Woes of famous, powerful shine light on sex addiction

Thu Jun 16, 2011 5:55pm EDT
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By Jackie Frank

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Addictions to alcohol, drugs and gambling can destroy lives, but less well known and more controversial is the overwhelming need for sexual satisfaction so intense that psychologists compare it to crack cocaine.

Representative Anthony Weiner stepped down from Congress under pressure from fellow Democrats, including President Barack Obama, after he admitted to "sexting" in which he sent lewd pictures of himself to young women. He said he was seeking treatment for an unspecified problem.

Golfer Tiger Woods checked into an unspecified rehabilitation center for treatment after admitting to a number of extramarital affairs.

Actor David Duchovny, star of "Californication," is one of the few who has publicly announced his sex addiction. He entered a rehabilitation center for the sex disorder in 2008.

But the sensational nature of the public admissions by the famous and powerful to multiple extramarital affairs, obsession with Internet sexting, or repeated accusations of sexual harassment, draws intense media attention -- and a fair amount of ridicule.

"People joke that if they are going to have an addiction, that's the one they want to have," said therapist Stephanie Carnes, author of "Mending a Shattered Heart."

There is also skepticism among the public and some psychologists that the sexual disorder even exists, but is rather an excuse for infidelity or viewing pornography. There is no diagnosis of addiction at all in the official listing of mental disorders -- the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

But as not everyone who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic, sex addiction is characterized by out of control compulsive behavior. And it can be more damaging to family life and harder to give up than more typical addictions.   Continued...

<p>Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) pauses as he announces that he will resign from the United States House of Representatives during a news conference in Brooklyn, New York, June 16, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>