Rob Weiss, senior vice president of clinical development with Elements Behavioral Health and founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, tells U.S. News and World Report that the recently released film “Thanks for Sharing” is a true portrayal of what sex addiction is really about; that it’s an underlying intimacy disorder.
The characters in the dramatic comedy about a group of friends brought together through their resolve to recover from sex addiction display “the struggles [sex addicts] have around plain old intimacy, being vulnerable, being real, telling the truth,” Weiss told U.S. News, adding that “people that have these kinds of issues don’t just struggle in one way. They struggle in multiple ways.”
While sex addiction has grabbed national headlines this year due to a slew of sex scandals, sex addiction remains a deeply misunderstood disorder, according to Weiss.
“We don’t have Betty Fords for this issue,” he says, explaining that until the first lady put a public face on the problem of alcohol addiction in the early ’80s, alcoholics were considered bums.
When it comes to process addictions such as food, gambling, sex and spending, Weiss says society has “a lot of moral judgement about those people – much like we did around drugs and alcohol 30 years ago.”
It is believed that sexual addiction is a dysfunctional adult response to innate personality, character or emotional regulatory deficits, as well as a reaction to early attachment disorders, abuse and trauma, according to Weiss.
“Sex addicts are looking for controllable sources of getting themselves fed emotionally,” Weiss continued. Real intimacy requires risk, vulnerability and being loved for who you are. Sex addicts, however, may struggle with self-esteem or narcissism, and avoid the self-disclosure and authenticity that would lead to that, he explains.
According to Weiss, about 5 percent to 8 percent of the population are sex addicts, one-third of whom are women. As stigmatized as the issue is, it’s even more so for women, who are less inclined to get help, he says.
One way to determine if you have a problem is to go cold turkey, Weiss told the news magazine. For example, if watching porn feels compulsive, eliminate it from your life for 30 days. If you can do that, without replacing it with another pleasurable obsession such as food or alcohol, then you’re in control. But if not, seek out a 12-step program and a therapist trained in addiction, preferably sexual addiction, who understands the vulnerabilities at the root of the disorder.
“We’re designed to connect,” Weiss says. “We’re designed to be in community. We pair bond.” Sex addicts “either don’t know how, or they’re too frightened.”
Read a review of “Thanks for Sharing” by Rob Weiss on the Huffington Post.