Sex addiction is a term used to describe frequent sexual activity over which an addict feels a lack of control. An addict may also feel dependent on sex and engage in the behaviour despite it being damaging to themselves or others, often resulting in feelings of shame or guilt.
Many enjoy sex as part of a healthy relationship. Having a high sex drive does not mean someone is a sex addict, nor does having many sexual partners or engaging in certain sexual activities. A relationship with sex becomes damaging when a person no longer feels they can control these desires and engages in behaviour that may result in harm to themselves or others. An addict may also use sex to numb or avoid feelings and emotions, and instead experience a high from the sexual behaviour. As with all addictions, you can define an addiction to sex as a user trying to stop or cut down their behaviour, but failing or relapsing.
If an addict has urges or cravings but is unable to fulfill them with a sexual partner, they may resort to prostitutes or chat lines, which can also result in financial difficulty. These behaviours can have a significant impact on relationships, friendships, work life, and finances.
Symptoms of a sex addiction
As sex plays a key part in a healthy relationship, it may be difficult for an addict to recognise what’s rational behaviour and what isn’t. You or a loved one may need help if any of the below seem familiar:
- High risks taken to engage in sexual activities
- An increase in sexual activity or ‘extreme’ sex to feel the same high
- Feelings of shame or guilt follow sex
- Not being able to control sexual behaviour
- Neglecting social activities or other commitments in favour of sexual activities
- Stress or nervousness about when a next sexual experience may be
- Difficulty abstaining from sex
What should you do if you or your partner has a sex addiction?
Like any addiction, a sex addict may go through a period of denial before they accept that there is an issue. Communication is vital in controlling the addiction before it leads to behaviour that has the potential to damage a relationship or an addict’s health.
If addicts have urges or cravings for sex, but cannot access it, they may turn to other forms of pleasure. To meet their needs, addicts may turn to pornography or webcam sites, which can even lead to online affairs and the development of a cyber relationship addiction.
Treatments for sex addiction
Whilst there is no medical cure for a sex addiction, a professional can prescribe treatment for the mental health issues associated with an addiction, such as anxiety or stress.
To help an addict overcome their sex addiction, talking therapies prove helpful to rationalise faulty thoughts and behaviours around sex, and help to rebuild a healthy sex life. Sex Addicts Anonymous’ 12-step recovery programme is a talking therapy held in small to large groups and encourages addicts to discuss and work through their addiction step by step. Addicts often find comfort in hearing that others also suffer from a sex addiction, and it’s common for people to create lifelong friends during treatment sessions.
For more information on the treatments services offered by Charterhouse Clinic for sex addiction, please visit our sex addiction treatment page.