Sex Addiction Label: Helpful or Not?

By Elijah Bedrosian - 07/17/2018


It is important to note that there is no sex addiction diagnosis in the DSM V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used to identify and describe psychiatric diagnosis). There is however a sex addiction label which has gained more attention in recent years. There is much discussion and at times argument, as to if sex addiction is a condition at all. For the purpose of this discussion, it will be assumed that sex addiction is a legitimate condition that many struggle with.

Benefits of the Sex Addiction label may be:

  1. There is an identifiable condition to name when a person has struggled with sexual acting out
  2. There are behaviors and symptoms connected to the sex addict label to help identify what a person may struggle with
  3. The “addiction” part of the label can be a way to identify a person’s loss of control over his behaviors (However even if there is a loss of control, he is still 100% culpable for all of his behaviors).
  4. There are many 12 step, inpatient, IOP, individual therapists and other support groups to support people who identify with the label of sex addiction
  5. Many people address their shame by joining a recovery community and sharing their problems with their support groups
  6. There is an increasing amount of material available about sex addiction and different specific behaviors and problems within sex addiction

Some of the drawbacks to the label of Sex Addiction may include:

  1. A person rationalizing his infidelity or offensive sexual behavior through identifying as a sex addict
  2. A person who has been unfaithful to his spouse/partner may take on the label by his or her spouse out of guilt
  3. A person can be mislabeled if their sexual acting out is really an episodic period in their lives, but not long term and enduring (i.e as part of exploring one’s sexual identity)
  4. A person becomes over-identified with the label, which can be stigmatizing and shameful
    There may be an over-focus on the label, without addressing the specific sexual behaviors or problems, and the underlying issues beneath this (often trauma based)
  5. In the absence of a discussion about and understanding of what healthy sexuality is, sexuality can be pathologized

In the future, the label of Sex Addiction may change or be done away with. What is more important than the label itself, is that the behaviors and underlying issues are addressed, and a person is able to be supported in their healing. At its best, the label of Sex Addiction is used to help a person receive the help and support that he or she needs.


By Elijah Bedrosian, LPC

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