AASECT: From a Scientific Perspective, Sex Addiction is Not Real

Problematic sexual behavior, on the other hand, is very real and
consumers need to be protected from sex addiction therapists who are not
adequately trained in human sexuality.

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Founded in 1967, the American Association of Sexuality Educators,
Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) has released a historic statement
asserting that it:

1) Does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the
classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health
disorder and

2) Does not find the sexual addiction training, treatment methods and
educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human
sexuality knowledge. Therefore, it is the position of AASECT
that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors to
a porn/sexual addiction process cannot be advanced by AASECT as a
standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling or

As the leading national body of sexuality educators, counselors and
therapists, AASECT does, however, recognize that people may experience
significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health
consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors. Says
Douglas Braun-Harvey, LMFT, CGP, CST, one of the authors of the
statement, “These are real problems, but sex therapy counseling and
education requires a higher standard of sexual science to ensure sexual
rights and sexual health. The sex addiction concept is an
oversimplification of a complex area of human sexual behavior and is not
substantiated by sexual science and sex therapy. I think the most
important thing to remember is that there are people who are suffering
from their sexual behavior being out of control, but what ends up
happening is that the suffering, the fear and the consequences it brings
to their careers and families get prematurely and very quickly labeled sex

AASECT’s statement comes at a time when sex addiction continues to make
headlines with former politicians like Anthony Weiner checking into a
sex addiction rehabilitation center and the state of Utah and the GOP
declaring pornography use to be a public health hazard. In spite of this
sense of alarm, the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5)
 rejected the
diagnosis of sex addiction with the explanation: “To include this as an
addiction would require published scientific research that does not
exist at this time.”

Adds Russell Stambaugh, PhD, DST, CSTS, another author of the AASECT
statement: “The AASECT Position Statement is an assertion that
the best scientific studies do not currently support the theory that sex
can be an addiction directly analogous to cocaine, heroin, alcohol or
nicotine. That similar neural pathways may sometimes be shared by
sexuality and other sources of pleasure and reward, including those
involved in true addictions, reflects correlation but does not establish
causation. The scientific evidence is also weak that one will lose
erectile function or partner desire from over-use of erotica.”

When contentious topics and cultural conflicts impede sexual education
and health care, AASECT may choose to publish position statements to
clarify standards to protect consumer sexual health and sexual rights.
AASECT has previously published a position statement on the danger of
sexual orientation reparative/conversion therapy and the intention is to
continue to promote a vision of sexual health that does not unduly
pathologize consensual sexual problems.

“The topic of sex addiction has been contentious for many years, with a
large body of scientific research indicating that sex addiction has not
been well defined or operationalized,” says AASECT President, Debby
Herbenick, PhD, MPH, CSE. “Contemporary research indicates that
individuals’ problematic sexual behavior may often be better explained
by other factors, including a high sex drive, mental health issues
(e.g., depression, anxiety) or culturally influenced guilt or shame.”

Many AASECT therapists regularly see clients for problematic sexual
behavior and are trained to compassionately support clients in their
work and in ways that are consistent with AASECT’s Vision
of Sexual Health

Please click visit https://www.aasect.org/position-sex-addiction
to read the full version of AASECT’s position statement on sex addiction.


Ian Kerner, PhD, LMFT, CSC
Chair, Public Relations,
Media & Advocacy Steering Committee