Does Claiming ‘Sex Addiction’ Only Allow Sexual Predators to Get Away With Harassment?

It’s no secret that addiction turns careers, families, and lives upside down. But whenever a celebrity faces allegations of inappropriate behavior in Hollywood, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and sex addiction sometimes feel like excuses instead of heartfelt apologies. They make you start to wonder if sexual harassment and sex addiction actually go hand in hand.

If a sexual predator cries addiction, does that mean they have a legitimate mental disorder? Or are they just using it to excuse their bad behavior? Here’s what experts have to say about compulsive sexual behavior and its repercussions.

What does sex addiction look like?

Harvey Weinstein tight on his face in a tuxedo

Harvey Weinstein caused both psychological and financial ruin with his abuse. | Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

People who live with compulsive sexual behavior spend a lot of time thinking about — and engaging in — sexual behaviors. They often have a hard time controlling their impulses, unable to resist sexual urges and desires.

Most notably, these individuals continue to engage in sexual behaviors despite any negative consequences that accompany them, such as legal trouble, loss of relationships, and the potential to pass sexually transmitted infections on to others.

How it affects your health

Judge gavel, scales of justice

Sexual assault will lead to a host of legal consequences. | iStock.com/BrianAJackson

One of the biggest risks for those who can’t control their sexual impulses also has the potential to affect others. Sex addiction can prompt engagement inĀ risky behaviors, especially those related to sex. Unprotected sex can lead to the spread of sexually transmitted infections and resulting diseases.

Compulsive sexual behaviors also puts the mental health of all involved at risk — especially if it destroys a marriage or involves legal consequences.

Compulsive behavior and relationships

Church Cathedral wedding interior with rows of elegant chairs and flowing flower arrangements

Sex addiction can ruin a marriage. | DigtialStorm/iStock/Getty Images

Sex addiction’s impact on a person’s relationships depends on who falls prey to their impulsive behaviors. It can negatively affect intimacy in a marriage, and can cause someone else to act unfaithfully toward their own partner. Someone addicted to sex might also have a hard time keeping up with relationships that don’t satisfy their urges.

Compulsive sexual behaviors are hard enough to deal with when you’re not in the spotlight. Many celebrities don’t handle the consequences surrounding sexual harassment allegations well, as many of their responses show.

Harvey Weinstein’s trip to rehab

Producer Harvey Weinstein and wife Georgina Chapman

Harvey Weinstein has used sex addiction as an excuse for his bad behavior. | Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

Following massive waves of allegations, Harvey Weinstein and others have used sex addiction as a response to criticisms of their behavior. Many feel these celebrities are using their need for therapy as an excuse instead of a first step to recovery.

These types of responses may be responsible for so many experts and non-experts questioning whether or not sex addiction is a legitimate disorder. While anyone can undergo therapy for compulsive behaviors, does the research support the idea that someone can become addicted to sex?

Experts don’t officially recognize sex addiction

Young Woman Discussing Problems

Sex addiction isn’t considered a real disorder. | iStock.com/Highwaystarz-Photography

Sex addiction, or hypersexual disorder, isn’t an official part of the latest version of the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5. Psychiatrists use the DSM to diagnose mental disorders as a first step to providing patients with proper help and treatment.

Therefore, many experts don’t recognize compulsive sexual behavior as a “real” disorder. Why is that?

So far, the evidence isn’t quite enough

Man talking to therapist.

There isn’t enough research to prove a sex addiction is a mental disorder. | iStock.com

The reason compulsive sexual behaviors aren’t their own diagnosable disorder has a lot to do with brain chemistry, experts say. The current stance is that this kind of “dependence” doesn’t alter the brain in a way that causes traditional symptoms of addiction. Basically, there’s just not enough research out there yet. That doesn’t mean researchers won’t study it further in the future.

Still — does a lack of sufficient evidence excuse men — or women — from engaging in appropriate behaviors at work or elsewhere?

Having an addiction doesn’t excuse bad behavior

woman upset at work

There is no excuse for such bad behavior. | Thinkstock.com

Part of traditional addiction recovery, regardless of the addiction in question, involves taking ownership of the behaviors you engaged in when you weren’t taking care of yourself. Psychiatrists and counselors are trained to help people understand that they have done wrong and that they can change. That does not mean their past wrongs simply vanish.

Addiction or not, people have to take responsibility for their actions. Even if someone legitimately struggles with a sex addiction, they need to accept the consequences of their impulses. However, this does not mean that someone who displays compulsive sexual behaviors will act inappropriately toward others.

Not everyone with sexual compulsions is a predator

couple kissing and touching in bed

Having a sex addiction does not make you a predator. | iStock.com/Ondine32

Someone with a sex addiction, or who displays compulsive sexual behaviors, is not necessarily a sexual predator. They might be more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors or find it difficult to walk away from opportunities to engage in these behaviors.

But having a sex addiction doesn’t make a person a sexual predator — or increase their likelihood of becoming one. Sexual behavior becomes predatory when one person harasses or mistreats someone else sexually, especially when doing so without prior consent. Addiction is not criminal; harassment is.

Follow The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!