The Rocky History of Sex Addiction in Public Awareness

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TIME cover(by Linda Hatch PhD) It is the height of the AIDS epidemic, around 30 years ago. Dr. Patrick Carnes, the founding father of sex addiction theory, is going to speak to the gay community. He has been invited in by a respected African American sexologist who feels that the gay community really needs to hear his message. On this occasion Dr. Carnes is transported in one of three identical limos so that if he was attacked it would be impossible to know which limo he was in.

The ridicule and harassment began early and didn’t stop. Carnes’ daughter Dr. Stefanie Carnes, now the president of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals, remembers that when she was a teenager her father received death threats.

Even some in the AA community were angered when Dr. Carnes started a 12-step recovery program for sex addiction. So what was the idea that evoked such a violent reaction? In his 1983 book Out of the Shadows, [1] Carnes defined sex addiction as “a pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience.” Twenty years later in Facing the Shadow [2] he states:

“Today we understand that addiction is an illness– a very serious disease. Furthermore, problems such as drug, food, gambling and sex addiction are actually related and rely on similar physical processes. Most important, we know that people can get help and that a good prognosis exists. Sex addiction is the last addiction to be understood.”

How sex addiction was thrown under the bus...

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