Atlanta-area spa killings not about sexual addiction

It was “a temptation that he wanted to eliminate.”

These were the words offered by Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office last Wednesday as an explanation for the motives of Robert Aaron Long, 21. Roughly 24 hours earlier, Long — a white man — had entered three massage parlors in the greater Atlanta area and fatally shot eight people, the majority of whom were Asian women. As more details have emerged, it has become abundantly clear that Long was a devoutly religious, evangelical Christian who claimed that a multiyear struggle with sexual addiction led him to commit these murders.

I am a psychology professor, and for more than a decade, I have researched the relationships between religious beliefs and sexual addiction. These domains might not seem related, but over dozens of peer-reviewed studies, my research program has shown that the two are often indistinguishable. Allow me to explain.

Controversy over psychology and sexual addiction
Sexual addiction is a controversial topic in popular culture and in mental health research. Although many people truly believe that sexual addiction is a real and widespread problem, scientists and mental health providers don’t necessarily agree. The diagnosis “sexual addiction” does not appear in any of the major diagnostic manuals, which are what therapists, counselors and psychiatrists use to determine whether or not a patient or client has a mental illness.

Recently, the World Health Organization voted to include a new diagnosis of compulsive sexual behavior disorder in a future edition of one of these manuals. This new diagnosis is not an addiction (technically, it’s an impulse control disorder), but it does apply to people who have out-of-control sexual behaviors that they cannot stop. Importantly, however, the criteria for this new diagnosis make it clear that distress about sexual behaviors that arises from moral or religious concerns does not qualify for the diagnosis.

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Source: USA Today