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 a decision by the American Psychiatric Association.
Nonetheless, when a person is living with this problem, whether it is themselves experiencing it or 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 and porn addiction?
Despite being excluded from DSM-5 (the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), sex addiction can still be diagnosed using DCM-5 and ICD -10 criteria, wherein it is referred to as “other sexual dysfunction, not due to a substance or known physiological condition.”
So, what is sex addiction?
Sexual addiction can be described as compulsive participation or involvement in sexual activity, especially sexual intercourse, despite its adverse consequences.
At the same time, it should be noted that sexual addiction, which is being discussed here, should not be confused with bestiality or pedophilia.
The symptoms of sexual addiction remind us of other addictions in that they usually increase gradually in their intensity and the devastating consequences.
It is a distress a person experiences 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 compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner. It is common for these individuals to be obsessive 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 or indulges in excessive pornography and other sexually stimulating activities, despite any serious negative repercussions.
What is porn addiction?
Porn addiction is when a person feels compelled to indulge in pornography, eventually affecting their relationship with their partners and close ones. Just like sex addiction, it is not an official diagnosis in DSM- 5.
Nevertheless, it can have severe consequences, just like sex addiction, and can adversely impact your ideas about sex and intimacy.
Similarities between being addicted to drugs and being addicted to sex
Sexual addiction is not just about sex or morality. Just like a drug addict, a sex addict becomes addicted to the sensations they experience when specific chemical changes occur in the brain.
You will be surprised to know that all sex addicts do not even enjoy sex!
They just indulge in ruthless sexual activities to seek those neurological highs.
Just like drug addiction, the excessive release of endorphins caused by indulging in sexually stimulating activities further leads to repetitive behavioral patterns.
Types of sex addicts
Now that we know what sexual addiction is, it is important to realize that not all sexual addictions are the same. The traits of a sex addict can vary and depends upon the type of sexual addiction they have.
These different types of addiction have different impacts on the addict. Thus, it is crucial to identify the type of addiction for getting on the right track for recovery.
1. The biological sex addict
This type of sex addiction entails excessive masturbation and indulgence in pornography. This, in turn, can lead to challenges with relational sex.
As per Dr. Weiss, most of the sex addicts have the biological type as one of the constituents of their addiction, but very few people suffer solely from this type.
This type of sexual addiction is self-treatable if the addict is able to identify their biological triggers and control the urge to indulge in sexually stimulating activities.
It is also advisable to seek professional help to prevent the addict from relapsing into their old behavioral patterns.
2. The psychological sex addict
Research shows that many sex addicts have suffered from some abuse or neglect in their past.
Psychological sex addicts are the ones who sexually act out to medicate their past distressing events.
As per Dr. Weiss, in the case of psychological sex addicts, their painful events and past issues need to be addressed systematically for them to heal fully.
3. Spiritual sex addicts
A spiritual sex addict is the one who looks for a spiritual connection in the wrong places or tries sex to fill the spiritual void.
The recovery from this kind of addiction is possible with the help of trustworthy spiritual healers and licensed counselors.
4. Trauma-based sex addicts
Trauma-based sex addicts are the ones who have suffered sexual trauma sometime in their childhood or adolescence.
Unfortunately, this trauma becomes the primary repetitive behavior in their addiction.
The ones suffering from this kind of addiction must stop suppressing their traumatic emotions and consult a licensed therapist who can help them to heal and recover completely.
5. The intimacy anorexia sex addicts
This kind of sex addict is the one who actively withholds physical, emotional, or spiritual intimacy with their partner, and significantly causing them emotional pain, trauma, and anxiety.
A person who has been sober from acting out behaviors for a prolonged period, and if their spouse wants to leave them because ‘nothing has changed’ then the person may be termed as physical/ emotional anorexic.
Resorting to infidelity and indulging with multiple partners if one partner fails to satiate their sexual fantasies
Endangering their personal and professional life just to satisfy their sexual whims
Feelings of remorse or guilt after sexual encounters
These are some of the glaring signs and symptoms of sexual addiction.
But, at the same time, it must be noted that enjoying sex with your partner doesn’t imply that you are addicted to sex. It is completely normal and healthy to be wanting to have good sex with your partner.
Just because a partner is disinterested in having sex doesn’t imply that the other partner has a sex addiction. In this case, the disinterested partner may be suffering from a low sex drive, which is also a matter of concern.
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. The addiction not just negatively impacts personal relationships, but also affects productivity at work and hampers social relationships.
An addict lacks carefulness in their selection of partners, often indulges in unprotected sex, changes partners frequently. And, all in all, they behave in a way that puts them and their partners at risk of various (sometimes deadly) illnesses.
As per a survey conducted, 38 percent of men and 45 percent of women contracted venereal diseases as a result of their risky behavior. On top of it, 64 percent reportedly continued their behavior despite being aware of the risks posed by the infection.
Unwanted pregnancy is another common side effect of sexual addiction. Of the women, nearly 70 percent reportedly didn’t use birth control and risked unwanted pregnancies.
Sixty-five percent of the people reported sleep disorders that usually resulted from guilt or shame caused by indulging in sexual activities.
Other severe psychological effects include feelings of guilt, inadequacy, anxiety, emotional dysregulation, and can even lead to severe depression if the addiction is extreme.
Causes of sex addiction
As with many other mental disorders, it cannot be simply pinpointed to the cause of this addiction.
However, the increase of sexual provocation everywhere around us may contribute to the disorder, as a modern culture often directly promotes sexually reckless behavior, unusual sexual practices, and frequent changes of partners.
The vast majority of people navigate through these incitements more or less intact, but for some, addiction is a result.
Furthermore, a range of biological, psychological, and other sociological factors can contribute to sex addiction, and these are commonly used to determine the causes of sex addiction during the treatment.
For example, higher levels of sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone can affect libido, which in turn can make you indulge more in sexually stimulating activities.
Psychological factors include adverse events like abuse or overexposure to erotic content that may aggravate your salacious behavior.
Also, a person having sex addiction could be suffering from other parallel mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or other personality disorders that may further cause a person to get involved in risky sexual behavior.
Social factors like rejection in relationships, social isolation, or social influences like having a bad company can all inadvertently fuel sexual addiction. All these factors can hamper a person’s mindset causing them to seek sexual gratification erratically and display unhealthy sexual behaviors.
How is sex addiction treated?
As far as treating sexual addiction is concerned, as the diagnosis is debatable, evidence-based treatment alternatives are lacking.
However, those who account for treating sexual addiction talk about many methods of treating this addiction.
In some approaches, if the addiction, for example, originates from traumatic childhood experiences 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 thought diaries and similar analysis.
Simply put, depending on the therapist and the addict, different ways to cure this condition can be assumed.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective therapeutic approach practiced by licensed mental healthcare professionals for sex addiction treatment.
This kind of therapy can help a person to identify what exactly triggers their sexual impulses, and in turn, teach them to alter their impulsive behavior.
Also, many inpatient treatment centers offer sexual addiction recovery programs. These types of programs usually entail individual as well as group therapy sessions to help a person recover from their distressing issues.
Now coming to the medication aspect, it isn’t clear that a doctor would prescribe medicines for this condition.
However, certain drugs that are used as mood stabilizers or used to treat anxiety or depressive disorders can help control the compulsive urges associated with sexual addiction.
Note: You must always consult your doctor or licensed healthcare professional before starting any medication. It is not advisable to begin with any Serotonergic (SSRI) medicines on your own.
Is sexual addiction preventable?
Sexual addiction can be prevented in certain scenarios.
So. how to prevent sex addiction?
For example, if you feel that your teenager is likely to fall prey to porn addiction or sexual addiction, you could try to curb their Internet addiction.
As parents, you must try counseling your kids or seek a professional counselor’s help to educate your child about the dangers of sexually impulsive behavior.
If you or your partner seem to be going down with sex addiction, identify the situations, thoughts, or people acting as triggers to your sexual compulsions.
Exercise self-control, talk to your partner or confidante, engage in healthy activities or hobbies to distract yourself from any nudging erotic thoughts.
Getting sex addiction help
How to overcome sexual addiction?
If you or anyone close to you seem to be going down with sexual addiction, you must not neglect the symptoms and shy away from seeking help.
You can begin by seeking a counselor’s help or talking to your family doctor about the same.
You can also reach out to self-help or support groups to cope with compulsive sexual behavior and for dealing with the other distressing issues that sexual addiction can cause.
Consult your therapist, or seek advice from your close friends and family to check for their credibility and gauge their reputation.
At the same time, remember that you need to help yourself first to overcome your compulsive behavioral traits. Make sure to engage with positive people and try to inculcate healthy habits to get over your issues.
Follow your doctor’s advice, and be regular with the sex addiction therapy sessions. Also, try to learn more about your addiction to better understand the causes and align yourself with the ongoing therapy or treatment.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.