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Sex Addiction, or Too Much of a Good Thing?

This last post of 2010 will start with a declaration. One of my famous “Thus Sayeth Dr. Dick” sorta things, if you please.

Ready?

I categorically reject the concept of sexual addiction that has been floating around in the popular culture for the last 20 years or so.

And yes, I know this will rankle a bunch of you, but you’ll just have to get over it. You see, there is no such thing as a sexual addiction. Period!

Nowadays people bandy about the term addiction as if it can be applied to any and all obsessive behaviors. I have an addiction to chocolate; I’m addicted to shopping; I’m addicted to video games; I’m addicted to porn—or, I’m a sex addict. NONSENSE!

That being said, I hasten to add that I do believe there are sexual obsessions and compulsive sexual behaviors, plenty of ’em in fact. However, obsessions and compulsions are not addictions, and addictions, while they may involve irresistible impulses, are not the same thing as compulsions. Get it? Got it? Good!

I want to be absolutely clear about this. An addiction is a very specific condition. It denotes a dual dependency, physical as well as a psychological.

  • A physical dependency occurs when a substance is habitually used to a point where the body becomes reliant on its effects. The substance must be used constantly, because if it is withheld, it will trigger symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Psychological dependency occurs when the substance habitually used creates an emotional reliance on its effects. There is no functioning without it. Its absence produces intense cravings, which if not fed will trigger symptoms of withdrawal.

Check it out. With the help of my handy-dandy dictionary, a good place to start in discussions of this sort, I discovered these three very distinct definitions:

Addiction: The need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal. Broadly: persistent use of a substance known by the user to be harmful. A state of physiological and psychological dependence on a drug.

Compulsive: Driven by an irresistible inner force to do something; i.e., a compulsive liar.

Obsession: A persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling.

See? Different words. Different meanings. Not a particularly complex notion to grasp, right?

And listen, just because a bunch of yahoo afternoon talks show hosts and even a load of my esteemed professional colleagues banter these words about like they were interchangeable doesn’t make it so. In fact, we do ourselves a huge disservice by muddling these very specific concepts into a jumble. My fellow therapists should be the first to recognize this because finding help for an addiction or an intervention for an obsessive/compulsive disorder will be as specific as the problem itself.

One thing is for certain: identifying one of the things, as the other will complicate the problem solving. It’s like going to the doctor with a headache, and when the doc asks where does it hurt, you point to your stomach. It just won’t do.

Hi Dr. Dick,
I recently found out my boyfriend has been cheating on me. He wants me to forgive him, but he keeps on doing the same thing over and over again. He’s like addicted to sex or something. I love him very much, but I feel dirty just by being around him and knowing what he’s doing. It also makes me feel stupid putting up with all of this and at the same time I still love him, please give me some advice. Thank You.
— Darlene

Before we turn our attention to your boyfriend’s behavior, let me make a quick observation about you. You’re a big fat ball of contradictions, huh? How can you say that you love the person that makes you feel dirty and stupid? You’re deceiving yourself about at least one of those feelings. And if I had to guess, I’d say what you’ve got with your man ain’t love—it’s an obsession.

Your boyfriend probably has you figured out by now, and he knows that you will tolerate his misbehavior, which gives him tacit permission to do whatever he feels like doing. From where I sit, you’re the real sap. If you’re really serious about reining in your wayward BF, you’d better come up with a clear, unambiguous message about what you will and will not tolerate. Until you do precisely that, he’ll just think that he can roam wherever he wants and whenever he wants.

If the two of you are supposed to be living in a sexually exclusive relationship, and he’s taking his business elsewhere, then he’s got a problem, too. However, I caution you against thinking that his sexual behaviors are an addiction. Because they’re not.  And thinking they are will not help you find the solution to the problems you folks are having.

There are root causes for his behavior, just like there are root causes for your behavior. To get to the bottom of all of this, each of you will need to invest a good deal of time and energy with a qualified therapist. One can only hope that there’s a big enough bank of goodwill between the two of you to carry the day because overcoming your obsession and his compulsions will demand all of your emotional resources.

Dear Dr. Dick,
I have been in a relationship for five years now and truly love my partner, however I can never seem to get enough sex. I am 30 and he is 29, but I constantly find myself in the chat rooms lookin’ for younger guys to have sex with. It’s more than just a hobby—it’s a habit! I’ve actually lost jobs because he’d be out of town and I’d spend almost every waking hour on the PC with a cocktail looking for sex, not caring about anything else. It’s like I’m addicted to sex. He knows I have played around (I actually have talked him into three-ways a few times), but he has no idea how extreme it’s become. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m not unhappy with him. I just can’t seem to stop wanting sex with younger guys. Any suggestions?
— Brian

It’s interesting that you should tell me about your compulsive sexual behavior in the same breath that you tell me of your love for your partner. As you’ve probably guessed already, there isn’t really much of a connection between the two. Love and sex are two very different things. Sometimes they go together, but not always or even often for that matter.

It appears to me that you’ve really got two problems happening simultaneously: First, your compulsive prowling of the internet for sex (complicated, I might add, by your alcohol consumption). Second, the deception you’re practicing on your partner. Let’s deal with each of these in turn.

Your particular sexual activity, like any compulsive behavior (overeating, excessive shopping, etc.), is more than just a bad habit. It’s a serious psychological dysfunction. Take it from me: breaking this behavior pattern will be nearly impossible without some professional help. If the problem is as serious as you say, then you’d better seek help right away. This sort of thing, if left untreated, will not only destroy your relationship, it will ruin your life. When you seek that professional help, I encourage you to include information about your alcohol consumption. If there is an addiction in all of this, it’s the alcohol, not the sex. And in your case, the addiction may be fueling the compulsion.

Now, regarding your relationship. It’s imperative that you come clean with your partner about your sexual obsessions and compulsions, as well as your probable alcohol addiction. Not only will you feel better about not lying to him anymore, you’re going to need his support in overcoming the difficult obstacles you face. I suggest that you attend to this right away. There’s not a moment to lose.

Good Luck

Awakening Your Sensual Self Post Cancer

Name: Doug
Gender: Male
Age: 58
Location: San Diego
HI: I need some help. I had my prostate removed due to prostate cancer. I feel I have lost my man-hood. I don’t experience hard-ons anymore. My penis is dead. Can you recommend something to help me?

It’s truly uncanny; in the past week alone I’ve received similar email from four different people. Each had a very different presenting problem, but all were experiencing very similar sexual issues. Get this, I heard from a woman in Japan who is recovering from a radical mastectomy. I heard from a guy in San Francisco who is recovering from a serious meth addiction. A young wife and mother in North Carolina whose husband, and father of her two kids, has returned from Iraq a basket case…and now you, Doug.prostatecancer_600x450

Its astonishing that, despite the dramatic differences in each of your life stories, all of you report pretty much same thing — you feel less than whole, disconnected from your sexuality and devoid of any real intimacy or meaningful sexual outlet. It is so amazing how, despite our unique individual difficulties, there are often a universal response to life’s troubling complexities.

Regaining a sense of your sexual-self after prostate surgery, or any of the other problems I mentioned above, is an arduous, but rewarding task. With your self-confidence in the toilet and zero libido to boot, I suggest that you begin your rehabilitation by connecting with others similarly challenged as you. In your case, it will probably be other cancer survivors. More likely than not, they will be a whole lot more sympathetic to your issues and attuned to your predicament. Sometimes, people who have yet to experience a life threatening disease or a disfiguring surgery don’t have a clue about how to interact with those that have. It’s not their fault, it’s just the way things are.

I suggest looking into a support group, if you haven’t done so already. Once you make that connection, you will find, that you are not alone. Other people similarly challenged as you are experiencing many of very same things you are. And to my mind, it’s way much easier to face and handle life’s difficulties when surrounded and supported by others.

AGDD_front coverOne word of caution; my experience is that many disease-based programs and support groups shy away from intimacy concerns. This is a real tragedy, because this is the one aspect of healing that consistently remains unaddressed by the medical profession. That is way I included an entire chapter about the intimacy and sexual needs of chronically ill, elder and dying people in my book — The Amateur’s Guide To Death and Dying; Enhancing the End of Life. I encourage you to check out the book; it’s loaded with amazing sex-positive information.

Next I suggest that you first try connecting with people on a sensual level as opposed to a sexual level. I firmly believe in massage as the best say to accomplish this. Think about it. Imagine the good you’ll be able to do for others, as well as yourself with therapeutic touch. And, to my mind, therapeutic touch also includes sensual touch. It will soothe so much more than the jangled nerves and disrupted muscle tissue caused by radical invasive surgery. It gives the one doing the touch a renewed sense of him/herself a pleasure giver, which is totally important to us all. And when you receive the touch, it will begin to reawaken sensory perceptions you thought were lost for good. And your libido as well as your erection will bloom again. I promise. Here’s a tip: to keep that stiffy goin, I encourage you to use a cockring.

Now if you feel your massage skills aren’t up to par, why not take a class or workshop in massage. You might want to look to something like the Body Electric School Of Massage. They have load of training options. And learning is a hands-on experience. What could be more liberating than that?

If a class is a bit too intimidating at first, you might consider purchasing a book on massage. A great primer is: Male Erotic Massage by Ray Stubbs, Ph.D.  This is a holistic approach to bodywork, including the sexual and the spiritual aspects of Male Erotic Massage. There are over 200 photographs in this volume that reveal both massage techniques and the beauty of the male body embracing the male body. The strength, the joy, the gentleness, the ardor, the tenderness, the equanimity, the pleasure — they are all included.

Another title is: Erotic Massage, The Touch of Love also by Ray Stubbs, Ph.D.  This is a more inclusive volume of erotic massage. It describes long, flowing strokes for the whole body, including female and male genitals. By the way, this was the very first massage book to explicitly illustrate genital massage. The techniques described are simple and easy to perform. It’s superbly illustrated, and the text is both tender and playful.Massage

Finally, your gift of massage is the ideal way to connect with another human, be it a friend, a family member, lover, or even a stranger. Your touch can be either seductive or non-seductive, or maybe a little of both. You can count on this purposefully touching to open new doors. You’ll discover new pleasures, both subtle and profound, as you give as well as receive touch.

I encourage you to push beyond the isolation I know you are feeling, Doug. Purposeful touching, like massage, will change your perceptions about sex, sensuality, and intimacy. And like I said, it will also resurrect your boner. I know this can happen. I’ve seen it happen. Doug, now it’s your turn to make it happen!

Good luck

Hey dr dick! What’s that toll-free podcast voicemail telephone number? Why, it’s: (866) 422-5680. DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

The Naughty & The Nice

Just in time for the holidays, here’s my Naughty and Nice list.

NICE

NAUGHTY

NICELY NAUGHTY

Happy Holidays!

Get a grip!

We continue our National Masturbation Month theme today.

Name: Pablo
Gender: Male
Age: 34
Location: Madrid
Can you help me I have an addiction towards masturbation. I can’t control the urge that I have. I’m single and have never been with a woman. I’m very nervous about this. How can I control these sexual urges? Please write back as soon as you can.

Pablo, darling, what’s the big problem with jerkin’ off…even jerkin’ off a lot? Perhaps you’re creating a predicament where there doesn’t need to be one. Maybe you just need to relax and enjoy your self-pleasuring.

First off, I want to restate my belief that there’s no such thing as a masturbation addict. Compulsive hand jobs? Sure! Out of control wackin’ off? Ya betcha! Self-denigrating pud-pulling? Absolutely! Masturbation addiction? No way!

Masturbation is normal, particularly for someone like you who is not involved with someone else. Of course masturbation is also a big part of the sex life of people in relationships too.

Say, where are you getting the information that self-love is a bad thing? Is this message coming from the Church perhaps? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it were. Masturbation can sure enough be a problem, if you’ve been indoctrinated to think it is bad or sinful. But then again, the problem is the sex-negative propaganda, not the masturbation itself.

I’d be willing to guess a guy of your age, without a wife or lover has all kinds of repressive feelings about sex in general, not just masturbation in particular. Maybe it’s your religious up bringing that is coloring your judgment about your private sexuality. Perhaps if you took the opportunity to rethink your training, you wouldn’t be so hard on yourself.

Since you don’t go into any detail about the extent of your behavior, I guess I’ll just have to make some general comments. Like I said masturbation, or any behavior for that matter, can become compulsive. If the urge to choke the chicken gets in the way of you having a full rich life, you may have a problem. Say you’re jerkin’ off so much that you don’t having a social life. Or you’re pullin’ your pud so much that you can’t hold down a job. Then that’s a problem. But I hasten to add the problem is not masturbation, per se, it’s the being out of control that’s the problem. Just like if someone told me they were jogging so much they had no time for a social life or for a job, then that person has a problem. But it’s not the jogging, per se. Ya get it?

There are lots of reasons why people feel uncomfortable about their sexual desires and behaviors. Most all of us grow up in a very sex- negative environment. Parents still punish their kids if they catch them playing with themselves. The Church still insists that any sexual expression outside of marriage is sinful. So many people are so judgmental about the sexual behaviors of others, particularly if the expression is one they themselves don’t practice. Others can be so cruel, using terms like slut, whore, and promiscuous when talking about someone who is getting more sex than they. In other words, it’s our culture’s unhealthy preoccupation with sex that is often the cause of one’s fear and mistrust of his own sexual desires and practices.

You don’t have to settle for this, Pablo. You can learn to free yourself from the repressive messages that may surround you. You may find the help you need on the internet, don’t cha know. There are many online communities that celebrate self-loving. Do a search using the words: healthy masturbation.

One thing for sure, if you feel bad about jerkin’ off, you’re probably also fearful of partnered sex. I mean it wasn’t lost on me that you’re 34 and still a virgin. Holy Cow! Maybe if you liberated yourself from your repressive attitudes toward masturbation, partnered sex would take its rightful place in your life. It’s never too late for this to happen, Pablo.

Some people use masturbation as a means of self-abuse. I guess it’s no accident that self-abuse is a term some sex-negative people use when talking about masturbation. If you don’t like yourself very much, Pablo, for whatever reason, you could be using your private sex to punish and denigrate yourself. This is the ultimate perversion — turning something good and healthy into something hurtful and hateful.

Are you concentrating so much time and energy on your cock to avoid other problems in your life? Maybe if you confronted these other problems, whatever they might be, head on, you’d feel better about yourself. And your solitary sexual practices wouldn’t loom so large. The problem is, because you feel bad about what you’re doing, you’re actually adding more stress in your life, making it harder for you to get a hold of this, no pun intended.

Good luck!

Hey dr dick! What’s that toll-free podcast voicemail telephone number? Why, it’s: (866) 422-5680. DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

More SEX WISDOM With Celeste Hirschman and Danielle Harel — Podcast #308 — 11/09/11


Hello sex fans! Welcome back.

I’m so excited, because my friends and colleagues, Celeste Hirschman and Danielle Harel are back to dispense more of their signature SEX WISDOM. This is Part 2 of their appearance on this show, don’t cha know. We had such a good time together last week; I simply had to insist that they return today and they were kind enough to comply.  So yay for that!

But wait, you didn’t miss Part 1 of our chat, did you? Well not to worry if ya did, because you can find it and all my podcasts in the Podcast Archive right here on my site. All ya gotta do is use the search function in the header; type in Podcast #307 and PRESTO! But don’t forget the #sign when you do your search.

Celeste, Danielle and I discuss:

Celeste and Danielle invite you to visit them on their site HERE! Look for their amazing blog HERE! Find them on Facebook HERE and Twitter HERE!

(Click on the book cover below to buy their book.)

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously, or just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: Fleshlight & FleshJack.

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