Sex Addiction Treatment – Therapy – Counselling – Help

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Sex addiction can be described as a compulsive relationship with a sexual behavior that interferes with normal living and ultimately causes severe distress to self and to loved ones. Despite the emergence of serious negative consequences, the behavior is repeated again and again in a manner that is essentially beyond the person’s control.

Like alcoholics unable to stop drinking, people who struggle with sex addiction are unable to stop their compulsive sexual activities.  But unlike alcoholics, who require a substance to achieve an altered state of consciousness, sex addicts achieve their “high” from planning and engaging in a particular behavior.

Any sexual behaviors can become addictive, and may include one or more  of the following:

  • compulsive masturbation
  • obsessive sexual fantasies
  • strip clubs
  • indulging in pornography
  • phone sex/cybersex
  • hook-ups with anonymous sexual partners
  • prostitution/use of prostitutes
  • exhibitionism
  • voyeurism
  • chronic infidelity within a relationship

No single behavior defines sexual addiction.  An extra-marital affair, for example, may be a sign of a serious problem within the relationship but may not necessarily represent a compulsive pattern.

Addiction occurs when the sexualized behavior develops into such a preoccupation it becomes a priority in one’s life, as other needs become increasingly neglected in pursuit of the sexual high.  Consistent engagement in the behavior releases mood-altering chemicals into the body and, over time, actually alters the neuro-pathways in the brain so that there develops a need to continually increase the frequency of the behavior or to seek more risky behaviors in order to achieve the same previous high.

Obsession and compulsion leads to secrecy and lies, and the addict often becomes emotionally isolated from healthy others.  As the compulsion progresses it loses any connection to being a means of healthy sexual gratification and instead becomes a way to cope with anxiety, to ease emotional pain and to reduce stress.

Afterward there is often such a build up of guilt, remorse and shame that, ironically, the only fleeting relief to be found is to re-engage in the behavior.  And so the cycle of addiction is solidified even as it spins more and more out of control.

For addicts, sex or sexual fantasy becomes the priority for which they will sacrifice almost everything, often putting sex before their children, spouses and friends, at great cost to themselves.  Addiction clouds their ability to know what is real, and irrational thinking helps generate excuses and justifications to explain away the erosion of important relationships, difficulties at work, legal or financial troubles, or health problems.

The following are key elements that may indicate the presence of a sexual addiction requiring therapy and a help from professional:

1)    Loss of control. In which you do more than you originally intended or wanted to do;

2)    Negative consequences.  The behaviors are continued despite physical, psychological or emotional problems that are likely to have been caused or made worse by the behaviors;

3)    Loss of time.  A great deal of time is spent in planning, engaging in, or recovering from the effects of the behavior;

4)    Tolerance.  The person is compelled to engage in the behavior for increasingly longer periods of time, or in increasingly risky ways to achieve the previous levels of arousal;

5)    Withdrawal symptoms. Depression, rage, anxiety, sleep disturbance, or irritability emerge as the person tries to abstain from the behavior;

6)    Inability to fulfill obligations. The behavior interferes with important social, occupational or recreational activities.

7)    Efforts to stop. Usually seen as persistent unsuccessful attempts to cut back on or limit the behavior.

It is estimated that sex addiction affects 16 million Americans, young and old, male and female (one in four addicts are female).  So you are not alone. Most importantly, having sex addiction doesn’t mean you are bad or perverted or hopeless.  It means you have a disease – a treatable disease from which many have healed through a proper counselling.  The goal of sex addiction treatment is not abstinence from sex, but elimination of the compulsive, self-destructive aspects in order to create opportunity to develop healthy, vibrant and satisfying sexual relationships that reflect true emotional intimacy and connection.

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