What is sex addiction? Lots of people feel that there is a particular stigma attached to being a sex addict. Some confuse being a sex addict with sexual violence, paedophilia or acts such as bestiality whereas in fact it is nothing of the sort. Sex addiction is a compulsive need to perfom sexual acts. It is the same compulsion that an alcoholic has to drink or a drug addict has to use drugs. Sex addiction often goes undiagnosed though it is not that rare. It frequently exists alongside other addictions.
The effects of sex addiction
As with alcohol and drug addiction, sex addiction is destructive. It can damage and destroy relationships and affect the addict’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Not everyone with sex addiction has several sexual partners. Some satisfy their addiction by masturbating or using porn. The addiction will affect their daily life in that they will need to plan their activities around their need to satisfy their urges. They will usually perform sexual acts several times a day, being unable to control their behaviour despite feeling bad about it.
Symptoms of sex addiction
Sex addicts – like alcoholics and drug addicts – are usually very secretive. They will hide or lie about their behaviours and can be known to keep their addiction secret from partners and other close friends and family. So it may be hard to know if someone you know is a sex addict. However, some symptoms may be more obvious:
- Have obsessive thoughts about sex and fantasise about it
- they will be preoccupied with having sex even if it affects their daily life including their work and home life
- May feel guilty or remorseful after having sex
- they will not be able to stop or control their sexual urges and behaviours
- there may be negative consequence to their acting out sexually but they will continue to do it despite this
- They may even put themselves and others in danger due to their sex addiction
- May have lots of sexual partners and relationships. This could include hooking up with strangers for sex
- they may lie to cover up and deny their behaviour
Options for addiction treatments
You may be with someone who enjoys sex more than you do and it may be that your sexual appetites differ. This does not mean that they are a sex addict. Enjoying sex and having different levels of interest in sex is normal. If you are in a relationship with a sex addict then you are in for a challenging time as you will be fearful as to their ability to be faithful as well as have to put up with the lying and secrecy.
Many private alcohol and drug addiction clinics also treat sex addiction. Residential treatment removes the addict from the environment in which they have been practising their addiction. And they are not allowed to practise it while in treatment. This gives them space and the time to get insight to get well. Treatment will involve one to one individual and group therapy sessions. It will also involve Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. It will help the addict to see things differently and so ideally lose the impulses and urges to act out sexually.
Many addiction clinics will introduce the addict to a 12 Step Programme. This will be modelled on the 12 Step Programme devised for Alcoholics. The equivalent support group for sex addicts is Sex Addicts Anonymous.