Treating Sexual Addiction
Sexual addiction means more than just having multiple partners, frequenting strip clubs or regularly purchasing pornographic materials. The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) describes sexual addiction as “a persistent and escalating pattern or patterns of sexual behaviors acted out despite increasingly negative consequences to self or others.”
Sexual addiction is a disorder much like any other addiction. A sex addict typically has some family history of addiction, and experiences brain chemistry changes that are similar to those found for addictions like substance abuse and alcoholism. Often, a sex addict came from a family environment that provided little nurturing, or experienced some type of emotional, physical or sexual trauma as a child.
Symptoms of sexual addiction include:
· Being secretive about your sexual activities
· Feeling remorse, shame or guilt after a sexual encounter
· Having simultaneous or repeated sequential affairs
· Engaging in sexual relations that involve coercion or threats
· Preoccupation with sexual fantasies
· Spending an abnormal amount of time viewing pornography, going to strip clubs and adult bookstores, and engaging in cyber or phone sex
· Alienation from family and friends
Consequences of Sexual Addiction
Sexual addiction can have profound consequences for you and your loved ones. In addition to the constant stress and anxiety most sex addicts experience for fear of being discovered, many feel self-blame, self-pity, loneliness, shame and guilt. This can result in emotional distance from and loss of family and friends.
Sex addicts put themselves at a higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases and potentially violent sexual acts. They may also run into trouble with the law by engaging in such behavior as sexual harassment, prostitution, exhibitionism, voyeurism, rape and child molestation. If your addiction reaches this level, you could be incarcerated.
Another consequence of sexual addiction is the financial loss most addicts experience. The costs of prostitutes, pornography, phone sex and multiple affairs add up, putting your financial security in jeopardy. As a result of your addiction, you may also have to deal with the costs of divorce or separation, legal fees and loss of wages.
When it comes to treating sexual addiction, the goal is to control your addictive behavior and learn to develop healthy sexual relationships. Treatment does not mean eliminating sex from your life completely, though temporary abstinence may be helpful in your recovery. Treatment of sexual addiction is similar to treatment for other addictions, and can include counseling, 12-Step recovery programs and medication. Through the appropriate treatment, recovery from sexual addiction is possible.
One of the first steps toward recovery is educating yourself about your disorder. That requires you to first admit you have a sexual addiction, and then be open to learning ways to break it. Use the Internet and other publications as resources for finding out about sexual addiction so that you are familiar with what it is. It is unlikely that you will be able to recover from your addiction solely from learning about it, but at least you will have an idea of what you will face in recovery.
Meeting regularly with others suffering from sexual addiction is a good way to get support during your recovery. These groups provide an outlet that allows you to openly share your behaviors and the reasons you engage in them. Find a support group near you so that you are less likely to miss a meeting. You may be surprised at how much quicker your recovery goes with a good support system.
Therapy with a mental health professional who specializes in sexual addiction can be an effective treatment. Individual counseling can help you address the reasons for your addiction and effectively treat it in a safe and therapeutic environment.
If your sexual addiction is affecting your personal relationship with a spouse or partner, couples counseling may be necessary. In order to be successful, you both must be committed to making the relationship work, as a lot of issues will be brought up during treatment. The sexual addiction of one spouse can be enough to break up a marriage, but if both partners are willing to put in the effort to help the addict recover, your marriage can again be strong.
Medication is available to curb the compulsive nature of your addiction. If necessary, medications will typically be provided by your treating mental health professional, who will prescribe them as long as necessary. If your addiction is accompanied by other disorders, such as depression or anxiety, you may receive medication for those as well.
Residential Treatment for Sexual Addiction
Residential treatment for sexual addiction is appropriate when you need structure and a different environment to help you overcome your addiction. Residential treatment facilities like Sierra Tucson allow you to focus on your recovery in an environment that encourages compassion, community and self-awareness. Sierra Tucson’s Program for Sexual and Trauma Recovery offers groups for therapy and education designed specifically to treat sexual addiction. Groups are also available for couples and families so that those important to you can take part in your treatment and learn methods to prevent relapse.
Seeking treatment for your sexual addiction is the first step to beating it. Make sure you find the method that works best for you, and be sure to stick with it.