Sex addiction is a widely misunderstood disease. As a result there are many stereotypes associated with the addiction. If any progress is to be made in raising public awareness about sexual addiction, it is important to understand those stereotypes and debunk them as much as possible. Most people genuinely don’t understand how someone can be addicted to sex. Many people do not have a healthy understanding of sex due to lack of education and sex used as a marketing tool. Because every healthy adult has a strong desire for sex, many people just assume that sex addiction is an excuse for reckless sexual activity.

Stereotype 1 – Only men are sex addicts.
While this is a commonly held stereotype, it simply is not true. Although there may be fewer women in treatment for sex addiction, women can be and are sex addicts. Robert Weiss, director of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, states that up to 12 percent of people who seek out help at the Institute are women. However, Weiss believes that many more women suffer in silence out of fear to come forward.

He suggests that “women may not address their problems with sexual addiction because media stories indicate it is a male problem, showing men engaging in behaviors like affairs, obsessive sexting and online pornography. Additionally, women may be more likely than men to respond to stress or negative emotions with addictive behaviors such as overeating, spending too much or abusing drugs or alcohol – but few research studies have explored the connection between women and sexual addiction.”

Therefore it is clear that this stereotype is false and may actually cause some women to stay hidden with their addiction. It is easy to understand how a woman who is suffering from addiction would be reluctant to come forward when she believes that it is abnormal for a woman to be suffering from a stereotypically male addiction.

Stereotype 2 – Sex addiction isn’t a real addiction.
There are plenty of people who think that sexual addiction isn’t a legitimate addiction. Often this stereotype exists because people find it hard to believe that someone can be addicted to sex and sexual activity. Instead, they believe that these people are just lacking in morals or in the ability to control their desires. However, the medical profession is making progress in defining and outlining the symptoms of this poorly understood addiction.

It is important for people to understand that sex addiction is very similar to drug or alcohol addiction. While it is less understood by the general public, the symptoms are very similar. In fact, many sexual addiction recovery programs have adapted their 12 step program from the one used in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Stereotype 3 – Sex addicts love sex and sexual activities.
Healthy adults naturally love sex and sexual activities. It is just part of the natural order of things. A common stereotype about sex addicts is that they love sex more than normal healthy people do. The opposite is actually true. Those struggling with sex addiction actually do not enjoy sex that much and they do it out of a compulsion. They don’t love it and in many cases they have a strong desire to stop the sexual activities that are driving their addiction.

People with an addiction cannot stop their behavior, even when faced with severe consequences. It is important for the public to go beyond their understanding of sex as a pleasurable activity and look at it as something that sex addicts need to continue doing to fuel their addiction. The addicts often feel a strong sense of guilt, shame and embarrassment for their actions. They are not proud of what they are doing and often go to great lengths to hide their addiction until they reach the breaking point and seek out help.

Stereotype 4 – Sexual addiction is just an excuse for inappropriate behavior.
This stereotype is often reinforced by stories that people hear. For example, say a husband has had multiple affairs, lost his job and left his family to face a devastating break-up and financial ruin. The claim is that he is a sex addict. Others who are looking at the situation tend to believe that he is just using that as an excuse for his actions. It is a common assumption and honestly one that is understandable from the viewpoint of an outsider.

However, this person has likely gone through a severe inner struggle with his addiction and come to a point where he is seeking help. While his life may be in ruins, if he seeks help he can take the first steps towards a lifelong recovery process. Some men may try to use sex addiction as an excuse for affairs, but a genuine sex addiction is real and is certainly not just an excuse for inappropriate behavior.