We live in an age where sex is much more normalized than it was in previous years. It’s no surprise that sex, like so many other things, can become an addiction. But where do we draw the line—how do you know if you have a sex addiction?
The U.S. National Library of Medicine says that, “one of the fundamental hallmarks of compulsive sexual behavior is continued engagement in sexual activities despite the negative consequences created by these activities.” Addiction to drugs or alcohol works much the same way.
Once your brain becomes addicted to the behavior, you care less and less about consequences. You live for getting the next fix, fulfilling the urges to use substances, the cravings for them. Sex addiction may affect you in a similar manner, and this means it has to be viewed as addiction, which is a disease. Treatment for addiction involves a comprehensive approach, which works to treat all aspects of the disorder.
How Is Sex Addiction Defined?
Sex Addicts Anonymous reports the following characteristics that are associated with sex addiction:
- Having no control over your sexual behavior
- As a result, losing control of other aspects of your life
- Experiencing feelings like shame, guilt, or pain, and a loss of self-worth
- Wanting to stop, even promising to stop, but being unable to
- Having a preoccupation with sex that often leads to ritual acts
- A snowball effect of consequences
For people with sex addiction, sex isn’t just an enjoyable time with a partner. Instead, sex becomes a way to cope, to overcome abuse or stressful situations, or to provide an escape from pain or emotions.
Maybe you’re thinking that we all may have used sex in this way a time or two. While this may be true, those suffering with sex addiction are compulsive about these behaviors. For them, sex is no longer about the act, but the ritual. Similar to other addictions, with sex addiction, the lives of sex addicts are taken over by compulsive sex-seeking and the resulting consequences.
How Does Sex Addiction Affect Your Life?
Sex addiction can affect your mental and emotional health, as well as personal relationships, work, and social life. “The irony is that the sexual behaviors become the primary way of coping and handling problems that, in turn, creates a cycle of more problems and increasing desperation, shame, and preoccupation,” the U.S. National Library of Medicine states.
If you are struggling with sex addiction, you may experience the following consequences:
- Feelings of desperation, guilt, shame, or self-loathing
- Development of other mental health conditions: co-occurring disorders
- Development of other addiction, like substance use disorders (abuse of drugs or alcohol)
- Harm to your personal relationships caused by lying or neglect
- Your finances could take a hit keeping up with pornography or sex service subscriptions
- Engaging in risky sexual behavior always increases your chance of sexually transmitted diseases, and infectious diseases like HIV or Hepatitis
- Gain a criminal record due to some sexual offenses
- Lose your job or get reprimanded at school or other obligations
Research: Who Is Affected?
It’s estimated that about five percent of our nation’s population may be struggling with sex addiction. Though there have been no long-term studies on sex addiction, local surveys report the percentage of people with possible compulsive sexual behavior.
Men tend to be more highly affected by this disorder than do women. Also, people with sex addiction are at a heightened risk for co-occurring disorders, or disorders that develop along with another disorder. These can include substance abuse and mental health disorders.
What Are The Causes?
Due to limited research, we don’t yet have a clearly defined cause for sex addiction. However, sexual or physical abuse may play a role. Other things that may affect your risk of developing compulsive sexual behaviors that can lead to sex addiction include:
- High levels of certain chemicals in your brain, such as dopamine or serotonin. These chemicals help regulate mood, so irregular levels can affect your behavior.
- Some diseases or health issues can damage your brain, and result in compulsive sexual behavior.
- Changes to your brain’s communication: just like with substance abuse, sex addiction causes changes to your brain’s communication system. This means that your brain experiences a feeling of reward (pleasure)
- when experiencing sex and bad feelings (withdrawal or cravings) when not experiencing it.
How Do You Know If You Have Sex Addiction?
Sex Addicts Anonymous uses a self-assessment test to decide whether you have characteristics of sex addiction. If you are unsure, consider the following signs:
- You are living a double life: you have secrets about your sexual behavior or compulsions that you don’t tell, even to those closest to you
- Sometimes you have sex with people or in situations that may be risky, and this isn’t what you would normally do
- You have started seeking variety in sex acts, having sex more and more, or engaging in extreme sex acts to achieve satisfaction
- You use pornography for an excessive amount of time, and sometimes it gets in the way of everyday things
- You feel a need to leave after sex
- You feel depressed, ashamed, or guilty after sex
- You’ve experienced legal issues/gained a criminal record due to actions associated with sex acts
- You are preoccupied with sexual fantasy to the point it interferes with your own moral standards
- Sometimes you manipulate people with threats or violence to get them to have sex with you
- You have felt isolated, hopeless, or suicidal because of your sexual behaviors
- You avoid sex because you’re afraid of intimacy or the act of sex
- The avoidance of sex consumes your mentality
Sex Addiction And Co-Occurring Disorders
Though sex addiction doesn’t necessarily cause abuse of drugs or alcohol, some of the symptoms can lead to it. You’re also more at risk of developing compulsive sexual behaviors if you’re abusing drugs or alcohol. Similarly, people with mental health disorders have a higher chance of developing substance abuse issues than those without mental health disorders.
Managing an addiction that slowly causes you to lose control of your life can be consuming. But trying to manage symptoms of two disorders and all the possible consequences may be daunting. One disorder brings out the worst in the other.
People with sex addiction may experience a myriad of emotions that leaves them feeling isolated and depressed. To cope, they start seeking drugs or alcohol. After a short time of abuse, they may become addicted. To deal with the consequences of addiction, they may become more compulsive about sex. And so the cycle goes until the two disorders take over your life.
It’s often hard to diagnose co-occurring disorders—it’s the reason so many people who have them don’t get the treatment they need. Many mental health disorders have signs and symptoms similar to those of substance abuse, like negative emotions, feelings of anxiety or depression, losing control, shirking responsibilities, and engaging in risky behavior.
To treat co-occurring disorders, you need a holistic approach. You don’t want to treat one disorder without treating the other, or your recovery may not be successful. Instead, you need a plan that addresses any and all aspects of each disorder so you have the best opportunity to heal.
What Treatments Are Available?
Sex addiction affects your behavior, so much of the treatment for it works to help you build healthy lifestyle habits. Some treatment methods that can help you do this include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
CBT works to help you build lasting changes to the way you approach daily routine and the not-so-routine things you’ll encounter after treatment. This helps ensure you’ll be prepared for the struggles that will come to help avoid relapse. It also shows you that you can have a fulfilling life, without the weight of addiction holding you down.
DBT utilizes your motivation and capabilities, showing you how to enhance both to build a safe, addiction-free environment. By recognizing your capabilities and learning how to harness your motivation, you can improve your self-worth and skill set. The result is increased self-confidence which helps keep you free from addictive behaviors.
There are no medications approved for treating sex addiction. But if you have co-occurring drug or alcohol abuse, you may need medication assisted therapy to help with the detox part of treatment.
If you do struggle with drug or alcohol addiction, medically assisted detoxification can make all the difference in recovery success. Detoxification is a grueling process, and isn’t something that should be attempted alone. Trained, licensed medical staff can help you achieve safe levels of tapering off substances until you can manage withdrawal.
Another method of treatment involves counseling. You undergo a lot of different emotions and mental issues when you struggle with sex addiction, drug or alcohol abuse, or any past traumatic events that may have contributed to these disorders. Counseling can help you work through these thoughts and feelings, and learn how to handle them long-term.
Finally, joining a 12-step group or support group can be extremely helpful in keeping you on track with your recovery goals, especially after treatment. When you integrate back into your community, it can be useful to have a network of supportive people who have had similar experiences and can offer support and understanding.
Where Can You Find Treatment?
The best places for treatment will offer inpatient services. Why is this important? Getting away from the triggers that lead to addiction, like an abusive environment, or a substance-heavy social group, can help you focus solely on getting better.
Rehab centers not only take you away, but put you in a relaxed, welcoming environment that will give you the space and peace of mind to heal. Our rehab centers provide experienced, licensed, and clinically trained staff to care for you during your stay.
We also offer treatment for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, intervention services, and aftercare support. Your recovery will be as good as the treatment you receive, and we can help you every step of the way.
Get Help With Sex Addiction Today
Maybe you didn’t know sex addiction existed before reading this page, or maybe you have struggled for a long time but didn’t know how to explain what was wrong. If you are suffering with sex addiction, or any co-occurring disorders, we’d like to help you find the treatment you need and deserve.
Contact a treatment specialist at DrugRehab.org today and we’ll connect you to all the treatment resources you need to start your healing journey.
For More Information Related to “Rehab Centers That Treat Sex Addiction” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From DrugRehab.org:
- Dual Diagnosis: Sex Addiction And Mental Illness
- Pros and Cons of 12 Step Recovery Programs for Addiction Treatment
- Treating Addiction With Contingency Management
- The Most Common Behavioral Addictions
- Benefits of Medication Assisted Treatment for Recovery