Figuring out addiction vs. excuses


Dear Grandparenting: Something has come over my grandson. He’s not himself anymore. Barry was fine before turning 15. Then he went and discovered sex and became this lunatic who brought shame down on the family, all over a boy who has no shame.

Barry’s been hanging around with the kind of girls you don’t bring home to Mommy. But that didn’t stop his father from finding girls up in his room after school or stop him from kissing and groping stuff in public. There’s more but you get the idea.

This has been happening long enough for Barry to start getting a reputation. Then last weekend he announces to my daughter that he is a “sex addict and I need treatment.” Heaven knows what that boy needs. Warnings and punishments don’t work. My daughter is leaning toward “treatment,” whatever that means. I’ll probably end up paying. What do you make of this mess? Pam Ferris, Nashville, Tennessee

Dear Pam: The concept of “sex addiction” is a relatively recent phenomenon, most often found in reports on celebrity scandals and other high-profile cheaters. But for many, it begs the question of whether we’re talking about a treatable psychological condition, or a handy excuse for bad behavior.

The medical community is divided. Some mental health professionals do offer assorted treatments, but leading global health authorities remain skeptical. The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) bible of mental health issues — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — does not include sex addiction, and while the World Health Organization does recognize diagnoses of compulsive sexual behavior, it does not use the addiction model.

Crazy as it may sound, some aspire to attain sex addict status — the kind of bragging rights that could appeal to a 15-year-old flush with hormones.

A hallmark of addiction is a pattern of harmful behaviors that create ongoing problems for an individual. It’s either that or incorrigible hardheadedness. Treatment options include cognitive behavioral therapy, prescription medications and a strong support group.

Grand remark of the week

Myrna Smith from Kingsport, Tennessee was putting on make-up before dinner when grandson Carson wandered in, age four. “You caught me putting on my pretty face,” explained Myrna, “trying to make old me beautiful again.”

Carson watched and waited until she was finished “When does it start working Grandma?” he asked. “We all had a big laugh at my expense,” said Myrna.

Tom and Dee and Cousin Key

Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.

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