What is sexual addiction?
Sex addiction can be a very troubling aspect of some people’s lives. Like any addiction, it can begin to have negative consequences on their ability to work, sustain personal relationships, or have a social life.
Sex addicts experience urges to engage in compulsive sexual behavior. Having casual sexual relationships does not make you a sex addict. However, sex addicts do often participate in sexual activity with numerous partners. Sometimes even with little regard for their own or others’ safety. This can have hazardous consequences.
Sometimes people relapse if they begin to partake in triggering behaviors. So, addiction recovery needs to have a good support network. Many people want to seek help with this addiction and there are various methods to try. Hopefully, you will find this article helpful if you are looking for advice for you or a loved one struggling with sex addiction.
Diagnosing sex addiction
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-V, has removed Sex Addiction from the diagnosis list. However, it can still be diagnosed under ‘Other Disclosed Sexual Disfunction’.
The International Statistical Classification of Diseases, ICD-10, also does not have a diagnosis for sex addiction and is now diagnosed under ‘Other sexual dysfunction, not due to a substance or known physiological condition’.
Because sex addiction is not a diagnosis, it can be more difficult for people to get support. In addition, without an official diagnosis, people have to fund their treatment, making it harder to access. The stigma associated with sex addiction also stops many people from reaching out for fear of judgment. However, many people suffering from sexual addiction seek help and receive regular therapy.
Sex addiction is a compulsive need to perform sexual acts. These sexual acts are the addiction and are needed to satisfy this person’s urges. This can have very detrimental effects on a person’s life and require diagnosis and mental health support.
The criteria for diagnosing sex addiction are much disputed, but sure signs and symptoms are regularly present. Such as:
- sexual relationships with multiple partners
- keeping secrets to hide sexual activity
- the desire for sex starts hurting relationships and work
- acting recklessly or dangerously to perform a sexual act
- using pornography excessively
- being unable to control or stop these behaviors
How to overcome it
The first step to recovering from any addiction is to admit that you have a problem. Acceptance of the issue releases the sufferer from the stigma around their addiction. In addition, this allows them to begin exploring the reasons why they developed these issues.
Being a sexual addict intrudes on other areas of their lives for many people. It can have a detrimental impact on their work, family life, or romantic relationships. Recognizing that your addiction is damaging these areas of your life can help you on the path to recovery. Having a reason to recover can be a hugely protecting factor in your recovery. It can remind you why you are trying to get better in difficult moments.
Talking about it
A great place to start is to talk to people with whom you have a positive relationship. Whether this is a family member, a partner, or a good friend, beginning to discuss your concerns around your behavior with someone you love can help you start your recovery. In addition, talking about it could help you displace any shame you might feel.
There are often more deeply rooted issues that have led to this addiction. It can be helpful to try to discover these with loved ones or in therapy. Getting to the root of the problem can help prevent relapse later.
It is good to speak with a professional for advice on managing your addiction. Many therapists specialize in sexual addiction. They can provide helpful techniques to help you overcome your addictive behavior and any underlying problems. In addition, you may be prescribed medication to help. Often anti-depressants can help curb people’s addictive urges. Also, they may improve your mood, so you don’t feel as triggered to engage in these behaviors.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be a successful therapy for sexual addiction. It encourages you to explore triggers and your emotions and responses to them. Once you become aware of these behavior patterns, you can begin to find alternative ways to manage challenging situations and engage in healthier behaviors.
There are numerous 12-step programs and support groups for sex addicts. It can be beneficial to share your experiences with others. This can help alleviate any feelings of shame and make it easier to confront your issues. Many people find group therapies hugely supportive in overcoming addiction. Particularly as they can speak with others who have experienced similar situations and discover new ways to manage their triggers.
As with drug rehabilitation services, sex addicts can also participate in inpatient stays which can help them quit addictive behaviors. For a sex addict, it can be vital to spend time away from temptations and triggers that they experience in their everyday life. Inpatients can utilize this safe space to engage in one-to-one and group therapies. These can help them tackle their underlying issues and begin to change their thoughts and emotions that led to the addictive behaviors.
How to have the best chance of recovery
Before you start trying to quit addictive behaviors, it can be helpful to think about the reasons for this change. For example, are you trying to repair a family relationship, improve functioning at work, or work towards building a healthy relationship? Consider your motivations to know what you are working towards before you begin.
Once you understand your reasons for doing this, try to set some goals. These should be achievable and timed goals to track your progression easily. For example, plan when you will attend support group meetings, therapy sessions, and time with loved ones. It can be a helpful guide to have these written down to remind you.
Keep a diary of your mood and behavior patterns. For example, if you tracked when you experienced urges, you could begin to recognize triggers in your mood or surrounding.
A sex addict might find that the lower they feel, the more likely they will seek out sexual activity. This can then provide a focal point to improve general mood to prevent these triggers. It can be helpful to reflect upon what you have recorded to notice any patterns. This can help with understanding your addiction.
Each individual may have a different set of triggers. So depending on your circumstance, look at removing potential triggers from your life. For example, you should delete the contact details of any sexual partners you have so you are not tempted to contact them. In addition, it is an excellent idea to let them know that you are in recovery so that you won’t be getting them anymore.
You should also delete or dispose of any pornography in your house or on your computer. Also, delete your computer history of porn sites you have visited, so you are not tempted to view anything that may trigger you. For example, you might have specific places you frequented before engaging in sexual activity. Or people that you spent time with who also engage in similar behaviors. Remove these triggers from your life. Only engage in healthy relationships with people who understand you are recovering.
It can be helpful to replace the addictive behavior with a healthier activity with substance addiction. This can also be helpful with sexual addiction. For example, you could try self-soothing activities such as mindfulness or meditation, which will work as a distraction from your sexual impulses. Also, this will have a positive impact on your general mental health.
Alternatively, engage in other healthy activities, anything that you enjoy doing. For example, find new hobbies and increase your time with friends and family supporting you. This way, you can avoid any potential triggers.
Exercise can be a beneficial distraction. It is excellent for your physical health, but it will also improve your mood significantly as your physical well-being improves. Exercise releases endorphins, which give you a happy buzz. This is a very healthy alternative to engaging in addictive behaviors. It can give you a similar feeling of satisfaction while being a valuable pastime.
Remember always to utilize the available support. Continue attending support groups, speaking to mental health professionals, and having open discussions with loved ones. Having a solid support system will be crucial to your recovery. It will help to keep you on the right track.
Relapse is possible. It will be a long and arduous journey, and slip-ups may occur. Try not to let these get you down. Instead, accept the situation for what it is and work to change it. It is crucial to be open with your support network and let them know your experiences at these times. This can help you quickly control the situation and return to your recovery. If you do relapse, it can be good to check your sexual health with your doctor, mainly if you have engaged in any unsafe sexual behavior.
Sex addiction recovery is not just about stopping sexual behavior but also about changing your mindset and motivations. This can be incredibly difficult if alone, but it can be an achievable goal with support, advice, and guidance.