Sex Addiction: What to Know and What to Do
Sex addiction is a compulsive disorder characterized by an extreme preoccupation with sexual thoughts, behavior, and fantasies that is difficult to control. The disorder can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including excessive pornography viewing, frequenting prostitutes, continuous pursuit of casual sexual relationships, and a pattern of multiple failed sexual relationships. People suffering from sex addiction can experience a wide range of physical and mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, personality disorders, and trauma.
That said, sex addiction isn’t as much of a “true” addiction as some may think; it’s generally caused by underlying psychological issues. The disorder is most often a symptom of co-occurring mental health issues. In fact, individuals suffering from mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety are more vulnerable to developing a sex addiction. Depending on the underlying cause, there may be treatments that are available to help manage the signs and symptoms of sex addiction.
This article has been written to give an overview of sex addiction, including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and support options. By increasing awareness of this disorder, we hope to make it easier for individuals to reach out and get the help they need.
What is Sex Addiction?
Although sex addiction is not formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5), it is a pre-occupation with sexual behavior that can cause dysfunction in day-to-day activities, including romantic relationships, family, and career.
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy identifies sex addiction as an excessive preoccupation and excessive indulgence in sexual behavior that is also increasingly intense over time. The behavior is often compulsive in nature and despite knowing that the behavior is problematic, an individual may continue to engage in it, despite negative consequences.
If the person is experiencing physical, psychological, or emotional difficulties that interfere with forming satisfying relationships or functioning in daily activities, then this may be an indication of sex addiction.
Signs and Symptoms of Sex Addiction
The primary symptom of sex addiction is an obsession with sexual thoughts, behaviors, and fantasies that an individual cannot control, even if the behaviors are increasingly risky.
The main signs and symptoms include:
• Compulsive use of sexual images, pornography, and sexual chat rooms
• Neglecting relationships due to sex addiction
• Having multiple failed sexual relationships
• Repeatedly engaging in risky sexual activities, such as having unprotected sex
• Experiencing guilt, shame, and frustration
• Having difficulty functioning in daily activities and relationships due to excessive pursuit of sex
• Inability to control the behaviors despite knowing it is problematic
Diagnosing Sex Addiction
Due to sex addiction not being recognized in DSM-5, it may not be listed on your general health records. To diagnose sex addiction, a mental health professional may talk to an individual to better understand their behaviors and psychological health.
It is important to note that sex addiction is typically the result of an underlying condition. A mental health professional may recommend certain tests to determine the underlying issue. If the underlying condition is diagnosed, the individual can receive treatment for this condition along with the sex addiction.
Treatment for Sex Addiction
Although the disorder is not formally recognized, there is still help available for individuals suffering from sex addiction. The most common treatments for sex addiction involve cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication, counseling, and support groups.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This type of therapy is helpful for understanding and changing negative thinking patterns that are prone to sex addiction. Through CBT, individuals can develop healthier thought patterns that can help them manage their symptoms.
In some cases, medications may be used to treat underlying conditions such as depression or anxiety. These medications can help reduce the impulsivity that often contributes to sex addiction.
This type of therapy can help individuals understand their underlying issues and how they contribute to sex addiction. It also helps identify any underlying psychological issues that contribute to the addiction.
Support groups for sex addiction can be an important part of the recovery process. These groups provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to discuss their struggles and experiences in a non-judgmental atmosphere.
Sex addiction is a powerful yet commonly misunderstood disorder that is often difficult to recognize and diagnose. If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of sex addiction, it’s important to reach out and get help. With the right treatment plans, individuals can learn to manage the disorder and lead healthy, satisfying lives.