Sex addiction has been a significant psychological disorder for millennia, but the discussion and treatment of this devastating disease has evolved over the last few decades. Where society would have previously dismissed a sex addict as a deviant or pervert, mental health professionals now recognize the underlying factors that both contribute to the disorder and make recovery so challenging. Instead of lumping sex addiction in with problems of morality, society has started to associate it with other compulsive behaviors such as gambling, shopping, eating disorders or self-harm.
What Is Sex Addiction?
Sex is a normal and healthy part of life for adults, and certain levels of curiosity and experimentation are healthy in childhood. However, sex addicts are compelled to engage in sexual behavior even when it harms themselves or others. This compulsion is actually caused by an addiction to certain chemicals that promote wellbeing during and are released during sexual activity. These chemicals help healthy people with relational bonding and they support procreation, but for sex addicts the chemicals function like a drug. Addicts will engage in any behavior necessary to trigger that chemical response, and since the brain develops a tolerance to sexual behavior rather quickly it often leads to increasingly intense, risky or even demeaning sexual activity. The following symptoms are associated with sex addiction:
- Compulsive, frequent masturbation
- Compulsive, frequent use of pornography
- Sex with prostitutes or strangers
- Frequent sexual activity outside of a committed relationship
- Sexual abuse of a child
Unlike the bonding and emotional responses associated with healthy sexual activity, for the sex addict this behavior is not enjoyable or positive. Some of the emotional results of sexual addiction include the following problems:
- Self loathing
- Anger management that may lead to the abuse of others
- Cutting or other self-harm
- Eating disorders
- Substance abuse and chemical dependency
If you exude any of these problems, you may be addicted to sex
Modern Sex Addiction Recovery
Psychologist Patrick Carnes is credited with first exploring sex addiction from a clinical perspective. His work in the late 1970s sparked the conversations and studies that have shaped sex addiction treatment over the last three decades. Psychiatrists and therapists now generally acknowledge that the same basic treatment techniques for chemical dependency help treat sex addiction. Therefore sex addiction treatment includes the following basic steps:
- Detox (ending the addictive behavior)
- Education (helping the addict understand the disorder)
- Accountability (preventing engagement in addictive behavior)
- Rehab (reprogramming the mind to its pre-addiction health)
- Identification and treatment of co-occurring psychological disorders
This type of rehab may be accomplished through inpatient or residential treatment. It may also be conducted in a religious environment, or through secular and scientific methods. Many successful sex addiction treatment programs have integrated spiritual principals and family counseling into the process.
Help for Sex Addiction
If you are troubled by your own compulsive sexual behavior, or if you are concerned about the sexual activity of a loved one, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our counselors are standing by 24 hours a day to answer your questions about sex addiction and help you find the treatment you need. If left untreated this addiction can ruin your relationships, destroy your physical health and possibly even your life. Call today for instant support.