Sex & Relationship Addictions
Gain Control Over Sex Addiction
For some, sex is not just part of a healthy life: It compels behavior that is destructive, dangerous and addictive. Sex addiction can profoundly impact relationships and lives, but there is hope for addicts. Like any addiction, it can be treated and controlled.
What is Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction is a form of hypersexuality in which the individual is unable to control sexual urges and behaviors. It is characterized by failure (despite the addict’s efforts) to control or curtail sexual behavior even though it leads to harmful consequences. Often, sex addiction interferes with daily life and eventually results in serious physical, social and psychological complications.
Sex addicts’ behavior is typically compulsive, concealed and obsessive. Rather than integrating sex into life and relationships, sex addicts use sex as a means of coping with stress, dealing with loneliness, handling boredom and feeling important or powerful. Like other forms of addiction, sex addiction leads addicts to develop tolerance to sexual behavior and experience withdrawal symptoms when they are not engaging in sexual activity. Some sex addicts also suffer from cybersex addiction, which involves compulsive cybersex, pornography viewing and other sex-related online behaviors.
Sex addiction manifests in a variety of risky, obsessive and maladaptive behaviors. Some of the most common include:
- Multiple affairs
- Multiple and/or anonymous sexual partners
- Compulsive masturbation
- Obsessive use of pornography
- Prostitution or use of prostitutes
- Unsafe sex
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual abuse
Symptoms of Sex Addiction
Symptoms of sexual addition are varied but can include:
- Continued, obsessive behaviors, despite interference with everyday life
- Need to increase the intensity, frequency, or risk of sexual behaviors in order to achieve the same desired affects (tolerance)
- Increased isolation
- Losing track of time when engaging in sexual behaviors
- Failure to resist impulses
- Withdrawal symptoms when behaviors are discontinued
- Obsession with sexual thoughts and behaviors
- Feelings of distress, anxiety, restlessness and, in rare cases, violence if unable to engage in sexual behavior
Symptoms of pornography addiction include
- living a double life by hiding most or all porn use
- anger when asked to stop using porn
- inability to stop using porn
Treating pornography addiction.
Although pornography addiction is different from substance addiction, many of the mechanisms that cause it are the same. As a result, similar therapies—including cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotherapy and support groups—are used to treat porn addiction. Other methods, such as Internet monitoring or content-control devices, may also help addicts recover.
Treating Sex Addiction
Support groups for sex addicts can be helpful and often follow the 12-Steps used by groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Counseling or psychotherapy can also help sex addicts. Occasionally, SSRIs and other anti-depressants are used to reduce libido. All treatment plans should also address co-occurring conditions, such as alcoholism or drug addiction.