Sex is meant to be pleasurable, but just like alcohol and drug use, it can get out of control and take over your life. Unlike alcohol and drugs, which we can live without, we are meant to be sexual beings. So, defining what is healthy sexual behavior is not only complex and confusing, but it varies from person to person.
Sexual Addiction is often secretive which further isolates the person. For many clients in New York, the symptoms are in direct conflict with their sexual health and functioning.
Some Symptoms Of Sex Addiction Include:
- Relentless and intrusive sexual thoughts.
- Distressing images of sexual fantasies or urges.
- Repetitive embarrassing or humiliating consequences from sexual behavior.
- Harboring significant secret or double life from partner, family or employer.
- Preoccupied thoughts of sex or planning next sexual activity.
- Continuing the sexual behavior despite recurrent negative consequences.
- Risk of sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy or HIV infection.
- Negative consequences include legal problems, loss of job, loss of relationship, custody of children and one’s self-respect.
Some Specific Behaviors Of Sexual Addiction Include:
- compulsive use of prostitutes or massage parlors.
- prolonged use of pornography or on-line hookup websites.
- compulsive masturbation (sometimes to the point of injury).
- compulsive anonymous sex.
- compulsive infidelities that include physical or emotional affairs.
- compulsive sexual and / or romantic fantasy.
And sex addiction can also lead to a partnership with alcohol and / or drug use. Some people have never had sex without the help of alcohol or drugs, because getting close feels too threatening.
Just like all addictions sex addiction is not unique in that there generally is a cycle of acting out which intensifies with each repetition.
Managing Withdrawl Symptoms
If you struggle with sexual addiction and make the decision to stop, you will probably experience some withdrawal symptoms, which can result not only in physiological discomfort but psychological discomfort as well. This will be a challenging time.
Some people will relapse, while others will replace the physical and emotional discomfort with other compulsive behaviors such as alcohol / drug use, gambling, shopping, compulsive eating, etc. which, before you realize it, can become out-of-control as well. This is known as cross-addiction.
Co-Occurring Addictions And Sexual Anorexia
The use of multiple substances or behaviors, like sex combined with drugs and / or alcohol, is referred to as a co-occurring addiction.
The decision to stop having sex compulsively can trigger some people to stop sex all together for extended periods of time.
This is an illusion of control and is referred to as "sexual anorexia," which comes with its own set of problems on the sexually compulsive spectrum.
What Are The Treatment Options For Sexual Addiction?
Effective treatment options include individual psychotherapy and / or group therapy.
For many, the additional support of the Twelve Step community can be very helpful. Twelve Step programs geared towards sex adciction include:
- Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA).
- Sexual Recovery Anonymous (SRA).
- Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA).
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA).
- Sexaholics Anonymous (SA).
If a person cannot stop their addictive behavior through outpatient forms of treatment, then in some cases, intensive outpatient programs and / or inpatient treatment programs may be indicated as part of a treatment plan.
As a therapist who is specifically trained in the area of sex addiction, I would partner with you to treat this problem and work towards recovering a healthy sex life.