The term “sex addiction” is a broad categorical reference to a number of different activities that are related to obsessive or compulsive sexual conduct. Those activities include sexual fantasies, seduction and role playing, voyeurism and exhibitionism, bartering or paying for sex, sexual relationships with anonymous individuals, and at the extreme, violent, intrusive, or sado-masochistic sex. Many of these activities might be included within a healthy sexual relationship between two consenting adults. They cross the border into sex addiction when they so consume an individual such that he or she obsessively pursues them without seeking intimacy or a closer relationship with another person.
The Highs and Lows of Sex Addiction
At a lower level, sex addiction affects only the person who obsessively pursues certain sexual activities, including frequent masturbation, consumption of pornography, and frequent sexual liaisons with multiple partners. Individuals who pursue sexual activities at this level might be seeking the same stimulation of their dopamine reward systems that drug addicts strive for. As sexual activity at this level increases, the rewards are less intense and the individual finds himself seeking greater amounts of sexual stimulation.
At higher levels, sex addiction can take and individual into the realm of illegal activity. Sex addicts might feel compulsions to patronize prostitutes or to expose themselves in public settings. Sex addicts who lose complete control over the compulsions might force themselves on another person, for example, or pursue underage or violent sexual encounters. Individuals who succumb to these obsessions will face imprisonment and permanent branding as sexual predators.
Treating Sex Addiction
Treatment for sex addicts generally involves intense behavioral therapy that seeks to determine the root causes of the addict’s problem. A sex addict might be reacting to an absence of intimacy, or perhaps he had an unhealthy relationship with a parent or sibling. Some sex addicts might have been raised in environments in which sex was not discussed or, if it was discussed, those discussions placed a pall of impropriety or shame over sexual activity. Religious and social restrictions might cause an unhealthy perception of different sexual activities. When root causes are understood, therapists can make recommendations and teach their patients to adopt new behaviors that allow healthy sexual activity and the formation of genuine intimate relationships with others.
The roadblocks to successful treatment of sex addiction are found in the varieties of activities that comprise sex addiction, and in the lack of understanding of the behavior by qualified therapists. Sex addiction has been acknowledged and recognized since at least the 1970’s. It was not until the 1980’s that a scholarly analysis of sex addiction was published. Counselors who are members of the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health are best suited to offer therapy for sex addiction. Individuals who experience any form of sex addiction can be reluctant to seek direct assistance from a certified counselor, however, and many sex addicts turn to the internet and other self-help sources to resolve their perceived problems.
The Last Resort Recovery Center near Austin, Texas, can answer your questions on sex addiction and give you guidance to seek therapy that will help you to address any problems that you might have. Please call us at 512-360-3600 for a confidential consultation and for more information on our services and recovery programs.