June 13, 2011 — -- Embattled New York Rep. Anthony Weiner says he is on a quest to redeem himself. One of his first steps toward redemption is seeking treatment, but therapists disagree over whether Weiner is really suffering from an illness like sex addiction or an inflated ego.
"I've made some pretty serious mistakes and I need to redeem myself and I'm working hard to try to get back to normal," said Weiner, a Democrat.
Weiner's decision to seek help did not give him a reprieve from the growing scandal. Top Democrats continue to call for his resignation and TMZ released new photos showing Weiner posing provocatively at the Congressional members-only gym.
For some, the lack of judgment among politicians is breathtaking and anger inducing: keeping a mistres in your home like former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, pursuing an intern in the Oval Office like former president Bill Clinton, and sending lewd pictures of yourself online like Weiner. Clinton once suggested ego was responsible for his infidelity.
"I did something for the worst possible reason. Just because I could," said Clinton in a 2004 interview with CBS News.
"[Sex addiction has] become something that's sort of thrown around as a way to kind of make yourself more vulnerable, a little less to blame. And if you're getting a lot of public negative opinions, it's not uncommon to see these public figures say, 'oops sorry, I'm really a sex addict. I'm not just a serial cheater…I'm not just exercising poor judgment, I'm ill here,'" said Dr. Laura Berman, host of "The Dr. Laura Berman Show" on OWN.
Berman said that Weiner's lack of self esteem may be behind his sexting scandal.
Is Sex Addiction Real?
"A lot of low self esteem, a low sense of self worth, ego needing that constant feedback because he was interacting with women saying, here's my naked body. Am I really sexy, am I really attractive? You're 24 years old. Do you find me sexy…He needed that feedback all day long," she said.
Weiner is following in some well known footsteps by seeking treatment. Hollywood star David Duchovny and golf phenom Tiger Woods both entered treatment facilities following revelations of infidelity.
Woods said treatment helped, but it's not a cure.
"Just because I've gone through treatment doesn't mean it stops. I'm trying as hard as I possibly can each and every day to get my life better and better and stronger," Woods said at the Masters this year.
There's broad debate among experts and the public whether sex addiction is a real illness.
"It's not to say that sex addiction doesn't exist," Berman said. "I think in some cases it does, but not nearly to the degree that it's being proclaimed or diagnosed. People who are sex addicted are not in the driver's seat... They are engaging in extremely risky behaviors either putting them at physical or legal risk... It's like an intense compulsion."
An estimated 14 million Americans or roughly one in every 17 adults claim to have a sex addiction.
"We're not talking about people who just like a lot of sex. We're talking about individuals where sex controls their lives," said Dr. Charles Samenow, a psychiatrist and professor at George Washington University.
Most sex addicts are men, but women are often more willing to talk about it.
"I realized that something was wrong more than early promiscuity in my life...when I really couldn't stop," said sex addict Samantha Ciciora.
The married mother of two sought help at a treatment center where she participated in group and individual therapy and a 12 step program while at a treatment center.
"I had two affairs and I hid them very well. My husband had no idea," she said.
The internet and social networking provides an easy way for sex addicts to act on their temptation, experts said.
"It allows for early access, affordable access and anonymous access," Samenow said. "The internet has caused a huge boom in our business. Unfortunately...it's the crack cocaine of sex addiction."
Berman said that couples should talk about internet etiquette when it comes to cyber cheating.