Experts are uncertain how many people have a sex addiction, but they think it’s 3-5% of the population. That’s millions of people with an addiction, many of whom likely don’t know they have it and go undiagnosed. This post will help you understand sex addict symptoms and treatment options if you’re experiencing them.
What is Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction is also known as compulsive sexual behavior, hypersexuality, or hypersexuality disorder. It’s an excessive preoccupation with sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors that a person can’t control. It causes them severe emotional distress and can negatively affect their mental and physical health, job, and relationships. It essentially seeps into every part of their lives.
People with sex addiction can’t control their thoughts and urges regarding sex. This lack of control may lead them to seek out sex, porn, or masturbation, even if it harms themselves or others.
People with sex addiction may try to stop their harmful behaviors, but find they can’t.
What Are Sex Addict Symptoms?
A mental health professional must diagnose someone with a sex addiction. But there are common symptoms a person is likely to experience that can be identified prior to an official diagnosis. Noteworthy traits of sex addiction are the desire to stop the behavior because it’s negatively impacting your life, but an inability to stop on your own.
- Prioritizing Sex. People with sex addiction often neglect other activities to satisfy urges. They fixate on the desire to have sex and prioritize it over any other activity. It also takes up an increasing amount of their time.
- Guilt or Shame. Guilt, shame, or both often accompany sex for someone with sex addiction. They may feel shame for acting on urges, or they may feel guilt for how their actions affect someone else.
- Relationship Issues. Sex addiction also affects the partners of people with the addiction. Because people with sex addiction are constantly seeking sex, they may cheat on their partners or lie to hide their behaviors. They also may withdrawal from their partners, family, or friends because they’re afraid of their addiction being discovered or they want to spend more time on their habits.
- Coping. People with sex addiction use sex to escape from difficult emotions or deal with problems in their lives. It can be a coping mechanism to deal with stress, anxiety, or unresolved trauma. It’s not uncommon for people with sex addiction to engage in sexual behaviors and derive no pleasure from them. It’s common for people with sex addiction to have other mental health issues.
- Inability to Function. Because sex takes precedence over everything else in the life of someone with sex addiction, it can be difficult for them to function in their daily lives. They may miss important events or struggle to keep up with their work because their need to satisfy sexual urges takes precedence over everything else.
- Safety Risks. People with sex addiction seek out increasingly risky sex. This risk can mean unprotected sex with strangers or seeking out sex workers, which in turn means they have the potential to pass on sexually transmitted infections to their partners. It can also mean engaging in public sex or exhibitionism, which may result in legal issues.
- Inability to Stop. It’s common for someone with sex addiction to want to stop the behavior. They may even try to stop but find they can’t. For them, sex is a way to cope with emotions. Even though they try to stop on their own, it can be difficult to do, especially without treating the root cause of the addiction.
Sex Addiction and Trauma
Unresolved trauma is a major factor in addiction. Experiencing trauma dysregulates the nervous system and can fundamentally change how someone sees and interacts with the world around them.
Trauma is anything that causes you to believe you are in severe danger and causes a fight-or-flight response. It can be a deeply distressing or disturbing experience or a series of stressful life happenings.
Your brain changes after surviving trauma. It uses your fight-or-flight mode to help you survive. Afterward, your brain seeks dopamine to get out of fight-or-flight mode. Sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling, and other things can be that source of dopamine. And because a dopamine release feels good, a person can develop an addiction by simply chasing a dopamine rush as a way to cope with negative emotions.
To treat sex addiction, the trauma must be recognized and processed to eliminate compulsive sexual behaviors.
Getting Help for Sex Addiction
Only a mental health professional can diagnose someone with sex addiction. It’s time to seek help if your symptoms start negatively impacting your daily life. If you feel guilt or shame surrounding your sexual activity and want to stop but can’t, there is help. You don’t have to deal with your addiction alone. There are many treatment options for sex addiction. It’s essential to speak with a mental health professional to determine the right treatment for you.
Treatment options include:
- Trauma-focused Therapy. Trauma-focused therapy takes into account a person’s trauma history and how certain adverse experiences caused them to turn to sex to regulate their nervous system. Over time that continuous use of sex to cope with trauma evolves into problematic sexual behavior and addiction. By addressing the root cause of trauma in treating sex addiction, a person is able to then experience true healing.
- Inpatient Therapy. Inpatient therapy programs typically include in-depth individual and group therapy sessions. These programs help people with sex addiction by removing them from their normal routines for at least 30 days to help them regain control of their impulses and behaviors and begin healing.
- 12-Step Recovery. Sex Addicts Anonymous follows the same recovery model as Alcoholics Anonymous. Members are encouraged to avoid compulsive and destructive sexual behavior while attending group meetings.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps you and your therapist identify harmful thoughts and behaviors. Together, you work to find new, healthy ways to respond to challenges.
- Group Therapy. In a group therapy setting, a counselor leads an open and honest discussion with a group of clients. This therapy empowers the group to be vulnerable and share their stories while learning from one another in a safe environment.
How Integrative Life Center Can Help
Integrative Life Center provides sex addiction treatment using our proprietary TINSA® approach (trauma induced sexual addiction), which identifies and treats the root cause of the addiction from a neurobiological perspective. If you’re ready to begin your healing journey, reach out to Integrative Life Center today.