Ozzy Osbourne is the latest on a list of celebrities who have blamed their infidelities on sex addiction.
The same week an interview with the Black Sabbath singer’s mistress ran in People magazine — in which celebrity hairstylist Michelle Pugh detailed their four-year relationship and gushed that “he gave me the greatest love of my life” — his rep blamed his cheating on sexual compulsivity, saying, “Over the last six years, Ozzy Osbourne has been dealing with a sex addiction” for which he “has gone into intense therapy” since the affair was exposed in May.
Claiming his infidelity was a result of “sex addiction” all seems pretty convenient — he couldn’t help himself! he had to sleep with her — but it’s something we’ve seen time and again, especially by celebrities hoping to save their marriages. (In this case, Sharon Osbourne, his wife of 33 years, has already taken him back.) So what is the deal? Is it a real thing? According to Dr. Louise Stanger, Ed.D, LCSW, who has been an addiction and intervention specialist for more than 30 years, “Sex addiction is like any other addiction.”
Stanger, author of Falling Up: A Memoir of Renewal, tells Yahoo Celebrity, “It’s known as a process disorder. Whether or not you’re looking at porn, actively seeking out other partners, or seeking out sexual favors by payment or otherwise, that becomes the most important thing in your mind. Everything else becomes less important. Think of an addiction as someone having a love affair with a substance; in this case, instead of a substance, it is sexual activity. The good news is that there are treatment centers designed to address those compulsive sexual behaviors. Treatment centers will also look for possible co-occurring disorders, like a mental health disorder or a substance abuse disorder. The goal of treatment would be to alter those behaviors to have a more healthy lifestyle.”
And, yes, Stanger is aware there is skepticism about sex addiction. Asked what she says to people who assume it’s just an excuse for bad boy (or girl) behavior, she points us to the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s definition of addiction and adds, “This means that addiction — of any kind — affects the person physiologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Addiction is a disease that changes the brain circuitry. When you start saying an addiction is just bad behavior, that reminds me of how society used to consider substance abuse to be a moral failing and that people could just pick themselves up by their bootstraps. Addiction is not so simple; people cannot just stop. Once we see addiction as a disease, it becomes treatable.”
As for treatment, it usually requires an average stay of 60 to 90 days in a treatment facility. “You need to go to a place that has this specialization. You need a CSAT — certified sex addiction therapist. … Then, look at recovery not just for primary treatment but for the rest of your life,” she says. “For someone in the limelight, one of the challenges is that they need to have the time available to begin to change their life without the added burden of the public crowd. For Ozzy, he’s going to need couples counseling to figure out what this betrayal means and how to reconcile it.”
Like we said, Ozzy isn’t a lone wolf as far as celebrities with sex addiction. When the Ashley Madison breach happened last year, it was the fall of Josh Duggar. The reality TV star, who was working as a lobbyist for the ultraconservative Family Research Council, was using the cheating site to sneak around on his wife, Anna, with whom he has four children. After dubbing himself “the biggest hypocrite ever,” he checked himself into a faith-based “long-term treatment center” in Rockford, Ill. He’s still with his wife, but he’s now selling used cars instead of pushing his moral code.
Tiger Woods is another celebrity with a headline-making story. A Thanksgiving car crash in 2009 led to the revelation that the golfer had mistresses in the double digits, which understandably didn’t sit well with his wife, Elin. After being treated for sex addiction at Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services, in Hattiesburg, Miss., he held a press conference in which he publicly admitted, “I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was not acceptable.” The whole thing was painful to watch — all 13-plus minutes of it — and at the end of the day it didn’t save his marriage.
Even before Charlie Sheen’s revelation that he’s HIV-positive, there was talk of him having a sex addiction because of his fondness for prostitutes. During an interview with Dr. Oz in 2013, he admitted that, “sure,” he’s a sex addict, but in true Sheen form added, “I mean, I don’t know the definition of it.”
On the other hand, Russell Brand does know the definition of it — and he fits the bill. In his 2007 memoir My Booky Wook, he detailed his sexploits that led him to seeking treatment at a Philadelphia facility. (Leading up to it, he said he had a “harem of about 10 women, whom I would rotate in addition to one-night stands and random casual encounters.”) So was he cured? “It depends what you want from a sex rehabilitation center,” Katy Perry’s ex-husband has said. “If what you want is to come out with a renewed interest in sex, then it was an absolute triumph.” But seriously, “It worked to a point. It’s modulated my conduct.”
For years, there was gossip that David Duchovny was in the camp, so much so that his then-wife, Téa Leoni, was asked about it in a 1998 interview with Elle. “David was accused of being a sex addict. Which I always found very exciting. And then I found out it wasn’t true,” she quipped. A decade later, it was. While starring as bad boy Hank Moody on Californication, the actor, who was still married to Leoni at the time, went into rehab “for the treatment of sex addiction,” his attorney said in a statement to ABC News.
Eric Benét also went into treatment for sex addiction, while his marriage to Halle Berry was falling apart. After he was unfaithful in 2002, he checked into a facility, but it wasn’t a cure-all. “Going into rehab was presented to me by [Halle’s] mother that in order for the marriage to have a shot, this is what you need to do,” he told People magazine three years later. “But I’m not a sex addict. I wanted to save my marriage and do anything necessary to do that. I went and heard other people’s stories and realized this is really not my struggle.” While they briefly reconciled, “She just couldn’t trust me anymore,” said the singer, who is now married to Manuela Testolini, adding, “You can’t blame her for that.”
Then there are the folks like Michael Douglas, who earned the label, but didn’t have the addiction either. For Douglas, he said a British tabloid claimed he was one back in 1992 as his first marriage unraveled and he was dealing with an “alcohol issue.”
“Basic Instinct had just come out, and I don’t remember who the clever editor was in London, but they came up with ‘sex addiction,‘” he told Event magazine in 2015. “It became a new disease. No one had heard of that up until then, but it’s stuck with me ever since. And it still pops up now and again.” Now he laughs about it — and so does his dad, acting legend Kirk. “Oh yeah, my father is actually rather proud of it,” he cracked.
That line of thinking isn’t so foreign, so it will take time — and education — to convince people that “sex addiction is like any other addiction.”