Posted on March 6, 2013
Last modified on May 13, 2019
Sex can be a positive, life-affirming thing, but when it becomes the object of an addiction, it doesn’t feel positive anymore. If you have a sex addiction, it may be something you feel ashamed of. For the spouse or partner of an addict it can be devastating.
No matter what position you’re in, it may feel as though there’s no hope. The truth is, sex addiction is treatable, just as other addictions are treatable. Breaking free from an addiction may not be easy, but it is possible to recover and rebuild your life.
A sexual addiction can take many forms. For instance, you might have an addiction to masturbation, pornography or anonymous sex with strangers. Whatever the behavior, the underlying issues are quite similar. It’s not the same as having a hyperactive sex drive. Like other addictions, sex addiction is about trying to meet or avoid an emotional need. In sex addiction treatment, you learn how deal with your feelings in healthier ways.
People with sex addiction have compulsive thoughts, urges and behaviors around sex that they can’t control. They’re compelled to engage in sexual activity even if there are negative consequences.
The reasons people develop a sex addiction are unclear. It’s likely that a combination of biological, psychological and social factors is involved.
What factors put you at higher risk for a sex addiction?
Sex addiction is a controversial diagnosis. This is because in psychiatric terms, there’s doubt over whether it’s an official addiction. Instead, people are diagnosed with hypersexual disorder or compulsive sexual behavior disorder.
Sex addiction is what’s called a process addiction (or behavioral addiction). Other examples of process addictions include gambling and shopping addictions. These addictions don’t necessarily cause the physical harm that a drug addiction can, but they do cause genuine distress. They might also make it more likely for you to engage in activity that could put you in physical harm (like unsafe sex).
Someone who has a sex addiction feels they can’t control their sexual urges. They use sex as a way of avoiding or coping with problems, just as people do with alcohol or substance abuse. If you have a sex addiction, you may feel sexual desire and sexual compulsions at inconvenient and inappropriate times, particularly when under stress. Fantasizing about, planning and engaging in sexual activity is all-consuming. You may not feel a physical high in the same way that a substance addict does. However, the act of planning and then engaging in sexual activity results in reward connections in your brain. Over time, these can become psychologically addictive.
If you have a sex addiction, you may be aware that it’s having a negative effect on your life. Or, you could be in denial, as many addicts are, and haven’t yet allowed yourself to realize the harm that sex addiction is causing. Either way, it’s important to know the risks of compulsive sexual behavior.
Treating sexual addictions is important because there are negative consequences for sex addiction. It’s not a “harmless” addiction, even if there’s no alcohol or drugs involved. People with a sex addiction risk problems such as:
Sex addiction can also lead to other kinds of risky behavior, such as drug abuse or gambling. People with addictions are also vulnerable to other mental illnesses, such as depression and eating disorders.
With treatment, you can start to understand the roots of your sex addiction, and you will learn ways of facing the shame and letting go. You can learn new and healthier ways of dealing with stress and other problems. And, you can learn how to start repairing the damage that your addiction has caused.
Treatment of sexual addiction includes therapy and support activities to help you face your challenges. The kind of treatment program you follow will depend on what you need from treatment. If you have a co-occurring disorder it may also include specialized group sessions or other activities. Residential treatment can be useful to remove you from opportunities to engage in the addiction and focus on recovery.
Your treatment options may include:
The core of your treatment is group and individual therapy sessions. You will attend group sessions with peers and have private sessions with a therapist.
Therapy for sexual addiction may include:
During treatment, you will also learn new tools and techniques for coping with stress and other emotions. This helps you manage emotions, instead of using addictive behavior to avoid them.
Engaging in compulsive sexual behavior is often detrimental to relationships. Another part of therapy is helping clients work towards having healthy sexual relationships. This may involve couples therapy sessions as well as one-on-one sessions.
Some medications that may help include antidepressants and mood stabilizers. These drugs are helpful, because many addicts deal with depression or anxiety. Mood stabilizers may also help some sex addicts deal with compulsive urges.
When you have an addiction, you’re vulnerable to other kinds of mental health issues. These are called co-occurring disorders (or a dual diagnosis). This can include depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Sex addicts are also vulnerable to substance addictions. In particular, many sex addicts abuse crystal meth, and many crystal meth addicts abuse sex. There is a high rate of cross addiction between sex and crystal meth. This amphetamine increases a person’s drive for sex and their ability to engage in sexual activity for long periods of time.
At the start of your treatment you’ll have an evaluation to find out what you need help with. Then you’ll work with your treatment team to make sure your treatment plan meets all your needs. If you have any co-occurring mental health disorders or cross addictions, look for a treatment facility prepared to address all these issues simultaneously.
Promises Behavioral Health’s treatment centers offer alumni aftercare programs to help you maintain your sobriety long after rehab. This may include group activities, referrals for medication management and other recovery resources.
Sex addiction isn’t classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Because of this, insurance plans aren’t required by law to cover sex addiction as a primary diagnosis. Some health insurance plans may provide coverage, but not all plans do.
If the sex addiction is a symptom of an underlying psychiatric condition, insurance will likely cover treatment. For instance, some people with bipolar disorder or a personality disorder sometimes engage in compulsive sexual behavior. If someone seeks treatment for bipolar disorder with a co-occurring sex addiction, treatment for both conditions may be covered by insurance.
Similarly, a person seeking treatment for a crystal meth addiction may need treatment for compulsive sexual behavior. This makes insurance coverage for both treatments likely.
Not sure about your insurance coverage? Call us for a free insurance check. We can check your eligibility within minutes. If you decide to seek treatment at a Promises Behavioral Health center, a recovery specialist will help you maximize your insurance coverage.
Sex addiction can be just as distressing as any other addiction. But it’s also treatable. If you’re struggling with compulsive sexual behavior, there is hope. Call us, and we’ll help you find the right recovery center to help you rebuild your life and your relationships.
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