Patrick Carnes

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Patrick Carnes
Born 1944
Citizenship American
Education PhD
Occupation Counselor

Patrick Carnes (born 1944) is a leading proponent of the viewpoint that some sexual behavior can be seen as an addiction.[1] It was he who put sex addiction on the map.[2]

Education and career[edit]

Carnes received a Ph.D. in counselor education and organizational development from the University of Minnesota in 1980. He was awarded the distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award of the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), formerly known as National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity (NCSAC). Each year, SASH bestows a Carnes Award to deserving researchers and clinicians who have made outstanding contributions to the field of sexual medicine.[3]

He has worked in the field of sexual addiction in a number of other capacities, i.e. clinical director for sexual disorder services at The Meadows in Wickenburg, Arizona, editor-in-chief of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention (official journal of the National Council of Sexual Addiction/Compulsivity), board member of the National Council of Sexual Addiction/Compulsivity organization, advisor on the national advisory board of the American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders.[4] Carnes is the Founder and Senior Consultant of the Gentle Path at The Meadows program located in Wickenburg, Arizona.[5]

Theories and criticism[edit]

Carnes attributes the source of the addictions to the addict's belief system. He stated that a fundamental momentum for the addiction is provided by "certain core beliefs" in the addict's thinking that are wrong or incorrect: "Generally, addicts do not perceive themselves as worthwhile persons. Nor do they believe that other people would care for them or meet their needs if everything was known about them, including the addiction. Finally, they believe that sex is their most important need. Sex is what makes isolation bearable. If you do not trust people, one thing that is true about sex--and alcohol, food, gambling, and risk--is that it always does what it promises--for the moment. Thus, as in our definition of addiction, the relationship is with sex--and not people"[6]

In 1989, Patrick Carnes elaborated a diagnostic test for sexual addiction. Carnes’s idea of sexual addiction still remains controversial.[7] It is sometimes considered to be nothing but disguised social judgments.[8] Some scholars suggest that there has been an attempt to return to a pathological model of sexuality using the concept of addiction (Irvine, 1995). Before the sexual freedom of the 1960s, those who engaged in promiscuous sex were often considered physically, mentally, or morally sick. Carnes’s model of sexual addiction seems to "repathologize" these sexual behaviors (Keane, 2004). Many psychologists and psychiatrists (including, notably, David J. Ley, Ph.D., in The Myth of Sex Addiction[9] triggered a firestorm of debate[10]) argue that one cannot be addicted to sex, according to the standard definition of the word "addiction." The most recent research found little evidence for addiction. One study found that distress about addiction was largely attributable to religious identification.[11] Another literature review by a clinician, sexual physiologist, and addictions neuroscientist concluded that the only data consistently reject addiction models.[12]

While sex addiction is similar to other addictions like alcoholism and drugs, it is in reality very different in certain respects: same compulsive behaviour that characterises other addictions is also typical of sex addiction. But these other addictions, including drug, alcohol and gambling dependency, involve substances or activities with no necessary relationship to our survival. … However, sexual activity is different. Like eating, having sex is necessary for human survival.

— Oscar Bamuhigire, Sex addiction: A growing problem. New Vision Jan 08, 2006

As a result, a new illness category propounded by Carnes is not included in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” He writes, apropos of that:

The term sexual addiction does not appear in DSM-IV. In fact, the word addiction itself does not appear.[5]

But we should bear in mind that

The new edition of the DSM will contain a new category of behavioral addictions — but sexual addiction will not be included in that category.[7]

Carnes believes that at least 40 per cent of female Internet users engage in problematic cybersex.[13]


Carnes is the author of many books in which he examines sexual compulsions, and the tangled web of trauma, love, addictive sex, hate, and fear often found in what he refers to as "sexual addicts'" family relationships.


  1. ^ Goleman, Daniel (October 16, 1984). addiction&st=nyt&pagewanted=2 "Some Sexual Behavior Viewed as an Addiction". New York Times: Cl, C9. Retrieved 2012-11-15. 
  2. ^ William A. Henkin, Ph.D. "THE MYTH OF SEXUAL ADDICTION". 
  3. ^ Carnes biography in a treatment center site
  4. ^ Biography of authors, Hazelden list
  5. ^ a b c [1]
  6. ^ Patrick Carnes. 2001. Out of the shadows: understanding sexual addiction, Hazelden: Center City, Minnesota. p. 16
  7. ^ a b Dennis Thompson. The 'Reality' of Sex Addiction Stirs Debate // Healthday News, May 12, 2010.
  8. ^ Janell L. Carroll (2012). Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity. Cengage Learning. p. 473. ISBN 0495602744. 
  9. ^ For a critical reply, see “Debunking David J. Ley’s The Myth of Sex Addiction” by Robert Weiss, a disciple of Patrick Carnes.
  10. ^ Psychology Today
  11. ^ Grubbs, J., Exline, J., Pargament, K., Hook, J., & Carlisle, R. (2014). "Transgression as Addiction: Religiosity and Moral Disapproval as Predictors of Perceived Addiction to Pornography". Archives of Sexual Behavior. online first. doi:10.1007/s10508-013-0257-z. 
  12. ^ Ley, D ., Prause, N., and Finn, P. (2014). "The Emperor Has No Clothes: A Review of the ‘Pornography Addiction’ Model". Current Sexual Health Reports 1 (1). doi:10.1007/s11930-014-0016-8. 
  13. ^