- Sex Addiction Stigma
- What Is Sex Addiction?
- Types of Sex Addiction
- Do You Have a Sex Addiction?
- What Causes a Sex Addiction?
- Why Sex Addiction Happens
- Is Sex Addiction a Treatable Condition?
- Is sex addiction real? Depends on whom you ask
- Is sex addictive?
- What does the research say?
- Sex Addiction (Hypersexuality): Is It Real and Do You Have It?
- Signs of Sex Addiction
- Treatment Options to Explore
Sex Addiction Stigma
Sex addiction is often a taboo topic and the issue tends to only ever arise whenever sex scandals are reported in the media. Those who find themselves at the centre of these sex scandals will often claim to have a sex addiction and that the reason for finding themselves in their current predicament is because they are ill.
While many of these individuals may very well be suffering with a sex addiction, the condition should not be used as an excuse for inappropriate behaviour. Sex addiction is a very real condition for many people and it can destroy many lives. There are countless reasons sex addiction should not be dismissed or treated as a joke.
For some individuals, it is a condition that is ruining their own life and the lives of their families.
What Is Sex Addiction?
To understand sex addiction, it is important to understand what the term ‘addiction’ means.
Most people assume that addiction only relates to substances such as illegal drugs and alcohol, but it can be described as any pattern of behaviour that has a negative impact on the individual and interferes with his or her quality of life. Therefore, almost anything can be classed as an addiction, including sex.
For many years, the term sex addict has been used as a topic for stand-up comedy; on top of this many people believe that others use it as an excuse to have extra-marital affairs. However, a sex addiction can cause undue stress for all involved, particularly the loved ones of those affected.
Types of Sex Addiction
A sex addiction is not the same for everyone. There are many ways in which this condition can manifest itself. For example, some people may become addicted to pornography to the point that it begins to consume their lives.
Others will become obsessed with masturbation, while others will spend all their time on sex phone lines. There are others who will develop an addiction to prostitutes and some who will become consumed by masochistic or sadistic behaviour.
Whatever form it takes, a sex addiction has the ability to wreck the life of all involved. This is the reason sex addiction must be taken seriously and why many organisations provide programmes to treat the condition.
Do You Have a Sex Addiction?
Any sexual activity that feels control can be classed as a sex addiction. However, just because you to have sex or have sex with a number of partners does not mean you are addicted to sex. If you to visit prostitutes, watch pornography, or specific sexual activities, you are not necessarily a sex addict.
Nevertheless, if you do feel that any of the sexual activities you engage in are control, you may need to speak to someone.
If your sexual activity is getting in the way of your normal everyday life and if it is ly to cause harm to yourself or anyone else, then it is ly that you need help to overcome your problem.
There are several signs to be aware of that could indicate that you have a problem. These include:
- Knowing that your behaviour is ly to cause negative consequences for yourself and others but continuing with it anyway.
- Feeling that you have little or no control over your behaviour.
- Feeling the need to engage in riskier sexual behaviour to achieve the feelings you desire.
- Neglecting hobbies or non-sexual activities in favour of pursuing sexual gratification.
- Neglecting responsibilities at home or at work and avoiding spending time with loved ones to engage in sexual activities.
- Feeling guilt or shame about your sexual activity and going to great lengths to hide it from others.
- Trying to stop or cut back on sexual activities that you believe are control but being unable to.
What Causes a Sex Addiction?
Just as with every other type of addiction, there is no single cause of a sex addiction. Nonetheless, there are many factors that make it more ly for some individuals to be affected than others. For many, a sex addiction might be the result of genes that have resulted in a predisposition to impulsiveness, risk-taking and sensation-seeking behaviour.
It is also said that hormones can cause some people to want to engage in excessive sexual behaviours. Their increased libido coupled with impulsive behaviour may cause them to seek sexual gratification to excess.
There are a few social factors that can contribute to the development of a sex addiction as well. For example, those who suffer with social isolation or those who have been rejected in society or a relationship could go on to engage in unhealthy sexual activities.
Although sex is natural and healthy, if it begins to interfere with daily life, it is a problem that requires treatment.
Why Sex Addiction Happens
When wondering why sex addiction happens and why some individuals are affected while others are not, it is important to consider the brain’s reward system. In some people, sex causes such intense feelings of pleasure that they feel the need to replicate these feelings continuously.
Sex addiction is drug addiction for some people in that the effect it can have on the brain in terms of the release of dopamine (feel-good) chemicals is similar.
Each time the person engages in sex, he or she will feel a rush of pleasure, but over time, these feelings will diminish due to the body releasing fewer chemicals in response. The effect of this is that those with a sex addiction tend to engage in riskier behaviours to get the feelings they desire.
The more the person tries to chase the desired feelings, the more chance there is that he or she will lose control over sexual activities.
Is Sex Addiction a Treatable Condition?
The first step to getting treated for a sex addiction is coming to terms with the fact that it exists in the first place. Naturally, most people do not really want to talk about their sexual activities with others, but it is important that you seek help if you believe you have a problem. It is unly that your condition will get better without help.
In fact, if you fail to get help, you might find that your situation worsens. The good news is that help is available for sex addiction; here at Primrose Lodge, we offer extensive programmes to those suffering from all types of addiction.
You do not need to feel embarrassed or ashamed because of your condition. We have helped many individuals overcome a sex addiction and we are here to help you too.
When you call us, one of our fully trained advisors will discuss your situation with you in detail to get an idea of what you are dealing with. He or she will ask questions about your sexual activity and how much control you feel that you have over it. If we agree that you do have a condition that requires treatment, we will discuss your options with you.
We offer inpatient and outpatient treatment programmes that aim to break the addiction though the use of psychotherapeutic treatments. Various therapy sessions will help to get to the cause of your addictive behaviour and you will then be provided with coping strategies to help you avoid a return to this behaviour in the future.
If you would help for a sex addiction for yourself or a loved one, please call us today at Primrose Lodge. We offer excellent programmes for those who need help for all types of addiction, and our clinic is staffed by friendly professionals who will put you at ease instantly.
Is sex addiction real? Depends on whom you ask
- The concept of sex addiction began gaining traction in the 1980s
- Professionals are divided on whether it should be officially classified as an addiction
(CNN)From Anthony Weiner to Tiger Woods, there's no shortage of so-called sex addicts these days. But is sex addiction a real condition?
Getting to the bottom of this question is the source of much controversy among therapists. On one end of the spectrum are sex therapists (myself included), who tend to doubt that sex can be addictive and view the label as potentially shaming.
On the other end are sex addiction therapists who believe that for a small group of people, sex and the behaviors surrounding it can be as destructive and addictive as any drug.
The concept of sex addiction gained traction in the 1980s, when Patrick Carnes published » the Shadows,» one of the first books to identify compulsive sexual behavior, a problem he ned to an addiction.
Soon, treatment centers, 12-step programs and other resources grew around this new label, despite the fact that it has never been an accepted clinical diagnosis in the «Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,» which is widely viewed as the authoritative guide for psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.
«To me, 'sex addiction' is a cultural myth,» said psychotherapist Joe Kort. «Thirty years ago, we didn't have a better way to describe people who worried that their sexual behavior was control, so it made sense to call it addiction. But it's not an actual diagnosis.»
But should it be one? I asked several of my colleagues on both sides of the debate to weigh in on claims and myths surrounding sex addiction. Here's what they said.
Is sex addictive?
This is perhaps one of the greatest controversies about sex addiction. Though some believe that sex can affect the brain in ways similar to drugs and alcohol — habituation, withdrawal, escalating risk-taking behaviors, alteration of brain structures — many proponents believe that sex addiction is more similar to a gambling addiction in that it involves a behavior, not a substance.
At present, gambling is the only addictive disorder in the American Psychiatric Association's fifth edition of the «Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5)» that would be considered a process or behavioral addiction.
And it may not even be the actual act of sex that's the issue.
«It's not about the kind of sex you have, who you have it with or even how often you have it,» explained certified sex addiction therapist Robert Weiss.
«We don't base the definition of alcoholism on the type of alcohol someone drinks.
alcoholism, the sex addiction diagnosis is whether or not that individual's behavior repeatedly creates profound problems and crisis in their day-to-day life functioning.»
Instead, Weiss sees sex addiction as a process addiction, in which the hunt for sex, whether that means searching for online porn or surfing for hookups on Tinder, creates in some people an anticipatory arousal that creates more of a rush than the act itself.
Yet some critics question whether there's a concern at all.
«Sex addiction has become the label du jour to explain why people without an understanding of their own desires now struggle and feel control in a world that's increasingly sexually permissive,» said David Ley, a psychologist. «They tend to be people who grew up in religious households who have been taught that sex should make them feel guilty and ashamed.»
Indeed, for some, the label of sex addiction may simply be a response to that shame, said Michael Aaron, a sex therapist. «Many of the 'sex addict' clients I see aren't addicts at all. They've been told by a partner or someone else that their behavior, watching porn or having a high libido, is a problem.»
Other therapists fall somewhere in the middle. «I do believe that a subset of people struggle with out-of-control sexual behavior,» said sex therapist Douglas Braun-Harvey. «They may have sexual urges, thoughts and behaviors that are consensual but that they feel they can't control. I view this a sexual health problem, though, not an addictive disorder.»
What does the research say?
It's tempting to look to science to settle this debate, but research only seems to feed the both sides of the debate.
In a well-publicized 2015 study, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, Nicole Prause, used EEG to measure brain activity in 122 men and women, some of whom reported having problems controlling their viewing of online pornography.
After showing the volunteers a set of photographs, some of which were sexual in nature, she found that the pattern of brain responses in subjects with porn viewing problems was the opposite of that seen in all other proposed addictions, including cocaine, tobacco and gambling.
This suggests that self-reported sex addicts don't exhibit any different brain activity than people who just have high libidos.
But other studies have found some differences.
In a 2014 study, a University of Cambridge researcher, Valerie Voon, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of 38 men, half of whom struggled with compulsive sexual behavior, while they viewed either porn videos or sports footage.
She found that three regions of the brain were more active in people with compulsive sexual behavior compared with the other volunteers. These were the same regions that are activated in drug addicts when shown images of drugs.
These people also exhibited higher levels of desire toward the porn even though they didn't say they enjoyed the videos, a phenomenon also found in people with other types of addiction. Yet Voon and her colleagues concluded that their findings aren't proof that porn addiction exists.
How should we treat it?
Whether or not we call it sex addiction, it's clear that some people are struggling, whether they feel they can't stop viewing porn, they're cheating on their partner or they're allowing sexual behavior to disrupt their work and relationships.
How that's treated, however, depends on whom you see. Although some people who identify as sex addicts may find support in 12-step programs similar to those used for drug and alcohol addiction, others seek counseling from certified sex addiction therapists.
In any given week, there are well over 1,000 Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings across the United States. And according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are now over 14,500 treatment centers in the US, with revenues of $35 billion in 2014.
While the majority of these rehab centers primarily treat drug and alcohol abuse, sex addiction treatment is increasingly prominent.
And in the spirit of «once an addict, always an addict,» many of these centers deploy a clinical approach 12-steps programs.
«I think people underestimate how deeply sex addiction therapists are looking at roots of the problem,» said certified sex and sex addiction therapist Alexandra Katehakis, who believes many cases of sex addiction stem from a traumatic childhood. «There's not a moral or shaming component; we're trying to help them integrate sex into their lives in a healthier way and help them feel whole.»
A common criticism of sex addiction therapy is that it is akin to reparative or conversion therapy used by religious groups to tamp down a client's homosexual urges or other sources of judgment and shame. Though the potential for misuse exists, the industry has taken steps to help prevent it.
«Any solid training program has ethical guidelines against reparative therapy,» explained Stefanie Carnes, a certified sex addiction therapist and president of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals. «We ask our professionals to sign an ethics contract attesting that they won't misuse their training in this way.»
But how do sex therapists — who, in large part, overwhelmingly question the legitimacy of sex addiction as a diagnosis — treat clients with out-of-control sexual behavior?
«Regardless of what we label it, therapists have been helping clients with these problems for years,» said psychotherapist Michael Crocker. «There are many valid models of working with out-of-control sexual behaviors. I personally believe there are underlying issues related to why individuals struggle with (this) behavior,and approach treatment this way.»
In my professional experience, some people who are worried they are sex addicts may be grappling with other treatable issues, such as:
- Mental health concerns such as depression. In my experience, when people are depressed and isolated, they tend to masturbate more and kill time watching porn, which contributes to their low mood. But the main issue that needs to be treated is the depression and not its symptom. On the other extreme, a person with bipolar disorder might experience bouts of mania that lead to hypersexuality, but again, this is not an addiction issue.
- Sexual gratification as a primary coping mechanism. In theory, there's nothing wrong with having an orgasm as a way of distracting oneself. But sex shouldn't be the only way we manage anxiety and difficult emotions.
- A libido discrepancy. When one partner in a couple has a higher libido than the other, they may worry that they are an addict rather than just different.
- An erotic conflict. Someone who doesn't want to admit that he's gay, for example, may self-label himself as an addict when having sex with men or watching gay porn. In short, he's trying to disavow a part of his identity that he's uncomfortable with.
- Avoiding responsibility for one's actions. For example, a serial cheater may feel more comfortable self-labeling as a sex addict than meaningfully exploring why he's unable to stay monogamous.
I personally know many good therapists who subscribe to the sex addiction model and are doing very thoughtful work with their patients. Many of them even identify as recovering sex addicts themselves, giving them an extra stake in the passion of their convictions.
One of the issues, though, is that their good work stands atop a long history of shaming and pathologizing that goes back to the Victorian era of vilifying masturbation as form of sex addiction. Today, popular culture has embraced the sex addiction label ahead of evidence-based research, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction.
In my own practice, many people come to me labeling themselves or their partners as sex addicts. Although I don't believe that sex is addictive, I respect that this is how my patients are experiencing their relationship with sex: as something that feels control.
This may be what gets clients talking, but that conversation shifts to a deeper understanding of underlying causes and how to address them. I don't try to change their language, but most of my patients end up expanding their formulation of their problem beyond the addiction lens. Sex addiction is often the beginning of the conversation, not the end.
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Sex Addiction (Hypersexuality): Is It Real and Do You Have It?
Sam squirmed uncomfortably in his chair, finding it difficult to look in my eyes as he talked about his porn habit, which in the past few months had overtaken his life.
“I’ve been watching porn since I’m 11,” he admitted. “But it used to be somewhat under control. Now I’m sneaking into the men’s room at work with my phone for hours at a time.
When my wife is sleeping I’m online. I just can’t stop.”
Sam is beginning to realize he is a sex addict. That term began receiving renewed scrutiny last fall when former film producer Harvey Weinstein declared that was what ailed him and entered rehab in an effort to escape criminal prosecution for his alleged assaults.
Practitioners in the country’s mental health community still can’t come to an agreement about how to regard a multitude of dysfunctions ranging from compulsive masturbation to uncontrollable infidelity to illegal behaviors including exhibitionism and child pornography. These get lumped together under the label “sex addiction” and affect between 3 to 6% of the US population. There is even disagreement over whether sex addiction or, as it’s frequently called, compulsive sexual behavior disorder, is a treatable mental disorder.
Regardless of the name used, this disorder is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) which is used by practitioners to diagnose psychiatric illnesses.
The rationale for the exclusion is that sex addiction does not cause physical symptoms of withdrawal such as illness or anxiety.
Another concern is not to stigmatize the LGBTQ and transgender communities, people who enjoy kink, non-monogamous behavior and other out-of-the-accepted ‘normal’ standards of sexuality. However, this exclusion makes it extremely difficult to receive reimbursement for treatment.
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Clinical psychologist and author of The Myth of Sexual Addiction David Ley, PhD, does not mince words. He told me, “Sex addiction is an excuse and distraction used by powerful men when they get caught engaging in impulsive promiscuous behavior.”
However, while the majority of those afflicted may be male, they don’t own a patent on sexual dysfunction.
For instance, Jada Pinkett Smith has been very open about her past addictions to alcohol, working out and sex.
In July the actress revealed on her new talk show Red Table Talk: “When I was younger, I definitely think I had a sex addiction of some kind, yes—that everything could be fixed by sex?”
Signs of Sex Addiction
The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), a non-profit multidisciplinary organization dedicated to promoting sexual health prefers yet another term—“hypersexual disorder.
” SASH defines this as “a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior…despite adverse consequences or deriving little or no satisfaction from it.
” When the obsessive behavior continues for six months or more, resulting in “significant impairment” to functioning in other areas of your life—for example, family, work, self-care, hobbies—attention must be paid.
A patient I’ll call Ed describes his torment: “As soon as you’re done having sex, you feel a sudden repulsion to the person lying next to you. There is trouble focusing on the task at hand. You get sexual images in your head every minute of the waking hours and there are nightmares about sexual taboos such as having sex with a close relative…”
A.D. Burks, author of Sex and Surrender: An Addict’s Journey, labels himself a “former sex addict.” His bottom line: “If a man or woman is continually using sex to escape pain, he or can be considered an addict.”
Indeed addictions, whether they manifest in compulsive gambling, shopping, substance abuse or sexual acting out, is rooted in the desire to escape emotional pain. The distraction of the pleasurable event becomes harmful when the person’s impulse control abilities are not sufficient to lessen or curtail the activity.
Treatment Options to Explore
There is a sort of ‘buyer beware’ sticker attached to treatments as sex addiction therapy is unregulated by insurance companies and government agencies. Do your research and make sure wherever you go for help has a good reputation and no complaints.
For some people the 12-step program Sex Addicts Anonymous can be of help by providing community and support. Others need one on one therapy and possibly psych meds.
For instance, my patient Sam and I explored the underlying causes of his addiction. It turned out the now 33-year-old first began viewing porn at age 11 to escape the grief over his father’s recent death.
When I asked what was going on in his life a few months previously when the once manageable habit became all-consuming, he reported his mother had just passed away. Not only was my patient grieving his mom, but also the fresh loss had triggered the pain he’d kept bottled up for 22 years.
Making this realization allowed Sam to start getting in touch with his emotions; it was a good first step to recovery.
Rather than delving into feelings, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term approach geared toward helping patients notice and correct the irrational thoughts and feelings that lead to compulsive behavior via learning techniques that serve to regulate the urges. This often involves journal keeping and workbook exercises and can be an effective treatment for sexual addictions.
Doug Weiss, PhD, is the author of among other books, Sex Addiction: 6 Types and Treatments as well as the founder of Heart to Heart Counseling Center, which offers sex addiction therapy that combines psychotherapy, CBT and group work. Dr.
Weiss says the crux of treatment is learning to “engage your whole being during sex with a partner you love versus just using someone as a sexual conduit.” Heart to Heart Counseling Center offers 3 to 5 day on-site intensives, which have an 85% full recovery rate. Dr.
Weiss notes the rest of the patients typically have a few relapses. He stresses, “Accountability is key. Set up consequences for relapses.”
Additionally, it is crucial to follow up with treatment once home and to involve others affected by your addiction in your recovery. Dr. Weiss, who is also the president of The American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy, offers perhaps the best advice for those struggling with addiction, “You have to be motivated for treatment, not doing it to make someone else happy.”