It’s difficult to pinpoint when a sex addiction forms. How does a habit become a dependence that controls your life? While sexual thoughts and behaviors are expected, in excess, they cause distress.
If sex addiction affects your health, relationships, and daily life, it may be time to get help. Whether your habit started years ago or recently, there is always an opportunity for overcoming sexual addiction.
What is Sex Addiction?
Sex is a normal part of life, but using sex to cope with negative emotions can result in addiction. Sex addiction is an uncontrollable, compulsive need to focus on sexual activities that cause distress to your life. You may experience a craving similar to other addictions like those to drugs or alcohol. This feeling can be all-consuming, causing you to prioritize sex over other aspects of your life.
Sex addiction affects an estimated 3-10% of the American population. A person with sex addiction significantly alters their life to seek out sexual activity. They also are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior or more explicit sex as their tolerance for sex increases.
Why It’s Vital to Overcome Sex Addiction
Sex addiction can significantly impact your quality of life. From relationships to health and safety, sex addiction can quickly grow out of control and be detrimental to your well-being.
Effects of sex addiction can include:
- Physical Health Issues. Risky sexual behavior can sometimes result in physical health consequences like sexually transmitted diseases.
- Altered Self-Esteem. Those experiencing a sex addiction often feel guilt and shame about it. It can cause severe distress to your emotional and mental health and deprive a person of their self-esteem and self-concept.
- Damaged Relationships. Sex addiction can harm your relationships with loved ones. Sometimes, people experiencing a sex addiction seek sexual gratification outside of their relationship, breaking trust with their partner. Sex addiction can also affect friendships. Some people may feel as if they are living a double life, making it challenging to form honest friendships. They also withdraw from others, harming relationships.
- Legal and Financial Problems. Addiction only gets more intense. As the need for more intense experiences increases, so does the risk, which is why some people turn to expensive or illegal activities to fulfill their needs.
Since sex addiction is primarily an intimacy disorder, as it harms all of the person’s intimate relationships, including those with romantic partners, family members, and friends, said Matt Wenger, Clinical Director at Begin Again Institute.
“People with sex addiction usually feel isolated and lonely,” he said. “They need connected relationships but are unsure how to foster them. They’re crippled by shame and past traumas and hide or put on personas to protect themselves from rejection.”
Addiction permanently changes a person’s neurobiology, so once you have an addiction, you’ll always be attending to it in some form, Matt said. But you can still recover and live a fulfilled, sober life.
Overcoming Sexual Addiction
Addiction can be challenging to overcome, but you don’t have to do it alone. Isolating yourself can make it more difficult to recover. Surround yourself with trusted friends and family members you can confide in who can empower you on your recovery journey.
To help overcome a sex addiction:
- Delete the contacts of any people who might tempt you
- Avoid using drugs or alcohol
- Have an accountability partner to keep you on track
- Join a support group to meet people you can relate to
- Develop healthy coping skills, so you don’t default to negative patterns
Most of all, be honest. Being transparent with yourself, your loved ones, and a mental health professional will make a big difference in your recovery journey. If you can’t be honest with yourself about the addiction and how it’s affecting you, it will be difficult for you to accomplish sobriety.
If you feel your sex addiction has evolved beyond your control, you may benefit from seeking help at a treatment center. Begin Again Institute offers specialized programs for overcoming sex addictions that work to treat the cause, not the symptom. Our experienced counselors approach treatment from a trauma-informed perspective to uncover the root cause of the addiction and unlearn behaviors.
Once someone receives treatment for sex addiction and the trauma or other issues that cause it, Matt said their cravings begin subsiding in about six to eight weeks and continue to lessen the longer they’re sober.
Tips for Avoiding Relapse
Unfortunately, once you have a sex addiction, it’s always part of you. You’re always in recovery and working to stay sober. Many people with sex addictions relapse, but being in recovery means you go right back to doing the work of sobriety.
“Relapse is a part of recovery. When it does occur, it is usually around periods of high stress or trauma triggers,” Matt said. “The best steps to avoid relapse are to engage in ongoing trauma therapy, maintain a rigorous recovery program, engage in authentic and supportive communities of other recovering addicts, and live a life of transparency.”
Other ways to avoid relapse include:
- Develop Your Support Network. Surround yourself with trusted friends and family who will support and comfort you during your recovery journey.
- Avoid Triggers. Recognize the people, places, and situations that may compromise your healing. You may need to alter your schedule, commute, or daily activities to help you stay on track.
- Schedule Your Day. Lacking a schedule can leave space for slip-ups. Plan your activities and responsibilities ahead of time, so you don’t have the opportunity for old habits.
- Plan for Setbacks. Don’t beat yourself up over a relapse. You can always start again, no matter how many setbacks you may have. Develop a plan to help you get back on track if a relapse occurs.
- Find New Hobbies. Addiction has likely taken up much of your time and energy. It’s important to find new habits or activities that you enjoy as a replacement.
- Focus on Your Goals. Recovery isn’t easy. You may feel frustrated by your progress, but even baby steps are steps forward. You started the road to recovery for a reason. Don’t give up.
You Are More Than Addiction
Sex addiction doesn’t define you. There is always an opportunity to get help. At Begin Again Institute, we commit to trauma-informed and non-judgmental treatment, so you’ll always feel safe on your journey to overcoming sexual addiction.
Take back your life starting now. We’ll provide the tools you need to heal, rebuild, and live a life of purpose and authenticity. You just have to take the first step. Contact and visit us today to learn more.