There is considerable controversy surrounding the diagnosis of “sex addiction.” Sex addiction has been excluded from the 5th Edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5), but it is still both written about and studied in psychology and counselling circles.
it can be diagnosed using both DSM-5 (“Other specified sexual dysfunction”) and ICD-10 criteria (as “Other sexual dysfunction not due to a substance or known physiological condition”).
Sex Addiction is described as a compulsive need to perform sexual acts in order to achieve the same kind of “fix” that a person with alcohol use disorder gets from a drink, or that someone with opiate use disorder gets from using opiates. Sex Addiction is not the same kind of disorder as paedophilia or bestiality.
For some people, sex addiction can be highly dangerous and result in considerable difficulties with relationships. Like drug or alcohol dependence, it has the potential to negatively impact a person’s physical and mental health, personal relationships, quality of life, and safety. Although statistics are inconsistent and not often diagnosed, sex addiction is thought to be somewhat common.
A person with sex addiction may significantly alter their life and activities in order to perform sexual acts multiple times a day and are reportedly unable to control their behaviour, despite severe negative consequences.
Symptoms of Sex Addiction
Secrecy, for one. The person with the disorder often becomes quite skilled at hiding their behaviour and can keep the condition secret from spouses, partners, and family members.
But sometimes symptoms are present and noticeable. A person may have a sex addiction if they show some or all of the following signs:
- Chronic, obsessive sexual thoughts and fantasies
- Compulsive relations with multiple partners, including strangers
- Lying to cover behaviours
- Preoccupation with having sex, even when it interferes with daily life, productivity, work performance, etc.
- Inability to stop or control the behaviours
- Putting oneself or others in danger due to sexual behaviour
- Feeling remorse or guilt after sex
- Experiencing other negative personal or professional consequences
It’s important to remember that enjoying sexual activity is not a sign of sex addiction. Sex is a healthy human activity and enjoying it is normal. In addition, differences in the level of sexual interest between partners do not mean that one partner has a sex addiction.
Treatment Options for Sex Addiction
Castle Craig offers the following options for treatment:
- Inpatient treatment programmes. There are many inpatient treatment centres that offer sex addiction recovery programmes. Often, people with sex addiction are removed from their normal daily lives for at least 30 days to help them regain control of their impulses and start healing. These types of programmes typically include in-depth individual and group therapy sessions.
- 12-step programmes Programmes such as Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) follow the same recovery model as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). They can be very helpful for addressing sex addiction. Members aren’t required to give up sex entirely, but they are encouraged to refrain from compulsive and destructive sexual behaviour. Group meetings with others addressing the same challenges provide a good support system.
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy. CBT therapy can help a person identify triggers for sexual impulses and ultimately teach them how to alter behaviours. This is achieved through one-on-one sessions with a licensed mental health therapist.
- Medication. Some people may benefit from a course of drug therapy. Certain antidepressants might help alleviate urges (which is separate from the potential side effects of some antidepressants that can cause decreased libido or impair other aspects of the sexual experience).
The person addressing sex addiction faces a unique set of challenges. They may be engaging in behaviours that put their relationships, their own safety and health, and the health of their partner in jeopardy. At the same time, sex addiction is considered a controversial diagnosis and it’s lacking diagnostic criteria as well as evidence-based treatments.
Getting help for sex addiction
If you feel that you have a sex addiction, please call one of our Counsellors at Castle Craig. We are available 24-hrs a day to provide help, advice and support.