The thought of statistics takes me back to graduate school over 15 years ago, and I feel that old anxiety in my stomach as I write about sex addiction today. Somehow I passed statistics even though I am not the most math-minded individual. Regardless, I do understand there is a place for statistics, so let’s have a conversation about statistics.
I invite my colleagues to join me in this journey to keep stats on their work and write about them, as we all wrestle to try to better understand sex addiction and improve sex addiction treatment.
As many of you know, we can sort the data in many different ways, far beyond what we will do in this article, as this is only a fraction of our data. We also round the percentages up to the nearest whole number for simplicity.
For this article, we will define sex addiction as the inability to stop acting out in the areas of porn, masturbation or sex outside of marriage. The frequency and amount of time spent in the behavior is increasing. These cause problems for the person in these fives areas:
- Legal Status
We define a sexual/emotional/intimacy anorexic as an individual who withholds or tries to protect themselves physically, emotionally, spiritually and sexually from their partner. We also refer to this as an addiction to safety that is intentional even though the individual would deny it.
At Transformed Hearts, we have a structured intake process that provides the client’s information and history quickly through a series of a face-to-face or phone interview questions with answers of yes, no or short answers. Some of the questions are answered with the couple together while questions of a more personal nature are answered separate from their partner.
Finally, some of the questions are cross-referenced in regard to what they would say about themselves and their partner combined with what they think their partner would say about them. Before contacting our office, the majority of couples have been to previous counseling or have sought out previous sexual addiction treatment and help. Also, the majority have had very little sobriety or success in their recovery from their sexual addiction.
Here is what we found. Of the 517 files reviewed, only 7 percent of the men who came to our office where we specialize in sexual addiction treatment did not meet our definition of having a sexual addiction.
Note: This is not going to reflect the general public as a whole any more than a counseling center specializing in depression is going to have a small percentage of clients who are not depressed.
Of these files, 30 percent of the men were found to have sexual addiction, 6 percent were not sex addicts but only intimacy anorexics, 57 percent were both sexual addicts and anorexics. This means that 63 percent of the men who came to our office were not being treated for intimacy anorexia or had only been aware of their sexual addiction issues.
Unfortunately, I believe this is true in most sex addiction recovery groups. Out of a group of 10 men, 6 of the men were also intimacy anorexics. The sexual addiction and the intimacy anorexia are connected. As I write in Out of the Darkness, you have to treat them both simultaneously to have the best chance of success. Intimacy anorexia usually drives the acting-out behaviors, yet most have only been working on the symptoms, not the source of the symptoms.
With the women, we found of the 138 files reviewed that the majority, 51 percent, were not sexual addicts. We did find that 22 percent of the women had a form of sexual addiction as defined above.
This may not have been a physical affair, but there was a struggle with pornography and masturbation. Only 7 percent of the women were both sexual addicts and intimacy anorexics. However, 20 percent of the women were intimacy anorexics, as they withheld physical, emotional, or spiritual intimacy from their partner.
As with the men, 27 percent of the women had not been treated or had not heard of intimacy anorexia before coming to our office.
It is my experience and recommendation working with male sex addicts that the issue of intimacy anorexia is addressed and treated alongside sexual addiction. This data indicates 63 percent of men and 27 percent of women who seek help from sexual addiction also struggle with intimacy anorexia. It is a far too staggering number to ignore. We need to address this important issue. I predict that this number will grow. As we become technologically connected with the global community through social media, we will become more disconnected and less intimate with those closest to us. Intimacy anorexia needs to be addressed with women, as it affects almost one-third of the women seeking treatment with us. I believe we will see a growing number of female sex addicts in the future, and the gap between men and women will close. I predict that it will be similar to the changes we have seen in gender studies treating alcoholism or heart disease.
Ongoing Sex Addiction and Intimacy Anorexia Outcomes
There is much more work that needs to be done with research, statistics and the outcomes in the treatment of sexual addiction and intimacy anorexia. Let’s approach sexual addiction recovery and treatment differently. As we say in recovery, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.”
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.