Are there more sex addicts in the US than alcoholics?
The exploding use of internet pornography worldwide has been well documented of late and has prompted people to use the word “epidemic” to describe the phenomenon. Even the most conservative estimates based on surveys of college students put the figure at six percent or more. But a recent statistical review concluded that “ten percent of adults admit to an internet sexual addiction.” (Internet Pornography Statistics by Jerry Ropelato, Internet Filter Review)
So since there are roughly 232 million adults in the U.S.that means that 23 million of them are internet sex addicts. If this is even in the ball park, then the number of sex addicts of all kinds in the U.S. is greater than the number of alcoholics (17.6 million) and the number of drug addicts (3.6 million) put together!
The Internet Filter Review reports that 40 million people in the U.S. per day log onto internet pornography sites (as of 2006.) This is up from a reported 30 million 3 years prior (Datamonitor.com 2003.) They are not all addicts but neither are the 22 million Americans who, according to CNN.com, “use” illegal drugs. But internet pornography is known to be highly addictive. Powerful stimuli often tailored to people’s specific fantasies, produce high excitement and arousal chemistry in the brain not to mention the reinforcement of easy, anonymous sexual gratification.
Intimacy vs. sexual addiction
The largest consumers of internet pornography are the 12 to 17 year-old age group (safefamilies.org, Statistics on Pornography, Sexual Addiction and Online Perpetrators.) If as widely reported, the average age of first exposure to internet pornography is 11; this means that tens of millions of young people are forming their ideas and attitudes about sex and sexuality based on alienated, idealized and often exploitive or violent content. Furthermore they are doing so in many cases long before they will ever have had any kind of intimate physical experience with a real live person.
Sex addiction is a disorder in which the preferred sexual activities take place apart from an intimate relationship with another person. In other words the sex addict engages compulsively and often in one or more types of sexual situations that have nothing to do with intimacy, such as cybersex, strip clubs, anonymous sex, and sex with prostitutes. Most people still prefer to have a sex life in the context of a relationship with someone. But as more and younger people are seduced into spending hours each day in front of internet pornography, they are fast losing their ability to relate sexually in the more complicated, less airbrushed world of real people. For those kids who started getting hooked on pornography in their early teens, they may never have the chance to begin to learn how to relate intimately. This very ineptitude will then lead them to flee from sexual relationships into their fantasy world of porn and thus the process feeds on itself.
Not enough addicts getting treatment
The arithmetic is striking. If there are 10 to 20 million sexually addicted Americans, and there are about 1,500 therapists who specialize in treating them, along with a dozen or so rehab programs (which tend to be costly although very effective) there can be only a tiny percentage of sex addicts actually getting professional help for what is a remarkably intransigent problem. There are a number of AA type support groups including Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous and Survivors of Incest Anonymous. The world headquarters of Sex Addicts Anonymous told me that there are currently 1,300 registered SAA groups worldwide. If each group has an average of 10 people who belong and attend meetings then there are only 13,000 sex addicts getting help through SAA which is the oldest and biggest of the organizations. Again, a puny percentage of those needing help.
And the good news?
Sex addiction has received a lot more attention in the media around the world of late and by and large the problem has been taken seriously. A growing number of therapists are being trained and certified by IITAP (International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Therapists) and more residential programs are being created. Parents are becoming more aware of the issue and there are serious campaigns and organizations combating the sexualization of media and culture and the sexualized depiction of children. Also there is growing awareness of the violent pornographic nature of imagery present in games as well as media.
And Sex Addicts Anonymous? Their office told me that worldwide, the number of groups that register with the central organization every year is increasing by twenty percent! If the growth keeps up at this pace then this alone will go a long way toward spreading the word.