What was your first reaction when you found out that Anthony Weiner was up to his old tricks?
Did you laugh? Roll your eyes? Shake your head? Or wonder, as I did: “Man, is that guy sick?”
The former Congressman’s apparent inability to stop sabotaging his career and his family – over sexts, of all the stupid things – would appear to have all the trappings of a full-blown pathology. But slow your roll, armchair psychologists: There’s virtually no scientific consensus that sexting can be “addictive,” in any traditional way – let alone that Weiner suffers from it, personally.
In fact, in the five years since Weiner’s initial scandal, the American Psychiatric Association had a big opportunity to recognize sex addiction and Internet addiction as distinct diseases. But the APA included neither in its 2013 update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, citing a lack of reliable, controlled studies.
The problem is essentially this: Anecdotally speaking, many people use the Internet, or run their sex lives, in a way that look and sound pretty addictive. They appear to display, or they self-report, problematic behaviors like excessive use, tolerance, negative repercussions and withdrawal symptoms.
And no one knows for sure whether “Internet addiction” and “sex addiction” are actually their very own diseases, or another disease’s symptom. What little research exists in this vein suggests that these sorts of “addictive” behaviors frequently coexist with other problems, like depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders.