Is Sex Addiction real? Media say Tiger Woods might be lucky to have it

Tiger Woods has announced that he is taking a indefinite leave of absence from professional golf to deal with his personal and family problems that have been much in the news lately.

According to an ABC News story, a medical diagnosis of “sex addiction” might be a route to redemption of Tiger Woods for his reported infidelities. The blog PsychCentral.com expresses this same idea that the public might give Tiger “a pass” on the sex scandal if he was clinically addicted to this type of sexual behavior. Readers of Celebrity Diagnosis know that, in our stories, we adhere to the Goldwater Rule that prohibits medical professionals from making a “diagnosis at a distance,” that is without having personally examined the patient and then obtaining their permission to speak publicly about their diagnostic impressions.

Both Michael Douglas and David Duchovny have publicly described themselves as “sex addicts” and sought treatment. But is sex addiction a real medical diagnosis? Doctors and patients are not supposed to just make up diagnoses or new diseases. The process of defining a new disease requires that it is recognizable syndrome with specific characteristics that can reliably and objectively be applied to diagnose the condition in other patients. It also helps if there is a scientific or biological basis or cause of the condition.

In the fields of psychiatry and clinical psychology, diagnostic criteria for mental health conditions are codified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (known as DSM) that is now in its fourth revised edition, DSM-IV-TR.

So is “Sex Addiction” a real psychiatric diagnosis? The answer is “not yet” (according to DSM-IV-TR). We’ll elaborate more later but we’re about to board an international flight to return to Boston from Brussels. Look for an update later today. For those who can’t wait, see here.

Additional sources for story:

Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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