It may sound funny, but for those whose lives are controlled by their insatiable desire for sex or love, it's anything but a laughing matter. If you or someone you care about is suffering, help is available. Read on.
Jim (not his real name) couldn't understand why anyone would
want to be monogamous. As a 47-year-old divorcé who worked as a part-time
bartender, he had sex with as many women and men as he pleased.
Then he fell in love with a young mother of two who was
separated from her husband. She liked to party, and he was always jealous of
anyone who came near her. He constantly kept tabs on where she was and who she
was with. But no matter how much she consumed his thoughts, inside he felt
empty. That's when he realized something was really wrong in his life.
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At the urging of a therapist who was treating him for
depression, Jim went to a meeting of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. "I
thought I was going to walk in and see dirty old men with raincoats," he
says. What he found, however, was an understanding community of people with
similar troubles -- a diverse group "made up of priests, carpenters,
70-year-old men, 50-year-old women, housewives, career professionals, gays,
straights, blacks, and whites."
Modeled after the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program, the
organization currently hosts about 1,200 meetings around the world. Now in its
25th year, the group is one of a handful of nonprofit organizations dedicated
to helping members recover from sex and love addiction.
"I've become a person," Jim says after years of
membership in the program. "Before, I was always hiding, keeping secrets.
Now I can be open and vulnerable."
A Brain Problem?
"Lust is an ancient problem," says a source who wishes
to remain anonymous at another recovery group, Sexaholics Anonymous. She notes
that sometimes children of broken families, who live in environments that
feature molestation or affairs, may grow into adults who can't distinguish
between what's acceptable and what's not. The problem can be made worse by the
many sexual images in today's media.
The theories on why people self-destruct using sex and love run
"People do it a lot of times to escape," says Jim.
Jim acted out his addiction by having multiple sex partners,
and, ultimately, obsessing over a woman who was emotionally unavailable to him.
Others derail their lives by frequently masturbating (sometimes as much as four
or five times a day), having inappropriate fantasies or extramarital affairs,
continually logging onto pornographic web sites on the Internet, or hurting
themselves sexually with various objects.
Peter R. Martin, MD, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology
at the Vanderbilt Addiction Center in Nashville, Tenn., says the root causes of
problems related to sex aren't known, just as there are still questions about
how people become addicted to drugs.
He says scientists are starting to believe it has something to
do with how the brain processes our drives and that there may sometimes be
problems with the "reward centers" of a person's brain.