Sex Addiction is referred to as a behavioral or process addiction within the field of addictionology. It is not new, many cultures historically have had people with out of control sexuality that cause severe consequences to the individual acting out or the community in which that person lives.
In fact if any addiction can be defined as "A consistent and escalating behavior or chemical that causes harm to self and others", sex can easily fit into this definition. People who have sex addiction cannot control their behavior even though they want to.
Characteristics of a compulsively sexual person are:
You take part in sexual behavior despite your will and better judgement.
You set stringent rules for your sexual behavior and cannot abide by them. For instance, if you say, "I'm never going to meet a stranger in a bar and go home to sleep with him again", and the following weekend, you do this behavior again.
You gain a history of negative consequences that are directly linked to you sexual behavior. These can be health associated (herpes, HPV, AIDS), emotional problems(depression, shame, guilt), financial problems (money spent on strippers, pornography, clothing, trips with mistresses), social (reputation tarnished) and legal problems(lawyers fees, court fees).
In the most recent example of Tiger Wood and sex addiction, his fall from grace is typical in the realm of sex addiction, regarding the consistent and escalating component. Unfortunately for him, it was and is witnessed and therefore judged by the world through media exposure which adds another layer of shame upon what is already a deeply shame based addiction.
Sex addicts are not happy people. Most of their acting out is done with a grim demeanor. After a time,there is not a lot of joy in this or any addiction for that matter. There is a compulsive element and search for a novel experience that one ups the last one. This constant cast out for "the new" takes over and ruins the person's living in the moment experience which is vital in healthy human intimacy.
If Tiger Woods has chosen to go to a treatment center specializing in Sex Addiction, he could accomplish many things. The first would be to admit he has a problem, which is the hardest and most vital step in all addictions. The second positive move would be that he would be on the road to recovery in understanding himself and how to address his behaviors with a proven and successful method of program recovery.
The third positive attribute in going to treatment would be that his partner, Elin, would be brought into the recovery process, understanding the nature of the disease and just as important, getting therapy for her own issues that spring out of living with a sex addict, and the after effects, which will help her heal, no matter what decision is made about their marriage and family.
The fourth reason for why it is a good move for Tiger to go to an inpatient recovery center is that he could do for sex addiciton treatment centers what Betty Ford did for chemical dependency. It would help sex addiction come out of the shadows as an addiction, bring international understanding to what is a painful, insidious disease that was once shamefully hidden and now can come out into the clean light and has the capacity to be dealt with therapeutically, with compassion and expertise.
The final reason is one of pure public relations for Tiger. It will help his image as a family man, a sports star and a celebrity. Americans are notorious for accepting a hero who falls from grace only to come back, new, improved and re-habbed.He could be even more successful in every area of his life.
If you or anyone you know is interested in learning more, the book Out of the Shadows, by Patrick Carnes, is the best resource for understanding the complexities of sex addiction.