Sex Addiction is Not a Myth

Dr. David Ley’s article called the “The Comforting Fiction of Sex Addiction” reads like, well, . . . fiction.  In it he talks about what he calls “the myth of sex addiction” which to me is, well, . . . a myth.

In fact, little in Dr. Ley’s sex addict bashing tome reflects my reality as a counselor for sex addicts and former sex addict myself. Dr. Ley and I must live in some parallel opposite universes or one of us is dead wrong . . . and it ain’t me.

depressed manMy universe, my practice, and my life is filled with hundreds of brave men and women (mostly men) who realize that compulsive pornography and sex is ruining their lives. Many who see me have either lost their spouses, jobs, children, obscene amounts of money. Some are near suicide. Many have been sexually molested physically or emotionally or both. Most have suffered some profound trauma that would make a grown man cry. I know because I do.

I wrote my book, Breaking the Cycle: Free Yourself from Sex Addiction, Porn Obsession, and Shame to treat what a clear majority of physicians, psychologists, addiction specialists, and therapists are calling a public health epidemic. Extremely graphic and hardcore pornography has never in the history of mankind been more available to more people, including children.

The average age of exposure to pornography is 11, so it’s no surprise that the number of children seeking treatment for sexual compulsions is skyrocketing. Studies say porn is a major factor in almost two-thirds of all U.S. divorces. Urologists in Italy recently proved that the desensitizing effect of porn is actually causing erectile dysfunction. And the physician group called the American Society for Addictive Medicine just unequivocally declared that yes, porn and sex addiction exist, and do in fact have a profound impact on the brain, despite Dr. Ley’s stale claim that they do not.

I want to highlight some critical areas where we diverge. By claiming that sex addiction is a myth, I respectfully submit that Dr. Ley is actually perpetrating a harmful myth of his own for the following reasons.

Compulsions for Porn
Dr. Ley wrote: “Most in vogue is the theory that people can become addicted to pornography and, in particular, Internet pornography. Men are supposedly lost to the powers of the Internet, ‘clicking’ themselves out of jobs, marriages and finances.”  Again, Dr. Ley cannot or does not see my reality, the reality in which these men believe they are powerless to not watch porn, not spend too much money on porn, and not “click” themselves out of jobs, marriages, and finances. These feelings of powerlessness are common to all addictions.

Dr. Ley counters that we all have a choice, and that is true. However, if someone lacks the conscious awareness of choice, he or she does not experience choice – to them it’s a “myth.”  Of course we all have choice, the choice to use drugs, drink, gamble, or have sex with a prostitute, or not. My clients, honorable successful men, good men, have made choices that bring them great shame, deep depression, and some closer to death’s door.  Dismissing their poor choices to character defects and weakness, as Dr. Ley does, is easy. What I do is hard. I help my clients understand why they are stuck in a cycle of choices that cause them to hurt themselves and others. I help them make better ones.  As noted earlier, severe traumas, both physical and emotional, are overwhelmingly at the root of shameful and harmful sexual behavior.

Sexually Compulsive Behavior is Not Addictive Like Drugs or Alcohol
Dr. Ley writes “unlike those who’ve become dependent on alcohol or drugs, an individual who has been labeled a sex addict faces no serious physical consequences if he or she suddenly goes ‘cold turkey’.”

Dr. Ley must never have met a real sex addict. Well, he has now. “Hi, my name is George.” During my years as a sex addict, I suffered physical pain when my drug of choice was unavailable, and the emotional withdrawal was crippling.  Many clients report similar experiences over and over again when abstaining. With no sex or porn some of them turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of withdrawal, these are called cross-addictions. I see physical and emotional pain every day.

By Claiming Sex Addiction is a Myth, Dr. Ley is Actually Perpetrating a Harmful Myth of His Own
By claiming that sex addiction does not exist, except as a poor excuse for aberrant behavior, Dr. Ley trivializes the suffering of millions for whom this simple two-word phrase provides critical support for learning more about themselves, their behavior, and how to make better choices.

For someone in the throes of any addiction, this is exactly what they want to hear, and sex addicts are no different. And instead of helping them, this dismissive, “get over it” language hurts. I wonder how many defaulted to their coping compulsive behavior and acted out after reading Dr. Ley’s article or seeing him on TV.

Dr. Ley’s “myth” theory, reminds me of a scene in the funny movie Naked Gun. Lt. Frank Drebin played by Leslie Neilson is standing in front of a building engulfed in flames and explosions, and in his classic deadpan style, tells passerbys “alright, move on, nothing to see here” as if he was clearing the road after a fender bender. Dr. Ley’s misguided theory would be funny as well if not for so many suffering people. In this real world it’s not funny. I work with my clients to quell the inferno, to douse the fire, not to pretend and tell people it doesn’t exist.

I do agree with Dr. Ley when he said that science does not have all the answers. I will leave the academic debate over what to “officially” call the sex addiction crisis to the academics. I’m too busy helping men put their lives back together. I know this problem exists, I’ve lived it and I see it every day. “It,” whatever “it” is, is ruining lives in record numbers. I, along with the overwhelming numbers of doctors, therapists, and addiction scientists, call “it” sex addiction.The real myth here is Dr. Ley’s suggestion that millions of leaders, hard workers, executives, community advocates, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and religious leaders use the label “sex addiction” as an excuse. No Dr. Ley, they use it to get help.

George Collins is the author of the best seller on sex addiction, “Breaking the Cycle: Free Yourself from Sex Addiction, Porn Obsession, and Shame” and is the founder and director of Compulsion Solutions.  As a recovering sex addict, he didn’t just go to college and read about sexually compulsive behavior. He lived “the life” and got over it.

George and his team practice from their offices in Walnut Creek, California in person and via phone with men and women from all over the world who are suffering from the results of sexually compulsive behavior. They also offer counseling and support for wives and partners. As a recognized expert, he’s appeared as a guest on local, national, and international radio and television shows.





Comments 9

  1. I’m sorry that you had to suffer. You are right. Forgiveness is the right thing. For YOU. Sexual abuse is bad enough, but suffering from it’s after effects for years is unnecessary. Being angry and hating serves no purpose. I know. I’m a sexual abuse survivor too. When I let go of the shame, fear and pain of this victimization, I was able to trust that I could lead an intimate life with a woman without feeling creepy. And, I was lucky enough to find a lovely former Buddhist nun who would help me in this quest. Kudos to you for your ability to transcend living in reaction to your negative history. YOU are fine. Always have been. YOU know that. Thank you for sharing your story and your courage to show up and tell the truth. Others will be better off for your sharing this.

  2. I am not sure what to say or how to respond to this article but all I do know is that my father was someone who had pornography in our home and when I was about 10 or so I found some magazines at the bottom of the hall closet. Now that I am in my 50’s I can put together that his sexual abuse toward me was in direct relationship to what he was regularly looking at… is sex an addiction? Absolutely YES! I have overcome a lot because of the abuse of my father toward me but it has not been an easy road, it has been filled with painful memories, difficulty connecting with people, always feeling like an outsider, it has hurt to the core of my being and even one failed suicide over 11 years ago. If he had gotten help with his “addiction”, would it have made a difference in my life and our family? Yes. My father was turned into child protective services, forced into counseling and when he met with the “trained” counsel who was a doctor and said to him that it was what she (meaning me) wanted. Oh right, at age 5 I wanted my father to sexually abuse me. It only goes to show how much in denial he really was about his need for inappropriate sexual behavior. I ended up talking with my father’s counselor over the phone after he had 10 sessions and was released from care. The doctor said, there was nothing he could do, your dad met the requirements of his counseling, he is too old and feels there is nothing wrong with what he did and he is also too mentally deranged to truly understand what he has done and its effects on you. The doctor released him and my comment to the doctor was… I hope that my father never sits next to your daughter because she will not be safe. Then come back and tell me that it is ok to release him back into society.
    This “doctor” was a trained profession who had no clue what a “sex addicted” was or how his addiction affected others.
    An important note to add is that I sat down and wrote a letter to everyone of my siblings, and one aunt who lived in the area and told them of the sexual abuse (not details) but that I had been sexually abused by our father (my aunt by her brother) but wanted them to know so that they could protect their children. The doctor said that there was nothing more he could do but there is something that I can do and there is something that they too can do… they can protect their children from a “sex addict”.
    My response, after YEARS of counseling I have finally forgiven my dad to the degree that I know needs to be forgiven. As the need to forgive goes deeper, I choose to forgive him again, and again, and again, and it will continue to be a process until one day it has all been forgiven. When will that be? The day that I go home to be with the Lord (heaven), I pray that my father is there to meet me. Some people would be very surprised at my response — my only prayer is that my father truly sought God’s forgiveness for what he has done to me and the others that he sexually abused because he does have my forgiveness. May God have mercy on his soul.

  3. So, according to Dr. Ley, my husband spent hours and hours looking at porn when he should have been at work or spending time with me and our children by choice? Thank God he found his counselor. He initially went in because his anger was getting worse, but though a few sessions, he figured out that he was addicted to porn. He didn’t realize it was a problem (even after I left him and he lost two jobs in as many months) until that one session when he was telling his counselor about his porn habits. He was a totally different person when he became more and more immersed in porn (his temper was a big give away that he was into something he shouldn’t have been), much like someone with a chemical dependance. He even went through the physical withdrawal symptoms once he started the process of expunging the porn from his life. Every time a so-called Dr. insists that sex does not have the potential to become addictive , I really question how much they really understand how the brain works.

  4. AS the girlfriend of a sex addict, this information is so helpful because he believes Im crazy for thinking this way. I have talked to him many times because it hurts me so bad and has now put a great toll on wha we had beautiful together. I will now buy this book, read it and hopefully be able to share what I learn with him!

    1. I had many tears,reading this book,I did not understand what my ex hbsaund and the father of my child,was going through many years ago.I feel this book is a must read.Alot of books do not keep me interested,this one did.I could not put it down! It made see so many things in a different light.Thank you Mr Young!I hope there will be many more books from you,I would buy them and read without hesitation.God bless you,And Thank you for the Insight .

  5. I recently read the article by Dr. Ley. His notions of ‘de-medicalizing’ a condition that is a disease is completely misguided. I have been in recovery from drugs and alcohol for two years now, and I would have to say that any addiction is just a matter of a ‘drug-of-choice.’ Having said this, I feel that I personally will be addicted to anything that makes me feel relatively good. I am in the process of looking at my own sexual conduct, because it is manifesting in a way that could be seen as a compulsion. This is not much different than a year ago when I looked at my gambling habits. I had to quit, because I felt POWERLESS. A feeling of POWERLESSNESS to something that would, at face value, be seen as a choice would, in my own experience, be a ‘red-flag’ for a potential case of addiction.

    I feel that your article reclaimed credibility for a condition that is, without a doubt, not a myth.

    Thank you.

  6. I cannot begin to tell you how many articles I read every day as founder of the I am looking forward to our debate/interview with George Collins and Dr. Ley to be featured on the about sex addiction and whether or not it exists.

  7. I am also a recovered sex addict and professional counselor who helps sex addicts and their partners. AMEN to this article. I have read several articles by other professionals who agree with Dr. Ley, and they all approach from the same misguided thoughts of what sex addiction is. Anyone who thinks being labeled as a “sex addict” somehow makes your behavior excusable does not understand what addiction really is. They still operate from the old disease model that suggests those with an addiction are literally powerless. They are powerless to use willpower alone to stop the addictive behavior. But they are NOT powerless to use their willpower to reach out, get help, stop keeping secrets and learn how to overcome this through support and therapy. Being on the front lines with addicts, it is surprising to me, too, to see professionals who think this problem does not exist. I also agree that science does have a long way to go in fully understanding addiction, dependency, sexuality, and how they interact together. Much of the confusion surrounding disagreements in the sex addiction world has to do with people operating from different definitions on what addiction and dependency mean.

    Keep up the good work in helping people with this difficult issue!

    1. Christopher, Thanks so much for your kind comment. So glad for the support. We both really DO know how difficult this stuff really is. Keep up your good work.
      Best, George

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