Further developments in ‘Sex Addiction’

My blog from last week has caused some twitter debate between myself and another of the UK’s ‘Sex Addiction’ experts Paula Hall, who is author of a new British book and chair of ATSAC (Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity). (My colleague Jack Flanagan recently reviewed the book for this Blog and compared it to a more robust counter theory of Sexual Addiction by David Ley: The Myth of Sex Addiction)

I took a closer look at the last Conference programme which happened back in January and saw a startling comparison between the cutting edge thinking on ‘sex addiction’ being discussed there, linking sex addiction with trauma and attachment theory as causes and EMDR as a possible treatment all proven through advances in neuroscience.

This reminded me of Joseph Nicolosi’s 2009 book putting forward his cutting edge theories on the causes and treatment of homosexuality. For those of you who don’t know, Nicolosi is the CEO of NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality). Nicolosi believes as you’ll see from the review linked above, that homosexuality is caused by Trauma and is an attachment disorder and treatable by amongst other things EMDR.

Nicolosi also claims neuroscience as his evidence for these new theories and in fact acknowledges the work of Dr Allan Schore one of the foremost experts on neuroscience and attachment theory in his acknowledgements to his book (although he misspells Dr Schore’s name) but cites Schore’s work throughout his book.

I’ve met Dr Schore at a lecture in London on Borderline Personality Disorder and he struck me as a sound and respected scientist and clinician and was somewhat surprised to see his work linked with Reparative Therapy and so I wrote to him to clarify his position on this as NARTH have a nasty habit of misattributing legitimate scientific work and bending it for their own ends.

I got this reply:

I am very disturbed to find that Nicolosi is using my work for that purpose. Thanks for letting me know this. There is absolutely no neuropsychological research evidence that homosexuality is a disorder, much less an attachment disorder. Period.

All kinds of people are using my work for various reasons, including bolstering their own theories, and there is nothing I can do about that. In the pages you sent Nicolosi is grafting my shame and attachment models on to gender identity disorders, something I have never even written about.

Allan N. Schore, Ph.D.

Editor, Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology

Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine

It just makes you wonder when you see ‘neuroscience’ ‘attachment theory’ ‘trauma’ linked with shame and then tacked onto Reparative Therapy or indeed something so heavily contested and unreliably evidenced as Sexual Addiction whether Dr Schore has a point!

Dominic Davies
Founder and Director

2 thoughts on “Further developments in ‘Sex Addiction’

  1. I think the term ‘addiction’ is the area of contention more than the fact that there is some kind of major issue characterized by an utter lack of interpersonal connection, deep shame, and the self ‘medication’ of those issues through sexual gratification of one form or another. Whatever one feels like calling it, there is a very real problem out there, that at present is called ‘sex addiction’. My personal opinion is that ‘sex addiction’ is far more closely related to Reactive Attachment Disorder than anything else. The backgrounds, behaviors, and effects of the two are virtually identical, as is the bulk of the treatment which focuses on learning to build interpersonal connections.

  2. Readers might be interested to know that Allan Schore was guest speaker last year at one of the Sex Addiction conferences in the US. Attachment and trauma have been linked with addiction for many, many years – this is not something new that has been’ tacked on’. Indeed, I wonder how Schore might feel that his response to a very legitimate question raised about reparative therapy has been ‘tacked on’ to a rant about the validity of sex addiction?

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