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What is Sex Addiction ?

Sometimes referred to as “sexual dependency” or “sexual compulsivity,” sex addiction is the pathological or compulsive practice of unhealthy sexual behavior.

This unhealthy pursuit of sexual behavior manifests in many ways. Most commonly, the addict uses sex to counteract depression or anxiety, to escape responsibility or loneliness, or as a conditioned response to other negative emotions.

Sexual addiction invariably leads to infidelity, broken relationships, and heartache for all concerned. In addition, very real perils accompany the promiscuity inherent in sexual addiction, including sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS.

Sex addicts often lead a secret life, and hide their behaviors from friends and loved ones. Other times, sex addicts may blame their partner or spouse for their unhealthy pursuits. Or the sex addict may simply deny that a problem exists, and become angry or offended when loved ones suggest counseling.

As time goes on, the sex addict may move through cycles of shame, depression, and relapse, spiraling downward as their urges become less and less controllable, and they continuously seek an unattainable “high” from their unhealthy sexual behavior.

In our highly sexualized culture, the concept of sex addiction is often met with a degree of skepticism or scorn by people who do not understand the harm and ruin that sex addicts leave in their wake. But for those who have combatted sexual addiction, the truth of the disease is painfully real.

Signs of sex addiction

There is no universal behavior pattern to sexual addiction. Depending on the addict, unhealthy sexual behaviors can range from the seemingly normal to the outlandish, bizarre, or outright dangerous.

The one common characteristic of all sexual addiction is that the unhealthy sexual desires of the addict become all-encompassing, uncontrollable, compulsive, and ultimately detrimental to themselves and the people around them.

A sex addict is often unable to halt or alter their behavior, just as a drug addict or alcoholic is unable to refrain from intoxication. Most addicts will not seek help until the pain of their addiction outweighs the perceived gain of their behavior – and even then, it is usually a loved one who initially seeks help.

Can women be sex addicts?

Absolutely. Sexual addiction is not specific to either gender. Men and women can be sex addicts, and the compulsive and unhealthy sexual behavior that accompanies sex addiction is equally harmful to both.

Some common forms of female sex addiction are classified as “love addiction.” While this might sound less serious than sex addiction, in practice they are identical. Often, a female sex addict will trade sexual attention for what she perceives as loving or nurturing behavior.

But this transaction is unhealthy – sex is not the sole requirement for love. As the foundation of the relationship fails, the addict undergoes the same cycle of shame, depression, and relapse suffered by other sex addicts. Moreover, the “love” addict is similarly unable to control compulsive behaviors that lead to the continuation of the addiction.

Can sex addiction be cured?

Thankfully, sex addiction is highly treatable. The recovery methods we employ utilize a holistic and systemic approach to give the addicted person and their family the tools and support necessary to overcome addiction and reestablish healthy sexual behavior.

Our recovery model was originally created specifically for sex addicts by Dr. Patrick J. Carnes, an
Internationally recognized expert on addiction and recovery.

Sex addiction recovery is a task-based, and relies heavily based on the well-established twelve step program employed by Sexaholics Anonymous. It has been shown that with the combination of individual therapy, group therapy, and a welcoming twelve step environment, full recovery is possible.

The process takes time, and the rewards are well worth the effort. No more waiting, no more excuses. Contact us today, and join the millions of recovering sex addicts who have taken back their lives. [link to contact page]

Understanding sex addiction

Sex addiction is best understood by comparing it to other more commonly recognized types of addictions. Individuals who habitually abuse alcohol or narcotics develop a compulsive desire to engage in the intoxication of their choice, even if it means harming loved ones or sacrificing other areas of life. Sexual addiction is no different.

For sex addicts, unhealthy sexual contact takes the place of a substance or drug. And like those who suffer from substance addiction, the need to engage in the addictive behavior becomes overpowering.

Further, the cycle of guilt and shame that follows engaging in addictive behavior is no less pronounced in sex addiction than in substance addiction. Eventually, the addictive behavior is pursued as a means to block out the pain of the addiction itself, leading to a never-ending downward spiral that negatively affects the life of the addict and everyone around them.

Emotional Triggers

Most commonly, the cycle of sex addiction is linked to specific neurological events like stress, anxiety, loneliness, emotional pain, or uncontrollably recurring fantasies. Like flicking a switch, these emotional triggers compel the addict to feed their addiction. In a very real way, the addict is not in control of their own behavior – years of addiction can significantly alter or rewire brain chemistry, driving the addict to engage in acts that they might even consciously recognize as harmful or unhealthy.

The most important thing to remember is that most addicts cannot simply “stop” being an addict. The neurological reprogramming that takes place during the formation of addiction is extremely powerful, and willpower alone cannot hope to reverse it.

Current scientific breakthroughs have suggested that the examination of neurological functions is an effective way to combat the “hijacked brain” effect common to addictive behavior, and to assist the addict in overcoming the triggers that propel their addiction.

Consequences of addiction

Sex addicts often feel tremendous guilt, shame, or frustration regarding their behavior, and go to great pains to keep their addiction hidden. As the cycle of addiction continues, the pursuit of harmful or unhealthy behavior becomes a permanent compulsion – in an attempt to stop the pain of guilt or shame, the addict pursues the addiction to simply feel normal.

Obviously, this prevents the addict from being able to form proper or healthy sexual relationships, since the addictive behavior corrupts and retards intimacy. Even if the addict recognizes their addiction, the struggle to refrain from addictive behavior, coupled with the constant failure to do so, leads to decreased self-esteem, making it easier to succumb to the next urge, and so the cycle continues.

The longer the addiction goes on unabated, the stronger it becomes, until the addict is unable to stop the addictive behavior, though they might fully recognize their behavior as self-destructive. This leads to a feeling of powerlessness or helplessness on the part of the addict, and the desire to sink even further into addictive behavior.

In his book Don’t Call it Love, Dr. Patrick Carnes outlines additional losses reported by sufferers of sex addiction:

• Loss of partner or spouse (40%)
• Severe marital or relationship problems (70%)
• Loss of career opportunities (27%)
• Unwanted pregnancies (40%)
• Abortions (36%)
• Suicide obsession (72%)
• Suicide attempts (17%)
• Exposure to AIDS and venereal disease (68%)
• Legal risks from nuisance offenses to rape (58%)

Behavioral indicators of sex addiction

While there is no complete and definitive pattern common to all addicts, there are numerous types of behaviors that are common to many sufferers of sex addiction:

• Chronic infidelity
• Overindulgence in pornography
• Compulsive masturbation
• Exhibitionism or Voyeurism
• Risky or perilous sexual episodes
• Anonymous sex
• Trading sex for money or favors
• Efforts to limit sexual behavior
• Severe mood swings
• Sudden periods of intense sexual activity
• Lying about sex

Please keep in mind that a positive diagnosis of sex addiction should be carried out by a mental health professional, however the preceding indicators can indicate a cycle of sex addiction.

Treatment for sex addiction

Sex addiction is a highly treatable behavior, and with the right regimen, recovery is possible. For more information on how sex addiction is treated, please click here. [Link to recovery page]