What does sex addiction tell us about addiction in general?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on March 5th, 2011 - Last updated: November 20th, 2023
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Further Reading

Dear Stanton:

What do you think about sexual addiction. Jennifer Schneider, M.D., PhD has a good article on sexual addiction which begins:

Addiction to sexual activities can be just as destructive as addiction to chemical substances. Addicts may jeopardize their marriage and family relationships, allow their job performance to deteriorate, and endanger themselves and their partner through multiple sexual exposures. Even though they realize the consequences, they cannot control their compulsions without appropriate treatment.


Dear Richard:

I wrote Love and Addiction partly to dispel conventional myths about addiction. To regard interpersonal relationships as addictions — and these clearly occur — challenges popular ideas about addiction and its popular causality. Here are five questions indicated by sexual addiction:

  • Are sexual addicts disposed from birth to be sexual addicts?
  • How does sexual addiction relate to other inbred addictions — e.g. are alcoholics and sexual addicts the same, overlapping, or totally independent populations?
  • Is sexual addiction constant across cultures — is it equally common and does it take the the same form in Scandinavia, Spain, Saudi Arabia, and Polynesia?
  • Do sexual addicts ever outgrow the full addiction syndrome — that is, mitigate their problems with age?
  • Is sexual addiction set off by pornography, by masturbation, by unconventional sex, or what — i.e., to what does the abstinence require apply in sexual addiction?


A comment on this note by Richard Wilmot:

It is questions and comparisons such as these that turned on a lot of graduate students. I first was introduced to Dr. Peele’s work as a graduate student at the University of California by my advisor. She said to read Love and Addiction — it is a new way of looking at addictions… and it was and it is… it is a “perspective of incongruity” and being so it raises some very important questions about that which we normally take for granted.

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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