Psychiatric Diseases - Sexual Addiction

Though many believe it is only an excuse for a philandering celebrity, experts say sex addiction is, indeed, a mental disorder. And in an era when the net takes pornography into every household, it will only become a bigger problem. Golf and sex are about the only things you can enjoy without being good at," Jimmy Demaret, the celebrated twentieth century American golfer, had joked. By all reports and guesstimates, another golfer and the man of the moment, Tiger Woods, is good at both. Reports of Woods checking into at a sex addiction clinic in Mississippi prompt the question on the minds of many: Is there such a thing as sexual addiction - or are men like Woods merely taking advantage of the many opportunities that come their way? Experts in matters of the birds and bees insist sex addiction is indeed an obsessive compulsive disorder like any other. "It does exist. It's a personality disorder by and large where one's desires become uncontrollable, needs unquenchable and behaviour compulsive," says Dr Prakash Kothari, advisor to the World Association for Sexology.

Described as satyriasis in men and nymphomania in women (this is rarer), the addiction is classified as a personality disorder by psychiatrists. And there are individuals in the clasp of an OCD that has zero social tolerance - they may recognise their behaviour as at odds with society, but are blatant about carrying them through, unmindful of reactions.

"Polygamous behaviour is common. A sex addict, however, lives at an animalistic level. The behaviour is unevolved and the individual does not grow in a relationship with anyone. He or she is auto-sexual," says Mumbai-based Dr Rajan Bhonsle, head of department of sexual medicine, KEM Hospital and G S Medical College. The line between a healthy sexual appetite and an addiction is based, in part, on how much time you spend on sex and fantasies. The current definition of addiction comes from Patrick Carnes, 'the father of the sexual addiction movement' and the therapist whose staff is reportedly treating Woods.

Carnes, who directs the sexual-addiction program at Pine Grove Behavioural Health and Addiction Services in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, defines the addiction: "If you're spending over 14 hours a week doing something sexual or quasi-sexual, like cruising the internet for porn or cruising the streets looking for a particular type of prostitute, you're in the addictive range."