When you hear of someone having an addiction, most people think about drugs, alcohol and even food. But you usually don't think of sex. Yet, according to the mayo foundation for medical education and research, compulsive sexual behavior affects one out of 20 people. And that statistic is growing.
To hear Sue Silverman describe it, her early adult years sound normal and successful.
“I went to college, I worked on Capitol Hill, I have a master’s degree in writing and I've been married, lived in nice houses, drove nice cars,” says Silverman, the author of “Love Sick.”
But she says behind that life, she was living another.
“When I was married I did cheat on my husband or had these affairs or when I was single and working in Washington DC, I had affairs with married senators and congressmen so it was really that idea of living a double life.”
She calls it the life of a sex addict. It's hard to get a handle on just how common the problem is because it’s not something many people talk about even after treatment.
Dr. David Bissette is a specialist in treating sex addiction.
“You have people who usually have a history of trauma and they carry a lot of anxiety, chronic stress, and they find that when they're sexually active, they calm down”, says Bissette.
How do you know if you're a sex addict?
Key traits, the experts, say are:
-- living a double life
-- keeping secrets, lying to friends and family
-- doing things you're ashamed to talk about
-- lack of emotional commitment in relationships.
Silverman has gone through treatment successfully and is now in a healthy monogamous relationship. She says in addition to finding a therapist like Bissette who specializes in addiction, being part of a group like Sex Addicts Anonymous is an essential part of healing.