As with many diagnoses, sexual addiction is faced with a changing way in which it is approached by professionals. These changes originate from new knowledge about the problem, as the psychological and psychiatric understanding constantly develops. When it comes to sex addiction, this diagnosis existed in the previous edition of the manual of mental disorders, but it was omitted as a separate mental illness in the current one. The practitioners and theoreticians are divided in their reaction to such decision by the American Psychiatric Association. Nonetheless, when a person is living with this problem, whether it is themselves experiencing it or it is someone they love, these discussions fall second to the need for help. Many therapists continue to practice since the patients’ problems justify this lack of rigid acceptance of the agreed upon diagnostic categories. This article will do the same, and offer an insight into what it is to be a sex addict, and how this issue is treated in the counseling practice.
What is sex addiction?
The symptoms of sex addiction remind us of other addictions in that they usually increase gradually in their intensity and the devastating consequences. It is described as distress a person is experiencing because of repeated sexual relationships with a succession of lovers. These lovers are experienced by the sex addict just as things, as objects that are used to satisfy the growing sexual need. There is also a compulsive element to the disorder, because of which many practitioners consider it to be kin to obsessive-compulsive disorders. This compulsion is visible in a search for multiple partners, or in a compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner. It is common for these individuals to be compulsive about having to be in a love relationship, and when they are in a relationship, they are often compulsive about the frequency, duration, or the characteristics of the intercourse itself. A sex addict also usually masturbates compulsively.
Sex addiction is a serious problem that affects entire families. The addicts rarely satisfy with a monogamous relationship and have problems with coping with the usual decrease of the frequency of sex in a marriage. As a consequence, the sexual addict often gets involved in numerous affairs, which causes further distress of the accompanying guilt, conflicts, and pain of failure in maintaining a meaningful relationship. It is not that the addict does not have feelings for their partner, or that they don’t see what they’re doing is causing hurt to others. But, as with other addictions, it is difficult to do the opposite, no matter how much damage the addiction causes. On top of the problems in intimate relationships, the sexual addiction is a peril to the addict’s health, as it is accompanied by an increased danger of acquiring an STD. An addict lacks carefulness in their selection of partners, often indulges in an unprotected sex, changes partners frequently, and all in all, behaves in a way that puts them and their partners at risk of various (sometimes deadly) illnesses.
What contributes to the onset of sex addiction?
As with many other mental disorders, it cannot be simply pinpointed to the cause of this addiction. It is, however, possible that the increase of sexual provocation everywhere around us contributes to the disorder, as the modern culture often directly promotes sexually reckless behavior, unusual sexual practices, frequent changes of partners. The vast majority of people navigates through these incitements more or less intact, but for some, an addiction is a result. Furthermore, a range of biological, psychological, and other sociological factors can contribute to the occurrence of sex addiction, and these are commonly used as an asset in the treatment.
How is sex addiction treated?
There are many methods of treating this addiction. In some approaches, if the addiction, for example, originates from traumatic childhood experience such as sexual abuse, a therapist will address both the current symptoms and the underlying trauma. In other approaches, only the person’s appraisal of a situation and their objective behavior will be addressed, combined with positive self-talk and the analysis of thought diaries and similar. Simply put, depending on the therapist and the addict, different ways to cure this condition can be assumed. However, the crucial is the fact that it can be healed, and that it doesn’t have to destroy the affected individual’s life, as well as the lives of those with whom he or she comes to know (and love).