Sex addiction is a growing problem with damaging effects. It is a disease, it is a mental, spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical malady. Because of the sexual nature of the addiction it is not widely or openly discussed. Therefore, many people suffer with their addiction in silence.
According to The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, “sexual addiction is a persistent and escalating pattern or patterns of sexual behaviors acted out despite increasingly negative consequences to self or others.”
Some of these sexual behaviors include masturbation, watching pornography, engaging in cyber sex, engaging in phone sex, going out to strip clubs, hiring prostitutes or engaging in prostitution, sex with multiple anonymous partners and repeated sequential affairs, to name a few.
While at first glance, this addiction may seem like a moral problem, it is clear that it is also a real medical condition. This is evidenced by a draft released in 2010 by the American Psychiatric Association which recognizes it as a medical disorder which they formally call “Hypersexual Disorder.” The draft lists the following as symptoms of the disorder:
The addicted individual spends “Excessive time consumed by sexual fantasies and urges, and by planning for and engaging in sexual behavior.” This is called the obsession part of the disease. The person thinks about, daydreams about and is always planning on how to get their next “fix”.
“Repetitively engaging in these sexual fantasies, urges and behavior in response to dysphoric mood states (e.g., anxiety, depression, boredom, irritability).” This is called the compulsion. The addict can’t get enough, they need more of their drug to be satisfied.
“Repetitively engaging in sexual fantasies, urges and behavior in response to stressful life events.” This part of the obsession takes place when triggers are created, when life becomes too stressful, the addict does not know how to properly feel or emote so they use their sex addiction to medicate their feelings.
“Repetitive but unsuccessful efforts to control or significantly reduce these sexual fantasies, urges and behavior.” Many addicts realize they have a problem and want to stop, on their own, this won’t happen. It’s a disease and much like cancer, you can’t just realize you have cancer and say I’ll stop having cancer. Help is mandatory in dealing with this addiction.
“Repetitively engaging in sexual behavior while disregarding the risk for physical or emotional harm to self or others.” Who in their right mind would engage in behaviors that are harmful to self or others? a sick person is the answer and since the sex addict is suffering and struggling with a disease, they need help.
Sex addiction resembles other addiction in many ways. For one, the brain chemistry changes are similar. Family background of addiction is prevalent in sex addicts as well as in alcoholics and drug addicts. Additionally, addicts in general report having come from homes that lacked nurturing. In most cases the addicts reported abusive backgrounds including emotional, physical and sexual abuses. They also report having been from family environments where neglect, abandonment and enmeshment were commonplace. Finally, many sex addicts suffer from other addictions. Because of these similarities to drug and alcohol addiction, the consequences and treatment options are very similar.
As you would imagine, this addiction comes with serious consequences in all areas of the lives of sex addicts including social, emotional, physical, legal, financial/occupational and spiritual. As such, recovery from sex addiction can be a lifelong challenge. However, there is hope for sex addicts. They have to take the first step and commit to recovery. Once an addict has made that commitment, there are a number of recovery options available, including counseling, individual and group therapy and all inclusive sexual addiction recovery programs.