the headlines surrounding Weiner, Metro turned to Jeffrey Foote, PhD, the cofounder and executive director of the Center for Motivation and Change in Manhattan.
Metro: What is the definition of sex addiction?
Dr. Jeffrey Foote: There is actually no clinically defined scientifically valid disorder called sex addiction. It is a common phrase in the public forum, just as "internet addiction" and "chocolate addiction" are commonly used.
People engage in all kinds of sexual activities and at all kinds of frequencies that lie outside the average, but that doesn't make those activities either abnormal or an "addiction." What is most commonly meant in the culture by this phrase is akin to compulsive sexual activity. The ones we hear about most are hypersexuality, which would be having sex with others or oneself at a very high frequency, at times with a disregard for one's own safety or the safety of others.
This could also be across multiple platforms, meaning in person with a partner, with many different people, through internet pornography, with paid sex workers, at strip clubs, etc. This could be a physical condition, but is more typically a response to psychological conditions, like stress, depression or trauma/PTSD.
What sort of symptoms does sex addiction have, whether emotional or physical?
A sense of compulsion to participate in the activity, as it affords a sense of relief from other issues
What sort of help do you recommend?
A thorough evaluation for other emotional /psychiatric issues. Beginning of behavior therapy to actively address the compulsive pull of the behavior.
Can sex addiction truly be cured?
Yes, behavioral treatments for all stigmatized behaviors are quite effective, though they take a lot of work!