updated 02/05/2010 AT 6:00 PM ET
•originally published 02/05/2010 AT 6:50 PM ET
If Tiger Woods has completed his stint in rehab for sexual addiction, as some reports maintain, will he be cured? Not necessarily.
Several experts say that if the golf star and his wife Elin Nordegren, who have not been seen publicly together since before the fateful fight they had Thanksgiving night, will have to do a great deal to resurrect their relationship – if they can at all.
First, Woods is likely to have a tough time coping. Sexual addiction experts say it can be easier to give up alcohol or even heroin than sex because the body doesn’t physically need the drugs.
“Sex is a biological appetite,” Marty Kafka, a specialist in sexual addiction at the Harvard University Medical School, tells PEOPLE. “We need it for the species to survive.”
Sexual addiction is more akin to food addiction because food addicts still need to eat to live. It’s difficult for sex addicts to escape from thinking about sex, or from being bombarded with sexual imagery as seemingly tame as a Victoria’s Secret ad.
“For sex and love addiction, there’s no cage for that tiger,” says Ava Profota, a licensed clinical social worker at Memorial Hermann Prevention and Recovery Center in Houston who specializes in sex and love addiction. “It’s out there all the time.”
Nordegren is likely to have an equally difficult challenge, though for different reasons: Her trust has been shattered. “Everything she knows of him is a lie except for the fact that he’s the father of her kids,” says Mary Jo Rapini, a sex psychotherapist in Houston. “They need to learn to trust each other again.”
Experts advise that to clear that hurdle, Woods will need ongoing counseling and the couple will have to figure out a way for Nordegren to keep track of her famous husband’s activities – no easy task since he will presumably eventually return to the golf circuit and spend weeks away from home.
The couple will also need some old-fashioned hope, says Kevin Leapley, a certified sexual addiction therapist in Denver. “Hope that he can become the man she hoped he was, and the man he always wanted to be.”