It's not the first time that sex addiction has been thrust into the spotlight by a high-profile celebrity's behavior.
Still, the range of reactions to growing speculation that superstar golfer Tiger Woods may be receiving treatment in a sex rehabilitation program proves that the topic can still whip the public into a frenzy.
Thus far, the reports that Woods has checked into the Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services in Hattiesburg, Miss. -- which on its Web site puts the price tag for approximately 45 days of treatment for sex addiction at $37,100, not including doctor fees or medication -- have not been confirmed. Messages left Friday with Woods' publicist and with Pine Grove were not immediately returned.
A handful of grainy photos, posted last week by the tabloid National Enquirer, of a man resembling Woods at the Hattiesburg clinic serve as the only evidence that the golfer may be seeking professional help at the clinic; however, these photos have not yet been authenticated, and some are already calling into question the veracity of the images.
Benoit Denizet-Lewis was one of those who mentioned Woods' possible treatment at Pine Grove in his blog. But as a recovering sex addict himself, the author and contributor to New York Times Magazine said that celebrity cases of sex addiction -- whether it be that of Tiger Woods or the 2008 admission of actor David Duchovny that he was checking in to a sex rehab clinic -- tend to stir up equal measures of awareness and misconception about the condition.
"I can't think of a condition where there is a bigger gap between public perception of it and the reality of it," said Denizet-Lewis, who recently authored "America Anonymous," which profiles eight personal stories of addiction. "People's knee-jerk reaction to it is not founded in fact and is unfortunate. ... It's not as fun as people seem to think it is."
For Denizet-Lewis, sex addiction manifested itself as an inescapable urge to surf pornography online and participate in sex chat rooms on the Internet, even while at work.
"The reality is, sex addiction can take many forms and manifest itself differently in people's lives," he said. "The addiction starts to seep into other areas of your life. Suddenly, you can't go to your son's soccer game because you can't pull yourself away from the computer. Or suddenly you find yourself looking at pornography at work. ... You end up doing things that are against your ethics."
But, he noted, the public is primarily exposed to sex addiction through celebrity scandal and stories in tabloids.
"The only time we talk about sex addiction is when a celebrity has sex with a lot of women and implodes and goes into rehab," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of the people who come in for sex addiction are not celebrities."
Still, sex and relationships counselor and New York Times best-selling author Ian Kerner said, high-profile celebrity cases may help bring the condition to light.
"What has been happening lately because of Tiger Woods and because of David Duchovny is that sexual addiction is really coming into the cultural foreground," Kerner said.
Sexuality expert Dr. David Greenfield, clinical director of The Healing Center, LLC in West Hartford, Conn., agreed that the Tiger Woods case, while personally tragic for the golf star, could "push sex addiction over the top in terms of public recognition, understanding and accessibility, which is a good thing.