What is Sexual Addiction?
Sexual addiction is characterised by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. It is a condition in which an individual cannot manage their sexual behaviour, despite the negative consequences to themselves or others. Like all addictions, it bears an increasingly negative impact on the addict and his / her family members as the disorder progresses.
Sex addicts do not necessarily become sex offenders. For some sex addicts, their behaviour does not progress beyond compulsive masturbation, multiple affairs, extensive use of certain pornography and sex workers, or phone / computer sex services.
For others, however, addiction can involve illegal activities such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, frotteurism, obscene sexting, child molestation and obscene internet communications or rape. Sex addicts are necessarily sex offenders.
Some unusual sexual behaviour such as paraphillias involving consenting adults, may not be sexual addiction.
How do you know if you or your loved one is a sex addict?
If you notice a combination of one or more of the following over a period of 6 months, you should contact a professional:
Constant Use of Sexual Humor and Grooming
Sex addicts can turn almost anything into a sexual joke or reference. They may consistently charm, groom or stare at men / women at work, socially or publicly, even though they are in a primary relationship.
Sex addicts may be repeat adulterers. They may even be carrying on multiple sexual relationships at a time outside their primary relationship.
Withdrawal and Mood Swings
Sex addicts lose the ability to engage mentally with things that have nothing to do with sex. They become physically withdrawn and absent as more time is devoted to receiving sexual gratification.
Sex addicts will think about sex constantly. They may masturbate frequently, even right after sex, or may possess pornographic material.
Escalating Sexual Demands
Sex addicts will often place increasingly high sexual demands on their partners. This may involve escalating sexual behaviours that their partners are gradually less willing to participate in. Alternatively they may become sexually anorexic with their partners.
Sex addicts often find themselves leading double lives, and have to lie frequently in order to keep their behaviour hidden. Some lies that become apparent may not seem to have anything to do with sex but may involve concealing finances, medical tests, work events and business travel.
Inappropriate Public Behaviour
Activities related to sexual addiction usually occur in private. However, as the addiction progresses, many sex addicts find themselves unable to resist viewing cyberporn or engaging in cybersex in public places or in the workplace.
Assessments – how can it help?
There are a number of assessments available online. However, some are not clinically validated, reliable, thorough or confidential enough, or they may cause unnecessary alarm.
The International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) provide Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs) with an anonymised, online questionnaire, called the “Sexual Dependency Inventory – 4.0”. It takes a client one to two hours to complete. At the end, a confidential, detailed client report is automatically generated for the therapist to interpret and share with the client. The results of the test will indicate a path towards a workable therapeutic solution.
Promises currently provides this test, administered by our experienced addiction therapist Andrew da Roza.
What are the risk factors for not treating Sexual Addiction?
Untreated, compulsive sexual behaviour can leave the individual with intense feelings of guilt and low self-esteem. Some patients may develop severe anxiety and depression.
Other complications may include:
- family relationship problems and breakups
- financial problems and loss of employment and work permits
- sexually transmitted diseases and infections such as HIV
- legal consequences, if the sexual act is illegal or involves law suits, divorce and custody procedures
Treatment options available at Promises:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) provides a variety of techniques that help the individual change their thoughts and behaviour. Therapy can help a person to avoid relapses.
There are several components:
- Rehabilition via our multiple partners in the region to smooth admissions with continuity of care.
- Psychiatric care to treat both medical and mental health issues which can co-occur e.g. prescription of required medication.
- Individual one-to-one sessions with our highly experienced therapists for addiction recovery and co-occuring mental issues.
- Couples and / or family sessions to build support for the addict and to address any trauma or grief caused by the addict’s behaviour
Medication can be used to treat co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.
Continuing Care represents the maintenance of wellness, which is key to achieving one’s recovery goals. This may take the form of 12 step recovery group meetings or other group therapies, individual one-on-one counselling, couples and family therapy, and mindfulness techniques.
Support groups such as our partners, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, offer 12-step programs aimed at helping the individual self-manage the condition.
In order to create lasting change and recovery, a combination of the above treatment options is recommended.
Unlike drug or alcohol treatment, the goal of sexual addiction treatment is not lifelong abstinence, but rather a termination of compulsive, unhealthy sexual behaviour.
Since it is very difficult for a sex addict to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy sex, programs usually encourage abstinence from any sexual behaviour during the first phase of treatment. Many programs suggest a 60- to 90-day period of self-imposed abstinence.
This enables you, along with the treatment team, to understand the emotional cues and circumstances that trigger sexual thought and compulsive sexual behaviour.
Get in touch with us
For more information or any enquiries, feel free to contact us now!