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What Exactly Makes A Sex Addict? A Top Behavior Analyst Explains

Yes, it's real. 

On a past episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Scott Disick – father of three - joked that he was a sex addict. Indeed, since his breakup with Kourtney Kardashian two years ago after years of alleged infidelity, Scott has been caught canoodling with countless women, including actress Bella Thorne.

After much social media storm, Scott clarified to E! that he “just likes sex, but I’m not a sex addict.” So what actually makes a person suffer from sex addiction?

“Addiction is the physical and mental dependence on a substance or activity in order to achieve homeostasis, a sense of physiological and emotional well-being,” defines Carmen McGuinness, a board-certified behavior analyst and author of Unintended Consequences: a Psychological Romance.

“The question becomes whether they can actually they stop the behavior – which should not be confused with will or do,” she explains. “Just because a man doesn’t stop seeing his mistress, or four prostitutes a week, doesn’t mean he can’t.”   

Take Tim, who claimed to be in love with his wife of 15 years, but had just ended the two-year affair he was having on the side. “He claimed it was his fourth affair in the present marriage, and that he had also had an affair while married to his previous wife,” Carmen shares. “In all of these relationships, Tim never claimed or imagined he had an addiction until his wife suggested it. In his case, the event that made him realize that he had an addiction - or at least an excuse for his behavior - was his wife’s suggestion that he did.”

The "addiction card" can become a viable excuse for those who cheat to fall back on “when they’re caught behaving in a sexually inappropriate way, such as having sex with someone other than their partner,” Carmen says. “Since society views addiction as a disease, whether it be alcohol, drugs or sex, it is considered a sickness from which the victim should be healed.”

So it’s actually commendable that Scott isn’t trying to blame his actions on an addiction. Still, he could take a few lessons from the steps taken to treat infidelity as an addiction – if he ever wanted to be faithful. Here are Carmen’s suggestions:

The individual should stop associating with the affair partner or partners, and with any friends or family who also engage in cheating and may have contributed to the allure of the behavior.

The individual and those supporting his or her recovery should determine whether a twelve-step or cognitive behavioral approach to treatment is preferable for this particular individual. 

The marital, or primary, partner should be involved in therapy. Genuine forgiveness is critical to the recovery of the marriage as well as her personal recovery.

In many cases, the marriage was unhealthy before the affair. So it’s also important to work toward strengthening the marital bond and true intimacy between the partners. 

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