Addiction can be a difficult experience to understand and to deal with. Sex addiction is a behavioral addiction. It is not formally recognised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – V TR (DSM-V-TR) which holds criteria mental health practitioners use to provide accurate diagnoses. However, sex addiction can be found as a diagnosis in the International Classification of Disease (ICD-11) as a sexual compulsive behavior disorder.
Facing any addiction can be difficult and may elicit many difficult and negative thoughts and feelings. If you are asking yourself if you have a sex addiction you might be feeling concerned and in distress. There are ways to manage and treat this addiction, you do not have to experience this alone. Finding a provider that can support you is a helpful course of action to take.
What Does It Mean To Have A Sex Addiction?
When looking at sex addiction, it is important to understand a bit more about addiction. An addiction is a complex disease. This disease integrates genetic predisposition, environment, past experiences, and brain functioning into a lived experience. This experience leads a person to engage in compulsively driven behaviors to gain a feeling of satisfaction. The satisfaction is commonly known as a ‘high’.
Addiction is commonly linked to substance addiction. However, you can become addicted to a behavior. If this happens then the same brain activation that is seen in chemical addiction is seen in a behavioral addiction. There is the same release of dopamine in a behavioral addiction as a chemical one. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is associated with the reinforcement of addictive behavior and the adjustment of the brain’s functioning when an addiction is developed.
If you are facing a sex addiction, then the behavior that will drive your addiction could be any sexually natured behavior. This behavior can be compulsive and excessive. There is a difference between having a strong and healthy sex drive and a sex addiction.
Due to the compulsive nature of addiction there are usually negative consequences to meeting a person’s needs or urges. There is also an inability to control these behaviors no matter the consequences. A feeling of recklessness and disregard for self in pursuit of the high can be a way to tell whether a sex addiction is present.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of A Sex Addiction?
There are some signs and symptoms you can be aware of if you think you or a loved one is struggling with a sex addiction. However, it is important to engage with a mental health practitioner before you take on the label of addiction.
Some signs of a sex addiction:
- An uncontrollable preoccupation with anything sexual. This could be thoughts about sex, creation of fantasies, or engaging in sexual behavior. This preoccupation is constantly present and has an effect whether you are at home, at work, alone, or with other people. This preoccupation will interfere with your concentration and ability to engage fully in situations or your interactions.
- A compulsive urge and action of engaging in sexual behaviors. These could include:
- Excessive consumption of pornography
- Constant masturbation or thoughts of masturbation
- Frequently engaging in casual sexual relations
- Needing multiple sexual partners concurrently – or having an affair while you are in a committed relationship
- Thinking about or engaging in sexual thoughts or actions to the exclusion of other interests and hobbies
- A disregard for safety of self in decisions made to reach the high. This may be seen in dangerous actions such as unprotected sexual behaviors or seeking out risky environments to find a partner. This could also be a disregard of negative consequences – like risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, losing a relationship due to infidelity, etc.
- Often there are feelings of distress and a negative self-image that are associated with a sex addiction. This could lead to feelings of depression, negative self-esteem, shame, and guilt.
What Can I Do If I Think I Have A Sex Addiction?
If you believe that you may have a sex addiction it is recommended that you reach out for support. You could speak to someone you trust. Perhaps there is a family member or friend that you trust. You could ask this person to support you on the journey to recovery. The first step could also involve contacting a mental health provider.
If you don’t have someone to speak to, you can go straight to a mental health practitioner. When you are looking for the right therapist, it is helpful to find one with expertise and experience in treating sex addictions.
You and your therapist will decide on a course of action to help you recover from the active addiction and maintain your recovery. This therapeutic course might use one or more of the following approaches:
Your provider may suggest you engage with individual therapy sessions to help you explore the roots of the addiction, what has occurred during the addiction and building new strategies for managing the addiction. Individual therapy often helps you understand the addiction and yourself better. This can help rebuild your self-esteem and self-concept. You may also engage with reframing exercises to help you build new thought patterns, shift old habitual behaviors, and develop coping strategies for when you experience the addictive urges. Therapy can also help you build new lifestyle choices to support you in recovery.
Your therapist may suggest a group therapy program or support groups that you can attend with others who experience the same struggle. Engaging in a group process can help you realize that you are not alone in this experience. This can help you form connections where similar understandings and experiences are shared. Helpful coping strategies and support can be found in these shared groups.
A sex addiction can be a distressing and dangerous experience. Finding help and support offers an opportunity to manage the addiction, while creating increased safety and strength.
If you feel that you are struggling with a sex addiction, please reach out and book an appointment with Therapy and Co. to start your journey to recovery.