Let’s step away from the question of if and when Anthony Weiner should resign. That will be up to the political process, the constituents in his district and Rep. Weiner himself. If we can step away from the political debate, we are left with the unvarnished truth: He has a sexual addiction.
The signs are clear. Sexual addiction is a compulsive behavior. You can like or not like Rep. Weiner. You can like or not like his politics, but it is pretty clear that he has engaged in compulsive and self-destructive behavior. No, it is not just his ego. There are tons of politicians who have egos the size of the Texas. No, it is not just that he was in power so he can get away with anything. There are also tons of politicians who have more power than he does and do not engage in online sexual behavior. These oversized, power-hungry people do not send photos of themselves holding up a paper that says “me” on it. Most people would not get any kind of even momentary thrill by doing that. There is something else operating here, and it is not just power or ego. It is addiction.
As WebMD says, “Generally, a person with a sex addiction gains little satisfaction from the sexual activity and forms no emotional bond with his or her sex partners. In addition, the problem of sex addiction often leads to feelings of guilt and shame. A sex addict also feels a lack of control over the behavior, despite negative consequences (financial, health, social and emotional).” Clearly, Rep. Weiner engaged in behavior that was reckless and self-destructive, behavior that any reasonably healthy adult would recognize as completely risky.
Many people do not believe that sexual addiction exists, but until we learned more about drug and alcohol addiction in the last 50 years people thought it was simply a matter of bad character or lack of willpower. Now we know that there are actual changes in the brain that occur in chemical addiction. Research regarding the brains of people who might have a non-chemical addiction process is not fully conclusive, but in an article by Dr.’s Donald Hilton and Clark Watts of Texas they state, “The proposed DSM-5, slated to publish in May of 2014, contains in this new addition the diagnosis of Hypersexual Disorder, which includes problematic, compulsive pornography use. Bostwick and Bucci, in their report out of the Mayo Clinic on treating Internet pornography addiction with naltrexone, wrote “[C]ellular adaptations in the (pornography) addict’s PFC result in increased salience of drug-associated stimuli, decreased salience of non-drug stimuli, and decreased interest in pursuing goal-directed activities central to survival.”
This would mean that it would be possible to give a known drug used to curb chemical addiction to help treat sexual addiction. Even without the brain scans, this would offer proof that something other than willpower was going on with someone’s neurochemistry and neuroanatomy.
Often there is an underlying depression or another compulsive disorder. With treatment and counseling, there can be real healing and a chance to get a life back on track. Some have managed to move their lives in a forward direction after a sex scandal. Former President Bill Clinton has made great strides in his life. He still has his marriage, and through his Clinton Global Initiative he has made a “world” of difference. Sen. David Vitter still serves the people of Louisiana. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer has managed a successful television career. There is hope for Rep. Weiner.
My hope is that the American media and the people who consume it can take a step back and realize that Weiner is not a bad person who has no will power. He has a sexual addiction and needs treatment for it, pure and simple. This is not the Dark Ages. We know a lot more than we did 50 years ago. It is time our media got a dose of this enlightenment and shared it with the American people.