When a famous athlete or Hollywood actor or politician has been caught cheating or is rumored to have been serially cheating or has been arrested on solicitation charges, there is usually a media feeding frenzy. There’s nothing more satisfying than a juicy sex scandal. Many project an attitude of disapproval with a candy coating of prudishness, yet they keep following the developing story.

I always wonder how long it will take before the cheater plays the sex addiction card. Making such a claim twenty years ago would have been unthinkable but now it has become a go-to maneuver. Some wonder if it isn’t just an excuse for bad behavior.

Since neither sex addiction nor hypersexuality appears in the DSM-5, some might be tempted to claim that neither is real. Neither even made it into the section three holding pen of disorders needing further research. Some of the experts of the American Psychiatric Association have spoken. But many people who do identify as sex addicts or as having hypersexual disorder and the people who treat them beg to differ. Theirs are important voices.

Many sex addicts and therapists will appeal to the behavioral criteria that define substance use disorder and addictive behavior such as gambling. These behaviors must recur over a specified time period and comprise a pattern. Self-identified sex addicts will claim that sexual behavior or thinking/fantasizing about sex dominates their lives and that they experience alterations in their moods as a consequence.

Furthermore, they develop a tolerance such that it takes more for them to reach a pleasure or release threshold. They become far less able to control or cut down on their impulses to engage in these behaviors.  Sexual behavior becomes the axis around which their lives turn.