Each week in his Bellevue counseling office, Bill Lennon sees 13 groups of eight men, all seeking help for compulsive sexual behavior. Such behavior can range from obsessively viewing pornography to answering Craigslist ads for minors selling themselves at cheap motels.
He said that none of the men are there voluntarily. Instead, they got busted in a police sting, or were caught by their wives or their employers and forced to confront their conduct.
And most, Lennon insists, are nice guys.
“These are doctors, lawyers, pastors, professional athletes, your neighbor. Sex is an equal-opportunity addiction,” he said.
As many as 12 million Americans suffer from sex addiction, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Lennon and a growing number of sex-addiction therapists argue it is a highly treatable disease that affects the brain in ways similar to drug or alcohol addiction, etching in neural pathways a powerful drive for pleasure and an increasingly compromised ability to exert control.
These therapists say that the explosion of online pornography and internet sites for escorts and hookups has meant that men who would never have considered picking up a prostitute can now make a date for sex with ease and anonymity on their cellphone or computer.
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“When you give people immediate access to highly stimulating, highly pleasurable content or experiences, the likelihood that addiction will appear goes up,” said Rob Weiss, a California-based sex-addiction therapist and the author of “Always Turned On: Sex Addiction in the Digital Age.
Weiss divides sexual activity into three categories: casual, at-risk and addictive.