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Monday
Nov292010

Tiger Woods Effect: More Sex Addicts Seek Help

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- In the year since golfer Tiger Woods checked into a Mississippi sex rehabilitation clinic, the number of those seeking treatment for sex addiction has jumped by 50 percent, according to Robert Weiss, founding director of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, which opened in 1995.

An estimated five to six percent of all Americans admit to the addiction, most of them men.

The month after Woods went into rehab, the Sexual Recovery Institute began offering information sessions that have been drawing 35 to 50 people a week. Its website has had 13,000 hits in the last 30 days.

There has been disagreement in the scientific community over whether people can be addicted to sex in the same way as drugs or alcohol. Two characteristics of substance abuse are building up a tolerance over time and going through withdrawal when deprived. The American Psychiatric Association does not even include sex addiction in its Diagnostics Standards Manual IV, although it is under review for the next edition.

Sex addiction, like overeating and compulsive spending and gambling, is a process addiction -- a neurobiological arousal disorder that involves the interplay of the hormones serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline. Broadly defined by the Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals, sex addiction is "any sexually related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones and one's work environment."

The compulsive behavior is triggered by anxiety, and continues in a vicious cycle of stress, release and then shame, which ignites the anxiety again. The roots often lie in childhood.

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