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Accused, but not yet charged, Ben Roethlisberger awaits his legal fate. First comes the criminal case, but a potential civil suit looms ahead. He has been in similar territory before, with a suit stemming from an alleged sexual assault in 2009.
Emerging from this winter of Tiger's discontent and the media maelstrom that followed, we are again considering an athlete's bedroom (or barroom) behavior. Clearly, the cases are quite different. Profile. Image. Marital status. And more than infidelity, this is a criminal case.
But both men continued to pursue high-risk, sexualized behavior when each had much to lose by it. Why? Some (including Tiger himself) have said it is due to greed or selfishness.
Could this inability to avoid risky sexual behavior qualify as an addiction? Tiger sought rehabilitation. Perhaps if the smoke clears from Roethlisberger's legal woes, he will be led to a similar diagnosis.
But does sex addiction exist?
Upon this, there is controversy in the psychiatric field. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) - IV does not identify 'sexual addiction' as a disorder. However, many studies have found that subjects experience differential activation in reward systems when presented with the same desirable stimuli.
Experts in the field of psychiatry are currently working on a revised manual, the DSM-V. Many new disorders will be described and defined. One of these may be "Hypersexual Disorder."
Besides exhibiting recurrent sexual urges, to meet criteria for this disorder, the patient's sexual behavior must be associated with "impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning."
Big Ben may meet these criteria. So might Tiger. In fact, so might millions of Americans. But is it a pathological condition? The evidence remains inadequate.
In the meantime, it could end up just a new excuse for the same old bad behavior.
Dr. Matthew Prowler
March 12, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
Dr. Matthew Prowler
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