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With all the media attention Tiger Woods has received in recent months – from the early stages of the saga to his recent public apology – it’s feasible to wonder whether this was all a PR stunt to gain air time. Of course, we now know that Woods has a serious problem, and his case brings the nature of sex addiction to the public’s forefront once again. So what exactly is sex addiction? According to psychologists, when someone has a sex addiction, he or she (yes, women can be sex addicts too) becomes consumed by thoughts of sexual activity, to the point that sex becomes the only goal in life. Everything the person does is about getting sex and sexual satisfaction. In fact, the person becomes so preoccupied with sex that everything else in life gets put on the backburner, including relationships, family, jobs, and even the person’s health. That’s when things start to fall apart. Because of the conservative nature of the United States today, many people think a claim of sex addiction is a convenient excuse for fooling around. Some may even joke that it’s a nice “problem” to have. But therapists say sex addiction is a very real and destructive disorder, and that rehab – much like Woods went through and says he’ll continue to undergo – serves a purpose.
A Self-Imposed Illness While sex addiction is an illness like all other addictions, it’s a self-imposed illness that keeps people from taking personal responsibility for their actions. Many experts debate whether sex addiction is truly a mental disease or more of a narcissistic indulgence. Some feel it may be in fact part of a manic-depressive, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or depression condition. Whatever it’s classified as, people who suffer from sex addiction are ultimately trying to fulfill something they don’t have in their life. Most experts do agree that there are two forms of sex addiction. The first form (and the most prevalent) is the sex addict who wants sex without a relationship. If these people have money, they often engage the services of prostitutes. They make it clear that they’re paying these women not just for sex, but also to keep their mouths shut about the encounter. The addicts in this category don’t want a mistress (or two) or other committed relationship(s) on the side. The second form of sex addiction – and the form that Woods seems to have – is when the addict is not just addicted to sex, but also to love. Based on what we know about Woods’ case, he appears to be addicted to having people fall in love with him. He seems to crave relationships, which is why he kept the relationships with the women going and didn’t attempt to rid these women from his life. What makes Woods’ sex addiction so ironic is that he spent many years branding himself as a family man. He let the public and media see him as a good, wholesome, stand-up citizen who somehow found that elusive work/life balance so many people crave. He had a great career and a picture-perfect family. Unfortunately, what was really happening behind the scenes was very different, and he appears to have needed an emotional relationship with many women to feel complete.
The Root of the Problem What causes a sex addiction to manifest? Most sex addicts have an emotional hole inside that they’re trying to fill. Perhaps they have shame or unresolved trauma from an incident that occurred during childhood. It’s been public knowledge that Woods’ father Earl pushed him during childhood to be a pro-golfer. When Woods was a mere two-years-old, his father had him on television holing three-foot putts. By age four Woods was hitting 50-yard drives. At age five Woods was featured on the popular television show That’s Incredible! for his golf skills. Not long after that, Earl Woods publicly announced that one day “Tiger would have a bigger impact on the world than Gandhi.” Talk about pressure at an early age! As a result, Woods never had a real childhood. There was little if no playing with friends and doing other normal things that kids do. During this time it’s quite possible that Woods never received the love and attention he needed, so now as an adult, he may still be looking for those deep intimate connections.
Deal with the Demons No matter why someone is suffering from a sex addiction, help is available and treatment does work. One of the first things people must do is address whatever happened during childhood and release any feelings associated with it. A good therapist can help with this stage. Next, the sex addict needs to think about all the people his or her actions are hurting. This includes the people he or she is sleeping with as well as the people in the person’s life right now – spouse, children, friends, business partners, etc. While many people may joke that a sex addiction is a “fun” addiction, it’s actually a very dangerous, self-created illness. No, it’s not just good fun with two consenting adults having sex. It’s hurting many people. In fact, once someone’s sex addiction is discovered, the addict usually does admit to knowing how much he or she is hurting others. Like all addictions, a sex addiction is a cry for help. Something happened in the person’s past and he or she isn’t taking the time to deal with it. Instead, they’re acting out in a destructive way. No matter how bad things seem, know that a sex addiction can be treated and people can learn to live a more normal life.
The Great Comeback? So, will Woods ever come back to the celebrity status he once was? Or has his sex addiction killed his career? After all, he’s lost many endorsement deals and is no longer touring. Being a male, Woods does get a little more leeway here. While it’s unfair, female sex addicts typically get viewed as worthless whores while men get regaled as troubled studs. The media and public will be more forgiving, especially if Woods and his wife can work it out and stay together. To his credit, Woods did his rehab, made a public apology, and will continue rehab. While he will one day go back to golf, he’s not going to hide behind his golf clubs right away. So if he really takes his recovery seriously, stays disciplined, and lives up to his public apology message, he can come back…bigger and better than ever. Even though the past few months have surely been painful for Woods (and the coming months and years may be grueling for him too), in the end he could come out of this saga more successful, more loved, and more revered than ever. People will root for him because Americans love underdogs. Some many even say that we love to lift people up, knock them down, and see them come back again. So in that respect, once the dust has settled and memories have faded, coming clean and ‘fessing up could indeed turn out to be one of the best PR moves in Woods’ career.