Is Josh Duggar a Sex Addict? Repression Can Give Way to ''Unhealthy Behaviors''

Why Anna Duggar may want to run as fast as she can

By Senta Scarborough Aug 25, 2015 8:00 PMTags
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In the blink of an eye, or the swipe of a screen, Josh Duggar has gone from sanctimonious family values spokesman to cautionary tale.

But could the former 19 Kids and Counting son have an actual problem? Besides a PR problem, we mean.

Just last week, Josh admitted to being unfaithful to wife Anna Duggar and copped to a "secret addiction" to pornography (in a statement that was posted but then altered to exclude the mention of porn and his previous acknowledgment of molesting five girls when he was 14).

His confession came after Gawker posted alleged evidence of an Ashley Madison account in his name.

"The fact that someone like Josh Duggar may have used the Ashley Madison site is emblematic of the problem," Randall Kessler, an Atlanta-based divorce attorney and former family law chair of the American Bar Association, told E! News. "Adultery, or the desire to cheat, is not unique to any type of individual. As a divorce lawyer, we see people from all walks of life cheating for all sorts of reasons with all sorts of excuses."

Monogamy doesn't come "naturally" to many, which is why infidelity is such a huge problem, he said.

"Infidelity is rampant and human desires are universal," Kessler said. "It certainly catches our attention when a family values activist is caught like this."

E! News also spoke with Sex with Brody sex therapist Mike Dow, about the unfurling revelations about Josh.

And Dow's best guess is that Josh Duggar is a sex addict.

It appears that Josh Duggar may be dealing with "a condition called hyper-sexuality or sex addiction," said Dow, who has never treated the reality-TV star and whose opinions are based solely on what he's read of the man and based on his experiences treating hundreds of people with similar infidelity situations.

"The hyper-sexuality is actually being used to self-medicate feelings of depression, guilt and low self-worth" and guilt and shame may have contributed to his behavior, Dow explained.

Moreover, In Touch published a police report in May that revealed Josh had been accused as a teen of molesting five underage girls; the victims were later revealed to include sisters Jessa and Jill Duggar. Parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, Josh and Anna acknowledged the news days later and Josh admitted he "acted inexcusably."

"Given Josh's past and shame and guilt about sexually abusing his sisters, it's extremely probable that he uses sex as an unhealthy way to deal with negative feelings," Dow said.

Based on the 27-year-old's prominently stated support of traditional family values and conservative public policy, Dow speculates that Josh may have implemented a defense mechanism called reaction formation, where a patient projects his own negative attributes onto others and resents them for it. Dow explained, "Really, the person Josh doesn't like is likely himself."

Can Josh or someone like him suppress such urges?


"Typically, these urges can be suppressed temporarily.  But in the long term, suppression does not lead to a healthy relationship and expression of sexuality congruent with feelings of love. So in the long term, suppression can actually make these behaviors worse," Dow said.  

Josh—based on hundreds of other patients in similar situations Dow has treated—is likely "unhappy" and "lonely."

"The thing that strikes me is that they all tend to be very unhappy and depressed people when they don't deal with the issues at hand," he said. "It tends to be a sad and lonely existence marked with excessive guilt and shame that can even lead to suicidal thoughts."

Living with a sex addict can be a nightmare, too, says Dow, and the other spouse is often suffering right alongside his or her partner.

"I've found that the wives and husbands of sex addicts or perpetrators have it is as hard as the identified patient," Dow said.  "They tend to personalize the cheating and never being able to satisfy their partner as evidence that there is something wrong with them and not the partner. This leads to feelings of anxiety and depression."

Sadly, a source close to the family told People after Josh admitted to cheating: "Maybe not publicly, ever, but privately, there will be some suggestion of whether or not [Anna] should have been more aware of the pressures Josh was under, of the issues he was facing, and how she could have better counseled him or helped him."

Sexually, Dow says, the partner of a sex addict can do one of two things: 


"He or she can shut down sexually or he or she can try hard and do things that aren't within his or her own comfort zone to try and please the sex-addicted partner," Dow added. "However, the partner will never be able to be satisfied until he or she comes to terms with the deeper psychological issues that are present including acknowledging his or her own shame or guilt."

In May, after news broke of Josh's past abuse of five underage girls, a source close to the family told E! News that the strict environment for teenagers in their homeschool community contributed to the problem.

"In the homeschool community, this same type situation has come up a lot," the source said. "It was so strict, everybody did drastic things to find out what normal kids would know."

However, Dow doesn't think homeschooling communities are the problem. It's the "rigid, strict, inflexible religious beliefs," such as the ones the Duggars were raised with, he said. "If a homeschooled child is able to make social contact with age-appropriate peers during important developmental stages, then homeschooling doesn't worry me."

Strict, religious family environments don't necessarily lead to these types of behaviors, but Dow said they can be factors.

"There is a correlation between a strict religious upbringing and committing sex offenses," he said. "This is not to say that people who are religious are more likely to be sex offenders. In my sex therapy practice, I encourage people to find healthy and integrated relationships congruent with their religious beliefs."

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"But when a religious belief is extremely rigid and no healthy expression of this human need develops, the person then is forced into periods of trying to repress the urge which then gives way to sex offenses and unhealthy behaviors (e.g., cheating) in the confines of healthy relationships," he added.

If Josh is indeed a sex addict, Dow's advice for Anna is to run.

"There's no way for me to tell 100 percent, but if I was a betting man in Vegas I would probably say that Anna's best course of action would be to leave the relationship," Dow said. "Josh exhibits decades of unhealthy sexual behavior that has not been successfully treated."

If Anna stays with Josh, Dow said, "he would need to show a willingness to make some very big changes that would, at the very least, require intensive outpatient psychotherapy. Josh's case may require inpatient treatment...My advice to Josh would be to seek treatment to treat the underlying issues that are preventing him from having a healthy relationship."