Sex addiction is a term to try and explain forms of hyper-sexuality.  It is considered an intimacy disorder that consists of compulsive sexual acts and thoughts.  This addiction is like any drug or alcohol addiction.  As time goes on the addict must increase frequency of activity to get the same result.  The range can consist of just compulsive masturbation and extensive use of computer sex services all the way to child molestation and rape. Sex addicts often do not form emotional bonds with those they perform sexual activities with.

It is estimated that 5% of people are sexual addicts.  Because of the internet the number of sex addicts has gone up.  Men and women are equally likely to have this addiction.  Over 70% of sex offenders are addicted to sex.  Some of their addictions are so intense that them being in prison in a benefit to the rest of us for sure. 55% of sex offenders are sex addicts.  This shows that just because you are a sex addict does not mean you are a child molester and vice versa.

The most likely cause of sex addiction has to do with unmet emotional needs.  The fact that antidepressants are often successful ways to treat this addiction only supports this idea.  The fact that sexual interests share a common pathway in our brains’ survival and reward system make this addiction open to anyone and harder for it to be limited to demographics or profiles of any kind.  For sex addicts the brain tells the addict that sex is good the same way it tells them that food is good.  Both provide emotional and physical pleasure that reduce emotional pain.  The emotional pain could be caused from feelings of emptiness, depression, anxiety or unresolved emotional attachment issues.  A history of sexual abuse or excessive sexual stimulation as a child could also contribute to hyper-sexuality.

Behaviors or warning signs most commonly associated with sexual addiction include:

Multiple affairs; constantly craving sex; neglecting work, school or family in order to get sexual favors; consistent use of pornography; compulsive masturbation; anonymous or multiple sexual partners and one night stands; prostitution or use of prostitutes; voyeurism and stalking; molestation or rape.

A sex addict will often feel guilt and shame and lack of control over addiction.  Most sex addicts deny the existence of their addiction but in order for it to be treated the addict must admit the addiction.  82% of sex addicts report having been sexual abused as a child.  80% of sex addicts report their family having some sort of addiction in the history.  Sex addicts also often describe some form of emotional or psychological dysfunction in the families they grew up in, such parents who were cold, distant, uncaring and rigid.

Treatment for sex addicts focuses on how to develop a healthy sexual life by controlling the impulses.  This may include individualized counseling, family or marital therapy, education about having and maintaining a healthy sexuality, joining a support group and a 12 step recovery program.  In some cases medication will need to be used.  If that is the case medication to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder could be used to help lower the frequency of sexual compulsions.

Unfortunately, once a week therapy and medication is not enough treatment for more advanced stages of sexual addiction.  Fortunately, there is now an Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of compulsive disorders, including sex addicts, in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our programs provide services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of sexual addiction, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan that can result in recovery.  Treatment for people with sexual addictions can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.

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