Valerie realized that sex was wrecking her life right around the time her second marriage disintegrated.
At 30, and employed as a human-resources administrator in Phoenix, she had serially cheated on both her husbands—often with their subordinates and co-workers—logging anonymous hookups in fast-food-restaurant bathrooms, affairs with married men, and one-night stands too numerous to count. Not even after one man’s wife aimed a shotgun at her head while catching them in flagrante delicto.
But compulsive sexual behavior, also called hypersexual disorder, can systematically destroy a person’s life much as addictions to alcohol or drugs can.
And it’s affecting an increasing number of Americans, say psychiatrists and addiction experts.
At the Promises treatment centers, clinicians have observed a number of sex addicts who have relapsed with drugs or alcohol in order to medicate the shame they felt.
Reliable figures for the number of diagnosed sex addicts are difficult to come by, but the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, an education and sex-addiction treatment organization, estimates that between 3 and 5 percent of the U. population—or more than 9 million people—could meet the criteria for addiction.
I ended up homeless and on food stamps,” says Valerie, who, like most sex addicts interviewed for this story, declined to provide her real name.
“I was totally out of control.” Keep up with this story and more “Sex addiction” remains a controversial designation—often dismissed as a myth or providing talk-show punchlines thanks to high-profile lotharios such as Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Tiger Woods.
“I realized I was not comfortable in my own skin,” says Valerie, who checked herself into four months of treatment for sex addiction at Del Amo, a private behavioral-health hospital in Torrance, Calif.
“My depression came from the fear I was going to be alone for the rest of my life.
This year the epidemic has spread to movies and TV.