Fred Berlin, director of the Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said many of his patients exhibit behavior similar to Weiner’s, although he and other experts cautioned that they could not speak to the former congressman’s specific situation.
“It’s driven behavior,” said Berlin, a psychiatrist who has been treating patients for more than 30 years. “People are feeling they are pushed to act a certain way even though their intellect and their conscience may be telling them otherwise.”
Berlin said he has treated patients with problematic sexual behavior from all backgrounds and levels of society. People with this type of behavior are energized by a powerful biological force, he said. Other factors, such as anxiety or depression, may play a role.
“But fundamentally, there is a driver there that they are not resisting for whatever reason,” he said. “It really is about sex.”
He likened it to someone who is going on a diet to lose weight. That person may be convinced they want to stop overeating when they’re not hungry, he said. But when they get hungry, they may not be able to stop themselves and end up gorging. The person is genuinely sorry afterward, he said, and then the cycle repeats.
In 2011, Weiner resigned from Congress after he admitted to sending lewd pictures of himself to young women. On Tuesday, he acknowledged that under the pseudonym “Carlos Danger,” he again sent graphically explicit texts and images to young women more than a year after stepping down from political life.
Berlin and others said that in the past five to six years, they have seen a significant increase in the number of patients with problematic sexual behavior related to the Internet, including inappropriate chatting, accessing inappropriate images and engaging in virtual relationships.
In addition to making it easier for people to say and do things they might not otherwise, the Internet has become a delivery system through which someone can get access to an unlimited number of partners and sexual fantasies, said Michael Radkowsky, a District psychologist who treats couples and individuals with sexual issues. The human brain is wired to look for sex and sexual partners, he said.
“Our brains have all these receptors looking for sex, and there’s the Internet providing all sorts of opportunities for sex. Wham, plugs right in.”
Experts disagree on whether this type of behavior should be considered an addiction.
The American Psychiatric Association considered including “hypersexual disorder” in its most recent edition of the guidebook that psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians use to diagnose mental disorders.