On the second floor of the Marriott RiverWalk there is a long table with an unusual acronym SASH (The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health). The therapists and doctors who have gathered in San Antonio are here for workshops and seminars for treating people with sex addiction.
"You rarely hear somebody talk about being a sex addict, or having out of control sexual behavior, because of the shame and the assumptions made, a lot of time people hear sex addict and they assume well that’s a sex offender, that's not the case,” says Dr. Marcus Earle, the President of SASH, and a counselor in Arizona.
Sex addiction is a problem largely hidden, unless it becomes high profile.
Tiger Woods, Russell Brand, and Bill Murray among celebrities who have either admitted to, or been rumored to be battling sex addiction. Experts in San Antonio this week for their annual convention say the high profile cases show the symptoms of a problem that's hitting all ages and walks of life.
"Actually, since the internet has come on line, we've noticed that even older adults are having problems that they didn't have any challenges when they were younger, because it’s something that they can access in the privacy of their own home, it doesn't cost any money, and they get hooked,” says Dr. Earle.
Sex addiction can be a tricky diagnosis. The American Psychiatric Association has yet to recognize sexual addiction as an official diagnosis. Dr. Jess Montgomery, with the Gentle Path Sexual Rehabilitation Center in Mississippi, believes as more is learned about the behavior and the brain, an official diagnosis may not be that far away.
"There’s a combination of things we've been calling sex addiction, but there’s a large part of it that looks exactly like chemical dependency in the brain,” says Dr. Montgomery.
These therapists will tell you shame and the stereotypes are what keep this addiction hidden, and largely un-talked about, SASH wants that changed, opening up the possibility of talking about sex in healthy ways, replacing the stigma with hope.
"People who have long term recovery in sex addiction will report a whole different experience of their sexuality and many will say I wish I'd know this before,” says Dr. Montgomery.
Where people can go for help is also a major concern.
Dr. Marcus Earle says people without proper training can either make things worse or trivialize the problem of sex addiction. SASH has a list of therapists and doctors on their website.
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