Understanding Sex Addiction
Before taking any steps for treatment, it is important to understand some basic information about sexual addiction.
Hypersexuality, sexual addiction or compulsive sexual behavior are categorized as behavioral addictions. They involve constant thoughts about and engagement in behaviors that focus on sexual activities. A person with sex addiction spends excessive amounts of time thinking about, planning or actively participating in sexual urges and behaviors which typically evolve into a harmful, addictive cycle with numerous negative consequences.
As a behavioral addiction, hypersexuality is different from substance addiction in that it focuses on a process of some sort as opposed to a chemical matter such as drugs or alcohol. However, it may be comorbid to substance use or lead to it. Behavioral addictions occur when a person relies on their conduct to relieve some level of psychological distress or to give them a sense of affirmation, identity or a “rush”.
Though many behaviors and substances may not seem inherently addictive, they can still become an addiction and can include everyday activities like working, shopping, exercising and eating.
When a significant portion of a person’s day and routine revolves around or is affected by their excessive engagement in or focus on sexual behavior, it is likely they have a sex addiction. A person’s constant sexual thoughts can become something much more harmful and begin affecting all aspects of their life.
The Effects of Sexual Addiction
Sexual compulsivity can have a greater effect on a person’s life than one may imagine. The following are examples of negative consequences one may face:
Relationships. A person’s relationship with their partner, family and friends can quickly become unhealthy or difficult to maintain, as the significant other may feel unsafe, betrayed, or unable to trust them.
Work. Performance in the workplace may decline due to a constant focus and fantasy on engaging in sexual activity or compulsive thoughts and actions which could ultimately lead to career loss.
Finances. The potential loss of a career, legal expenses and excessive spending on sexual activities can quickly deteriorate a person’s financial stability.
Health. Partaking in potentially reckless sexual acts may lead to pregnancy or contracting sexually transmitted infections, like HIV and other STDs. A person may be more likely to engage in the excessive use of drugs or alcohol, which can lead to additional health problems.
Legal trouble. Sexual offenses or other illegal behaviors may cost a person potential jail time, mandatory registry, loss of job/professional license, and legal fees.
Overall well-being. A person’s overall state of well-being is compromised while they’re going through addiction and they may begin to experience emotional distress, shame, guilt or the loss of hope.
Know The Treatment Options
While hypersexuality and sexual addiction continue to be researched and studied, they are still considered serious mental health issues. The lack of impulse control that is associated with addiction can put a person at great risk of harming themselves or those around them. Treatment for sex addiction is best when each person’s individual needs and history are taken into account.
There are options when it comes to deciding how to treat sexual addiction. Healthcare providers knowledgeable about addictions will work with individuals to see what will best suit their needs.
While there are no specific medications used to treat sexual addiction, your healthcare provider may be able to recommend options that could help decrease one’s desire to act out. Medication is not always necessary, but it can be a useful aid in helping a person recover from addiction, especially when a person is in the early stages of recovery. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety and mood-stabilizing medications may be considered.
Antidepressants (SSRIs). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used to treat a wide range of conditions, most commonly depression and anxiety.
Anti-anxiety. Anti-anxiety medications vary depending on the needs of an individual. They are commonly used to help treat a wide range of anxiety disorders.
Mood stabilizers. Mood stabilizers are used to treat mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, mania and depression, or extreme mood swings, which may exacerbate an addiction.
Psychotherapy and Counseling
Psychotherapeutic techniques may be effective in treating a person exhibiting signs of sex addiction. Those techniques include, but are not limited to:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). A form of psychotherapy used to treat and reduce symptoms of various mental health disorders. It includes a broad spectrum of techniques like journaling, self-talk, cognitive restructuring, situational exposure and beyond. It’s one of the most common forms of therapy and one of the most heavily researched.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). A therapeutic approach that focuses on having the patient briefly relive a traumatic memory while undergoing bilateral eye movement. EMDR has been proven to help those with sex addiction by reducing the vividness of trauma they have experienced.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) are other forms of psychotherapy that are also used in treating individuals fighting addictions.
Therapy sessions will vary from person to person depending on the needs of the individual and their treatment plan.
Modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, there are 12-step programs that aid in recovery from sex addiction. Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) can serve as a source of support for those in the process of recovering from addiction. Support groups can provide a safe space to share with those going through similar experiences. It provides a community for those who may feel alone in their journey through addiction.
If a person dealing with sex addiction is unresponsive or opposed to treatment, inpatient care may be a good option. By admitting into a treatment center, a person subjects themselves to an environment that allows them to recover best and heal. Treatment facilities are equipped with knowledgeable staff and around-the-clock support for those who are going through mental health recovery. This option may be best for those who aren’t able to find support or aren’t in ideal conditions to rehabilitate themselves.
Recovery Is Possible
If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of sexual compulsivity, seek out the help of an appropriately trained mental health professional such as a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT). They will be able to support you in your recovery journey by providing a proper diagnosis and devising a treatment plan that best fits your needs.