What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About Sex Addiction and Violence

The suspect in the recent Atlanta spa shootings that left eight people dead, six of whom were women of Asian descent, claimed he carried out the carnage as a means to rid himself of “temptation.”

The 21-year-old gunman, Robert Aaron Long, identified to police that he had a sex addiction and purportedly had been in a Christian treatment center to address the issue.

As an Asian-American psychotherapist specializing in sex addiction and Asian cultural issues, I want to make it clear that the behaviors associated with sex addiction do not include acts of horrific violence like the ones we witnessed last week.

But what exactly is “sex addiction,” and how does it differ from a compulsion? Are all sex addicts violent? And how does someone know if they’re addicted to sex, anyway?

Here’s what you need to know about sex addiction, how to identify its symptoms, and how to find the help you need if you do need help.

What Is Sex Addiction?

The American Psychological Association does not classify sex addiction as an official disorder. However, the World Health Organization classified “compulsive sexual health disorder” as a mental health disorder in 2018. And the Mayo Clinic defines sex addiction as compulsive sexual behavior—an excessive preoccupation with sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors that is difficult to control, causes distress, or negatively affects one’s health, job, or relationships.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms of struggling with a compulsive sexual disorder:

You can see from the Mayo Clinic’s list that sexual coercion or violence is not part of the diagnosis or symptoms related to someone suffering from sex addiction or compulsive sexual behaviors.

How Does Sex Addiction Affect People’s Lives?

For sex addicts, the real struggle is fighting the urge to masturbate, look at pornography, or seek out sex workers. The temptation is one that occurs as a thought or feeling.

Here are some examples:

As you can see, none of the thoughts and temptation for sex addicts revolve around violence.

How Can Sex Addicts Get Help?

If you’re struggling with sex addiction, then finding a therapist like myself with a specialty in the area would be a good, first step.

You can also enroll in group therapy for sex addiction and/or join a free 12 step group geared towards sex addiction such as Sexaholics Anonymous (SA), Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA).

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