Is Sex Addiction Real? Insight into Compulsive Sexual Behavior
What is Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction, also referred to as sexual addiction or hypersexuality, is defined as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts, despite consequences. The categorization as a progressive disorder means that its negative impact increases as the disorder worsens.
For some, sex addiction may involve increasing use of pornography or online chat rooms. For others, it may escalate to illegal activities like voyeurism, exhibitionism, molestation, or rape. It is not uncommon for sex addicts to seek extramarital affairs with sex workers, acquaintances, or strangers. The addiction may result in a loss of trust, dissolution of a marriage, or alienation from family and friends.
Regardless of the terminology used, sex addiction refers to those who participate in sexual behaviors that are damaging to themselves and others.
The risks of sex addiction:
- Destruction of relationship with significant other, family members
- Potential loss of custody
- Increased risk of substance use disorder (alcohol or drugs)
- Poor performance at work or school
- Exposure to sexually transmitted diseases or infections (HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, chlamydia, HPV, syphilis, gonorrhea)
- Loss of job (looking at pornographic materials at work, having sex at the office)
- Legal consequences (relations with sex workers, exposing oneself in public)
The causes behind hypersexual behavior are currently unknown. It is theorized that the effect on the brain is similar to obsessive compulsive disorder, or that the behavior is attributable to abnormal levels of serotonin or dopamine. Other researchers believe that attention issues, difficulty with emotional regulation, or poor impulse control may be related. Until science reveals the root causes of compulsive sexual behavior, it is vital that public perception shifts to dispel the negative attitudes surrounding this disorder.
Skepticism Surrounding Behavioral Addictions
Unfortunately, the stigma around sex addiction is nothing new. Other behavioral addictions – including compulsive eating, technology use, shopping, and gambling – are met with a similar amount of confusion and disbelief. Public attitudes frame these compulsive actions as a series of poor choices, rather than as a type of addiction. This could not be further from the truth. Consider the typical diagnostic criteria for addictive behavior, as applied to sexual addiction.
- People with sex addiction are unable to create boundaries or set limits around their sexual urges.
- They spend an unusually high amount of time pursuing or having sex.
- Sex addicts will also experience consequences at work, school, and home as a result of their addiction.
- It is not uncommon for them to overlook personal or professional responsibilities in order to follow their fantasies.
- Like a drug addict’s tolerance level, their behavior may intensify over time, requiring increasingly risky or anonymous encounters to achieve the same satisfaction.
- Even if they feel shameful or guilty about their behavior, they are unable to stop – if they try to, they will likely be unsuccessful.
To reiterate, these criteria are the same as those used to diagnose other addictive behaviors. For the above listed reasons, sex addiction falls into the same category as any compulsive substance use or behavioral disorder.
Treating Sex Addiction
Luckily, there is no such mystery surrounding the successful resolution of sex addiction. Those who pursue treatment have a bevy of reliable modalities available to them. At Pine Grove, we utilize evidence-based techniques to address the root causes of an individual’s addictive behavior. Our approach consists of a combination of individual and group therapy sessions. One-on-one conversations with a trained sex addiction therapist are a great way to encourage patients to open up about their past, often enabling them to process previous trauma that may contribute to their hypersexuality. Group sessions provide a judgement-free zone in which to discuss how sex addiction has impacted one’s life; they also work to unravel the feelings of loneliness and isolation that can come with this particular disorder.
One of the most important components of addiction treatment is the array of skills and coping mechanisms provided by Pine Grove. It is not enough to understand the motivations behind past behavior; in order to move forward successfully, individuals must learn how to respond to harmful urges and triggers in the future. Our team of sex addiction treatment professionals work directly with each patient to build these new associations in the place of maladaptive impulses, inspiring each person to live a healthier, happier life after treatment.
Pine Grove is also unique in its step-down programming. Before primary (residential) treatment has concluded, patients will work with one of our staff members to create an ongoing plan for their future. This means that after they have returned home, Pine Grove alumni can plan to attend outpatient treatment and participate in local support groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous. With consistent personal and professional support, our alumni are empowered to truly recover.
To learn more about the sex addiction treatment program at Pine Grove, contact us online or by calling 1-888-574-4673.