This article outlines the symptoms of sex addiction, its growing awareness in the medical community and general public, and the rise and application of its treatment.
Sex Addict or Plain Old Cheater?
Many people are starting to buy sex addiction as a real mental disease, but others say it is a convenient way to duck responsibility for immoral behavior. Sexual addiction can be defined as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by overpowering sexual thoughts and acts. Sex addicts have recurring failure to resist sexual urges. Their sex acts or thoughts are paramount to their responsibilities. Sex addicts continue their behavior despite consequences. Cheating is a common immoral behavior; 20-50% of people report cheating. This means that not all cheaters are sex addicts because only 6% of the population experience sexual addiction. It can only be speculated whether a cheater is in fact a sex addict.
Sex Addiction as a Medical Condition
Sex Addiction is not a widely recognized medical condition like alcoholism. It has been gaining public attention and the American Psychiatric Association is debating whether sex addiction should be added to its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). There’s no “substance” involved—which is why the DSM has not denoted sex addiction as a disease. However there are rehabs offering sex addiction treatment. Most treatment for sexual addiction follows the guidelines of chemical dependency and behavioral treatment rehabilitation.
Rise in Treatment
Sex addiction has entered the spotlight with celebrities like Tiger Woods and Jesse James seeking treatment. Serial adulterers are now seeing themselves as patients. Elements Behavioral Health, which operates high-priced rehab centers around the U.S. including a celebrity-friendly one in Malibu, recently acquired the Sexual Recovery Institute. The Institute’s revenues grew 50% in 2010. Cost-free groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous have also been growing. The 12 step groups with the fastest growing membership are all sex related.
Sex Addiction Treatment
Ask for help: The first step in treating sex addiction is the admission of the problem. Great shame often keeps sex addiction a secret. It usually takes a compelling event like the loss of a job, break-up of a marriage, criminal arrest or a health crisis to force the addict to admit their problem.
Counseling: Addicts often receive personal counseling. Most theories on sex addiction believe that an early sexual trauma or a flawed sexual belief is trying to work itself out through the addicts destructive behavior and that it will continue until the issue has been resolved.
Abstinence: Abstinence is not possible in sex the way it is with alcohol or drug addiction. Sex is a natural and necessary part of life so in treatment addicts are taught that sex is an intimate experience to be shared with a partner not exploited alone or with strangers. Most treatment requires abstinence from masturbation. When a patient enrolls in a treatment program they are placed away from sexual stimulants like porn or sex professionals for varied lengths of time.
Support groups: There are various support groups for sex addicts. There are multiple 12 step recovery programs the most notable being Sex Addicts Anonymous.
Medications: In some cases medications are used. Obsessive-complusive disorder medications like Prozac and Anafranil or anti-hormone drugs which cause a sort of chemical castration. Anti-hormone drugs feminize the men who take them and are generally only prescribed to sex offenders.
Like chemical dependency there are levels of sex treatment: in patient, out patient, support groups and individual counseling are all treatment options.