Newsweek’s feature article this December 5th edition goes a long way to educate the public about sexual addiction although it is a bit sensational. Sexual addiction is probably not an epidemic. Just like with alcohol and drugs there are certain drugs that become in vogue more or less, in and out of the spot light like crack in the 80s and Oxycontin and other prescription drugs these days. For drug use the overall incidence and prevalence are probably relatively stable even if the drug du jour changes.
So how many people have some kind of addiction? Estimates hover around three and seven percent of the population. I believe that as the science of addiction progresses we’ll learn that there is one underlying addiction, an addictive tendency or proclivity, perhaps a disease (if you will – and I’m not sure about the disease concept myself – how about we save that for another blog?) but that the focus of one’s addiction for an individual is shaped by his or her culture and zeitgeist. College kids get addicted to beer, club goers to designer drugs, someone in North Philly: crack, Bolivia: cocaine, Afghanistan: opium, Balitmore: heroin (please excuse the gross generalizations – sorry North Philadelphia and Baltimore… this is obviously just to emphasize a point).
Newsweek may be right that there is an increase in the percentage of sex addicts in the United States but the validity of this can’t be addressed in a format such as Newsweek and certainly won’t be attempted here. Sex is as easy to find as ever these days. Look no farther than the new free Apps on your phone like Grindr and Blendr. Who has time to waste with Craigslist?
The Greek philosophers used to complain that their young students drank too much wine. “Kids today!”
We’re probably not that different these days in terms of overall addiction, abuse and dependency than we were 1000 years ago. Yet as culture, technology and the economy change, among other things, the drugs or behaviors we find to dull the pain or numb out will change too. It does appear that we live in a culture of decreased intimacy, confusing technological communication and increased pressures to compete for one another’s attention. Sexual addiction, like any other addiction, is just the tip of the iceberg (I’ll blog on that one too I promise). What lies beneath the water (the other 9/10ths of the iceberg) fuels the addictive behavior; and that can be relationship problems, physical dependence, other mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression, low self esteem and difficulties figuring out what we need and want from ourselves and others in our lives. We all want love and to be loved. Sexual addiction and probably any addiction truly is looking for love in all the wrong places.