I did swear to myself recently that I wouldn’t write any more posts about celebrities and their mental health problems, but then David Duchovny started saying he’s a sex addict and I have a problem with this.
The word ‘addiction’ hasn’t an exact or agreed definition either within common or medical usage, but is normally applied to the use of psychoactive substances, and, called dependence syndrome; its use in psychiatry implies:
A cluster of psychological, behavioural and cognitive phenomena in which the use of a substance or a class of substances takes on a much higher priority for a given individual than other behaviours which once had a greater value.
For the diagnosis to be robust there needs to be accompanying evidence of difficulties in controlling behaviour despite clear evidence of consequences, and increased tolerance to the substance, a withdrawal syndrome and progressive neglect of alternative pleasures. A good example would be someone who is dependent upon alcohol; you can readily observe the effects, a complete deterioration of self control in pursuit of drunkenness, on a street near you.
An obsession with sex shares few of these characteristics, and its classification as a disorder offers a comforting cushion for those whose behaviour has landed them into trouble. With this narrative, wherein greedy behaviour is rebranded as a disorder, the afflicted can neatly sidestep responsibility and jump straight into the sick role.
Regrettably the more this line is trotted out by popular press, supported by some psychiatrist and psychologists, the more the approach is normalized and what develops is a popular narrative and language for describing behaviour in pseudo-medical terms that which would once have been viewed as an issue of self control and personal failing.
BBC Magazine – Does sex addiction exist?
Addictions.co.uk (sponsored by the Priory)