Sex Addiction

Sex Addiction

Sex Addiction, (also sometimes referred to as sexual compulsivity) can be defined as any sexual behavior that is secretive, shameful, or abusive (i.e.: manipulative, deceitful, or involving victims….including exhibitionism and voyeurism). Importantly, it involves continued participation in these behaviors despite negative consequences.

Acting out behaviors more commonly found in men can include: hiring prostitutes or seeking sexual massages, prolonged misuse of pornography (sometimes referred to as “porn addiction”), chronic masturbation, anonymous sex, or multiple affairs. Acting out behaviors more commonly found in women can include: receiving a “high” from flirtation or seduction, using their sexuality to gain power and control, mistaking sex for love (sometimes referred to as “love addiction”), multiple affairs, exchange of sex for gifts or money, and engaging in frequent one night stands. These are just a few examples of what sex and/or love addiction can involve. Major characteristics that are commonly found throughout are:

• obsession/preoccupation
• fantasy
• intensity of behavior
• individual’s need for power and control

As a result of negative consequences, most sex addicts have tried to control or change their behaviors at some point with little to no success. This frequently leaves them experiencing feelings of guilt, shame, despair, anxiety, confusion, anger, and/or helplessness.

Attempting to stop these compulsive sexual behaviors can be very difficult. It may involve the addict experiencing overwhelming feelings that are frequently painful and/or intolerable. Some addicts will go for extended periods of time without any sexual behavior at all. This is called Sexual Anorexia. It is often mistaken for recovery, but it is not healthy sexuality.

Others, attempting to manage these feelings, will frequently self medicate using most anything to numb the pain which can lead to other addictions. This is referred to as Cross Addiction, Co-Addiction, or Co-Occuring Addictions. When one addictive behavior decreases or becomes eliminated, other maladaptive behaviors/addictions may arise or resurface if they were previously present. This can include, but is not limited to:

• disordered eating
• excessive shopping/spending
• excessive computer use or TV watching
• compulsive exercising
• gambling
• excessive alcohol and/or drug use

Recovery is possible, but it does not have to be attempted alone. The best chance of recovery involves treatment with a combination of individual therapy with an experienced clinician specifically trained in Sex Addiction, as well as group therapy and a 12-step program. A qualified therapist will significantly increase your chances of recovery as well as facilitate your developing healthy sexuality. Recovery requires support. It is crucial to find a therapist with whom you can develop trust and begin the process towards recovery.