Our Addiction to Tiger Woods’ “Sex Addiction”

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What’s wrong with Tiger Woods?

Three words: I. Don’t. Know.

For weeks I’ve been flooded with media inquiries, all focused on Tiger’s alleged sex addiction. I’ve become the go-to guy when the media wants a professional with a different point of view on this.

And so from Dr. Phil to Nightline, and on radio stations like Live 25 in Oklahoma City, people have been asking me if the guy’s a sex addict. And if he isn’t, what is he?

My answer’s always the same: I’ve never met the guy, I don’t know him, I don’t know why he did what he did.

What I do know is that, after 30 years as a psychotherapist and sex therapist, I’ve never seen a sex addict. I’ve seen people who were obsessive-compulsive, bi-polar, depressed, anxious, or borderline. I’ve seen people who were selfish or unconsciously enraged; who lacked empathy, who hated their spouse, or who specifically didn’t want a divorce but were withering from the lack of touching.

And yes, I’ve seen men and women who were scathingly self-critical about their sexual choices, and kept right on making the same damn choices.

But calling any of them “sex addicts” deprives them of a proper diagnosis and psychologically profound treatment. It focuses on the surface symptom—sexual behavior—while ignoring possible deeper dynamics. Don’t tell me that “sex addiction” treatment eventually gets there. I start there. Too often, “sex addiction” treatment just doesn’t get around to it.

The media loves this contrarian view, although they frequently drown my voice in the phone calls from irate listeners, the voyeuristic interviews with “recovering sex addicts”, and the infomercials—I mean opinions—from addiction specialists making a fortune from this new market. Addiction specialists who have literally no background in healthy sexuality, only in pathological sexuality.

It’s noteworthy that so many therapists and addictionologists are willing to diagnose Tiger as a sex addict without meeting him, as is a nation of lay people. If people without training can “diagnose” the guy, and professionals who haven’t met him can diagnose the guy, exactly how precise can this “diagnosis” be? Who needs school? Who needs a clinical interview?

Looking at Tiger, the public sees a hottie. It recognizes a juicy morality tale. It delights in seeing weakness amid wealth and power. That’s what lay people and addictionologists are “diagnosing.”

Tiger Woods’ private life is his Mardi Gras gift to America. And the way we’re celebrating and getting drunk on it is far more depraved than anything he’s done.


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