Anthony Weiner Sheds Light On Sex Addiction Debate

By Victoria Kim 09/27/17

Health professionals debate whether sex addiction is a real affliction or if it's simply a justification for a certain type of behavior.

Anthony Weiner

On Monday, Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting with a minor.

Weiner had pleaded guilty to one count of transferring obscene material to a minor in May, after several sexually explicit online exchanges on Snapchat and Skype between the former congressman and a 15-year-old North Carolina girl came to light.

The 53-year-old politician from New York said his judgment was “clouded by disease”—an “untreated addiction…an uncontrolled sickness” that led to his “compulsively responding to…a curious high school student,” according to a defense memo submitted to the court.

Weiner’s sexually compulsive behavior was made public back in 2011, when he confessed to exchanging sexually explicit photos and messages online with “about six women” in a span of three years. This first public incident led him to resign from congress soon after the news broke.

While running for New York City mayor in 2013, Weiner was again caught up in a sexting scandal—tainting his big comeback to politics.

Sex addiction is not currently listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and is therefore not technically a clinical diagnosis. The legitimacy of sex addiction is hotly debated among substance use disorder and mental health professionals. 

Kelly Moylan, LCSW, a psychotherapist who specializes in treating codependency, says many tend to invalidate sex addiction, telling The Fix, “All the attention that celebrities and athletes are bringing to the issue can be problematic. I do think some high-profile people may use ‘sex addiction’ to justify bad behavior.” (Ozzy Osbourne admitted that he had used sex addiction as an excuse after getting caught cheating on his longtime partner Sharon Osbourne.)

This type of bad press is harmful to those who are suffering silently and need to seek help. “Deep down, we hate ourselves,” said “Greg T,” a middle school teacher from the Seattle area who talked to the Guardian.

“These are not sociopaths or psychopaths,” says Jay Parker, a sex addiction recovery specialist also in Seattle. “They have a conscience, they know right from wrong. It’s very difficult to deal with, but it is treatable.”

“There is so much deep shame involved. That’s when it goes underground and you’re living a double life,” Parker told the Guardian, adding that Weiner’s behavior is treatable if he’s willing to “do the work.”

After staying together for the bulk of Weiner’s sexting scandals, the former congressman and wife Huma Abedin are now in the midst of divorce proceedings. 

“Weiner has followed the same pattern: he initially denied his conduct; he suffered personal and professional consequences; he publicly apologized and claimed reform. Yet he has continued to engage in the very conduct he swore off,” said prosecutors.

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