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Sex addiction or normal behavior?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dr. Melissa Fenton is a licensed psychotherapist, doctoral level sexologist. While she sees first hand how cheating and online pornography can tear families apart, from a medical point of view, she told us that some of these acts are considered normal. More importantly,  there is a difference between a cheater and a sex addict.

When the Ashley Madison scandal came to light, it was no surprise to Dr. Melissa Fenton that a lot of her clients were using the website. One of the many issues she helps couples work through is cheating.

"I always say to my clients if your favorite meal is filet Mignon and you are served it everyday for the rest of your life, diminishing returns happen and it won't have the same excitement for you," Fenton told News4Jax.

And unfortunately, finding something new and exciting is now easier than ever.

"Since Ashley Madison, there are so many hook up sites," Fenton said. "

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They are not even subtle with their name. Cheating.com. These are very popular."

If your significant other uses one of these sites to cheat, Fenton says they're probably not addicted to sex. In fact, she says it's more likely they were just bored. While an affair violates so many things in a relationship, she says there is a big difference between a cheater, a sex addict and a pornography addict.

"Where it becomes addictive," according to Fenton, "the more they consume porn the more they want it. And what turned them on initially no longer does and they have to continue and 'up the ante' so to speak."

Fenton says that just looking at pornography doesn't make you an addict, explaining moderation is viewed as normal. However, opening the door can lead to big problems.

"However there is a fine line. The brain is pre-wired for reward and when you start to see and experience highly rewarding erotic images, people can be addicted. No different than cocaine addiction," she explained.

When someone is addicted to online pornography, Fenton says they usually lose interest in sex with another person. But someone who is truly addicted to sex will not only have affairs. Instead, Fenton says they will visit strip clubs, illegal massage parlors and even hire prostitutes.

"You name it that all falls under the category of sex addiction, essentially when it's out of control and effecting their life," she said.

Fenton adds, when it becomes a real problem, is when it's considered an addiction. Fenton is one of many offering counseling to sex addicts and their significant other. She says the mate needs just as much therapy to work through it.

"Finding out your partner is a sex addict, there is grief involved. So the grief counseling comes in to play. Loss of a relationship you've known. So we work through the grief," she said.

There are a lot of resources for sex addicts and partners of sex addicts. These include 12-step programs, group therapy and even hypnotherapy. Fenton strongly recommends individual counseling in addition to any of these.