With this addiction, there’s no booze, vomiting or bedwetting. There are no benders or pawning off the family heirlooms.
Yet members of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) insists their addiction can be just as destructive as a dependence to hardcore drugs. That’s why it offers a 12-step program, just like Alcoholics Anonymous, with online, telephone and face-to-face meetings held in thousands of cities all over the world, every single day.
According to the organization, there are 12 characteristics of sex and love addicts that separate them from your average horndog or everyday hopeless romantic. The only issue is, these qualities seem to apply to any person who’s ever dated around, had a committed relationship, or even touched someone else’s genitals.
By SLAA’s logic, I’m a problematic pervert that’s hazardously dependent on romantic relationships. You probably are, too. Among the more prevalent personality traits that might make you a love and sex addict:
-Becoming sexually involved with and/or emotionally attached to people without knowing them
Any 20-something with a Tinder profile can check off this box. Many have over-romanticized partners after spending a single day with them and even screwed some folks before knowing their last name.
-Fearing abandonment and loneliness, we stay in and return to painful, destructive relationships
Plenty of romantics have broken things off with someone, gotten back together, rinsed and then repeated. Knowing it only makes things more painful doesn’t stop anyone from texting “u awake?” at 2 a.m. after they've had a few Jack and cokes and don’t want to sleep alone. Love makes people dumb sometimes. It doesn’t make them an addict.
-We feel empty and incomplete when we are alone
Sure, but doesn’t everyone sometimes?
-We assign magical qualities to others. We idealize and pursue them, then blame them for not fulfilling our fantasies and expectations
To assign some blame here — every love song, romantic comedy and sitcom about the single life has been spoon-feeding the public ideas of “soul mates” and disguising obsessive behaviors as romantic gestures.
Sometimes, it takes a bit of trial and error before realizing you might have to take a .64 partner and round them up to “the one” if you ever hope to be satisfied in a relationship.
In any case, these “extreme circumstances” that constitute sex and love addiction aren’t as uncommon as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous might have us believe.
Lately, sex and love addiction is all the rage. Tons of celebrities are checking into sex rehab or have admitted to being overly sexual, such as Kanye West, Britney Spears, Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton. According to the National Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity, around 8 percent of all Americans can be classified as addicted to sex. That's 18-24 million people.
But sex addiction isn’t a diagnosis recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. Some psychologists even argue it doesn’t exist. Many experts say it’s just become the go-to explanation for people who suck at relationships and fidelity.
The sex addict’s comparison to drug dependency seems to be bullshit, too. Sex addicts don’t have withdrawals. Being a porn fiend and serial cheater produces no physical dependency even comparable to cocaine or alcohol abuse.
Psychologist and neuroscience professor Jim Pfaus compares sex addiction to a teenager without their smartphone. Pfaus writes:
“Imagine a kid playing Angry Birds. He seems obsessed, but once the game is off and it’s time for dinner, he unplugs. He might wish he was still playing, but he doesn’t get the shakes at the dinner table. There’s nothing going on in his brain that creates an uncontrollable imbalance."
“The same goes for a guy obsessed with watching porn. He might prefer to endlessly watch porn, but when he’s unable to, no withdrawal indicative of addiction occurs. He’ll never be physically addicted. He’ll just be horny, which for many of us, is merely a sign we’re alive.”
Psychologist David Ley, author of “The Myth of Sex Addiction,” cites research indicating that people who self-identify as sex addicts tend to have moral or religious conflicts that lead to negative attitudes about sex. They feel ashamed of their sexual desires and believe the amount of sex they’re having is excessive, when they’re actually having less sex than many other men.
SLAA doesn’t make any claims about its success rates. Among the hundreds of sex addiction self-help groups — Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, and Porn Addicts Anonymous, for example — none can guarantee their treatment actually works.
Whether all of us are sex and love addicts or none of us are, it seems no 12-step program can cure us.