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In a world where sex is everywhere – online, on billboards, on television, in schools, books, magazines and other forms of media – there is an increased likelihood for an individual to have a strong sexual desire that is difficult to control. When an individual has an increased sex drive that includes an obsession with sex, sex addiction may develop. Sex, the thought of sex, the actions that surround sex and an intense desire to take part in such actions can all lead to problems with relationships, work, school and social interaction for the sex addict.
Learn all about the signs, symptoms, causes, effects and treatments for sexual addiction here.
What is Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction is characterized by an individual’s intense desire to take part in sexual activity. Some of the activities that, when taken part in obsessively or excessively, may indicate an obsession with sex include:
- watching pornography either on television or online
- thinking about sex for long periods of the day to the point in which it interferes with other priorities
- excessive collections of sexual magazines
- risk taking sexual behavior such as promiscuity or having sex in public places
- excessive masturbation
Sex addiction typically causes the addicts thinking to be distorted and they will often rationalize their behavior in some way. Sex addicts will even blame others for their problems or their sexual actions rather than take the blame or accept that they were the doers of their actions. Most will deny that their interaction with sexual activities are a problem thus denying that they are an addict.
As sexual addictions progress, the behaviors that the addict takes place in will often progress as well. For instance, in the early stages of sex addiction, an individual may simply watch many hours of pornography. In time, this addiction may turn into the individual taking part in online sex groups that cost money. This can even progress to a desire or intense sensation to go out and perform these acts in public which can lead to the promiscuous activity which poses a significant danger to the addict in terms of physical harm, disease or other problems.
Signs of Sex Addiction
Early on, the signs of sex addiction may not be extremely easy to see but as time goes on, the signs will typically become more prevalent. Because sex addiction tends to progress rapidly and move from small discreet actions on to major, noticeable behaviors, you may recognize the following signs in an individual who is addicted to sex:
- compulsive masturbation or stimulation
- extra-marital affairs or multiple affairs in a non-married relationship
- multiple one night stands
- excessive and consistent use of pornography
- practicing unprotected, unsafe sex
- cybersex either over the phone or online
- prostitution or purchasing the services of a prostitute
- dating excessively for the ability to have multiple sexual partners
- voyeurism or watching others have sex
- sexually harassing others
Lack of Bonding for Sex Addicts
Most of the time, when an individual is addicted to sex they will not bond with their partner. In fact, most sex addicts will have no real desire to form an emotional bond with the individual or individuals that they are having sex with. This is why many can have satisfaction from pornography or cybersex in which there is no true bond having been formed and there are no strings attached. Sex addicts lack control over their behavior (or at least they think that they lack control over their behavior)
Consequences of Sex Addiction
Many different consequences can result from an individual’s inability to control their sexual addiction. Some of the most common consequences of sex addiction include:
- Financial consequences. From poor productivity at work because an individual has nothing but sex on his or her mind to money spent on sex through prostitution, cybersex, phone sex or online sexual fantasy chat rooms, there is great stress financially that can come from sex addiction.
- Health consequences. Individuals who suffer from sex addiction are likely to take part in a promiscuous activity which can lead to unwanted pregnancy, STDs such as AIDs or hepatitis, or rape
- Social consequences. Sex addiction can lead to adverse social interactions. Many sex addicts will not interact socially because they spend their time taking part in cybersex while others may be over pushy or too sexual when in social interactions which can lead to a social upset.
- Emotional consequences. Sex addiction is a disease and many sex addicts, despite their desire to quit taking part in an extreme sexual activity, are unable to on their own. This leads to failure and emotional upset that can linger and cause depression or anxiety for the addict.
Myths & Facts About Sex Addiction
Myth: People with good morals will not suffer from sex addiction
Fact: Your morals are not a direct impact on whether or not you suffer from sex addiction. If your sexual behavior takes you out of the realm of your own values or beliefs, then this could be affecting your morals and you may feel bad, but there is the help.
Myth: Only men are sex addicts
Fact: While the majority of sex addiction sufferers are men, there are signs that about 20% of those suffering from sex addiction are actually women. Unfortunately, it can be more difficult for a woman to address her sex addiction due largely in part to the majority of the support groups and treatment options being geared to men.
Myth: Sex addiction affects all gay men
Fact: Sex addiction is not secluded to gay men, a particular minority or a singled out type of person. Sex addiction can affect heterosexual males, gay males, heterosexual women and gay women alike.
Coping With Shame in Sex Addiction
A major problem that many sex addicts have it the shame and guilt that comes with their addiction. For most, despite their desire not to take part in illicit activities or behaviors, a negative control takes over and causes them to perform an explicit sexual activity such as watching pornography, taking part in cybersex or promiscuous activity despite their burning desire to do what’s right. Many clients who do seek treatment for sex addiction not feelings of guilt and shame as their primary reasons for treatment.
- Guilt – I did something wrong and I feel bad for my mistake
- Shame – Because I did something wrong, there is something wrong with me
We are all familiar with the feeling of guilt that comes when we consciously know that we made a mistake. Not all of us feel shame when a mistake is made though. Shame is the painful emotion that results when we feel guilty for our wrongdoing. Shame is more difficult to overcome and to cope with that guilt because it is an internal emotion that we must cope with and learn how to manifest into a positive feeling when we do better and make improvements.
How to Stop Sex Addiction
Many people who do suffer from sex addiction are looking for ways to stop the addiction for reasons such as the problems that come with the addiction or because their loved ones are being adversely affected by the addiction. Just like a drug or alcohol addiction, excessive use or behavior that involves sex can also lead to addiction that needs to be controlled. There are many steps that you can take to help stop your sex addiction depending on the severity of the addiction.
Take these steps to reduce your desire and stop your sex addiction:
- Get Support. Your support is very important to your recovery from sex addiction. You can find support in sex addiction support groups, through a counselor or doctor, through your family, friends, a spouse or a mentor
- Avoid triggers. Learn how to avoid the places or situations that lead you to watch porn, walk the streets in search of a prostitute, or make a cybersex phone call. By learning how to avoid the triggers that lead you to the compulsive sexual behavior you can reduce the chance that you will make the wrong decisions.
- Accept your problem. The first step to recovery from any addiction is to admit that you have a problem. Sex addiction is a problem and as soon as you admit that you have a problem controlling your sexual behaviors you will be able to begin seeking help.
- Join an outside support group. You’re not the only one who is addicted to sex or who may have an obsession with pornography or cybersex. Thousands of others suffer similar compulsions and there are often community support groups that can help. Many of these support groups can even be found online to help you find the help that you need.
- Seek help. If you’ve tried to stop on your own, you’ve sought support and you still find yourself taking part in sexual behaviors that are unacceptable to yourself or to others, seek additional support from a professional. A counselor or trained professional can help you to gain control of your addiction and move forward.
Treatment for Sex Addiction
Many forms of treatment for sex addiction exist to help you balance your life with healthy sexual relationships that do not hinge on the border of being addictive. A mental health professional and medical health professional can help to determine if you truly are addicted to sex, help you get to the bottom of the reasons why you may be suffering from sex addiction and even lead you in the right direction to overcoming your sex addiction once and for all.
Twelve Step Treatment
Although twelve step treatment was originally devised for those suffering from alcoholism, this method of therapy has evolved to provide options for those suffering from narcotics addiction, medication addictions and many forms of sex addiction. Some of the twelve step treatment methods you can find in various anonymous groups include:
- Sex Addicts Anonymous
- Sex, Love Addicts Anonymous
- Sexaholics Anonymous
Individual and group counseling methods have proven effective at treating those who are addicted to sex. Additionally, marriage counseling could be beneficial to help patients and their partners to cope with the fear, deception, lies and other devastation that has resulted from a sexual addiction.
Faith Based Treatment
Many different faith-based treatment programs can be found to provide counseling, support and spiritual therapy that will reduce or assist with the devastation of sexual addictions. Pastoral counseling, prayer sessions, bible studies and individual support groups can work to restore your religious faith which in turn can reduce a sexual addiction.
Various methods of psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can lead an individual who overly thinks about sex and reacts with poor behaviors to learn new ways of thinking and of reacting. This therapy may consist of teaching an individual a positive way to react to sexual desires such as with a loved one or by transferring thoughts to a more productive, non-sexual, activity.
As previously stated, many different support groups can be found to help those who suffer from sexual addiction. You may find support in a friend or family member who you can call if you have the desire to take part in a sexual activity, you may talk with your spouse or you may find an online social chat room where you can talk about your desires without following through. Support is a necessary part of any treatment process and the resources that you find for support can greatly improve your chances of making a full recovery from sex addiction.
If your sex addiction is the result of depression, there are medications that can help. If you use sex as a way to reduce stress or anxiety, there are medications that can help with that as well. Severe sex addicts are also able to be given certain types hormonal medications that will reduce sexuality, hinder sexual urges and eliminate or greatly reduce compulsive behaviors.