Sexual desire is healthy, but some people may start to feel out of control of their sexual desires and behaviors. When sex begins to take over a person’s thoughts and behaviors, making it difficult for them to function in their regular life, it may be time to consider and explore how to treat sex addiction.
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.
A person with sex addiction likely repeatedly tries to stop their sexual behaviors but finds they can’t.
Signs of sex addiction include:
- Obsessive, consuming thoughts about sex
- Negative consequences as a result of sexual behaviors, like legal trouble or relationships issues
- Significant amount of time seeking sex
- Feelings of shame or guilt about your behaviors
- Mood swings
- Secretive behaviors and lying to others
- Failing personal relationships and withdrawal from loved ones
- Neglect of other obligations in the pursuit of sex
- Engagement in risky sexual behaviors such as unprotected or anonymous sex
Sex addiction progresses, and a person’s sexual behaviors become more frequent and extreme over time.
Is Sex Addiction Treatable?
Sex addiction is treatable, but it doesn’t just disappear. Once you have an addiction, you’ll have it forever, so you’ll always focus on recovering and staying sober.
“Addiction fundamentally alters neural pathways in the brain which remain, even when behaviors cease,” said Nate Geyer, a Primary Therapist at Begin Again Institute.
You can’t completely undo this alteration, but you can learn to control your behaviors. It all starts with getting the care and support you need.
The goal of sex addiction treatment is to get you into remission. Remission is when you feel in control of your sexual impulses. While it may be a long road to walk, it starts with a single step.
In treatment, you’ll learn the root cause of the addiction and resolve it first. Then you’ll learn how to control your desire to cope in adverse ways. Treatment focuses on giving you skills, tools, and healthy coping mechanisms to support your healing journey.
How to Treat Sex Addiction
Treatment for sex addiction will require you to identify, cope with, and heal from the root cause of the addiction, which likely is unresolved trauma. In addition to seeking professional help, there are steps you can begin taking independently to gain control of your impulses.
Identify and Avoid Sexual Triggers
A trigger causes you to think of something or enact a behavior. Delete apps you use for sex from your phone and computer. Learn relaxation techniques to help you control your emotions. Take a new route home that doesn’t go past a massage parlor. Figure out what triggers sexual behaviors and actively change or avoid those things.
Engage in Healthy Activities
Once you zero in on what leads to your sexual behaviors, replace your response to those triggers with healthier options. Let out pent-up anger by going to boxing classes. Journal away stress or other adverse emotions. The idea is for your brain to begin associating triggers with a healthy activity, making you want to do that instead of engaging in damaging coping mechanisms.
Also, don’t forget to exercise and eat well on a consistent basis because these healthy routines play a crucial role in everything you do, including healing and recovery. By eating healthy and exercising regularly, your brain and body will learn that you’re trustworthy and that you care.
Avoid Risky Situations
Just like an image on your phone could trigger compulsive sexual behaviors, so could an environment. Think about situations related to your sexual behaviors and avoid them. For example, avoid going to bars or nightclubs if that’s where you usually find a sexual partner. Avoid any situation that might make you want to engage in the behavior you’re trying to stop.
Build Your Support System
Community is key to recovering from addiction. If there was ever a time to rely on your support system, it’s now. Identify friends or loved ones who can help support you on your journey.
Nate said ongoing treatment, including group work, is critical to sobriety.
“It’s vital to seek resources and support from the community,” he said. “I truly believe in this mantra: ‘We do addiction in isolation, but heal in groups.'”
Discontinue Alcohol or Substance Use
Alcohol and other substances not only result in other addictions, but they also lower your inhibitions. Avoiding mind-altering substances will make you more aware of risky situations and give you the strength to avoid them. Discontinuing substance use also will help improve your overall mental and physical health.
Practice Stress Management
The biggest trigger for addictive tendencies is stressful circumstances. Mindful exercises such as yoga or meditation can help manage that stress. Staying conscious of your choices and living in the present moment means you pause before you make a decision. This simple pause can give you the time to stop a harmful behavior or thought.
Seeking Professional Help for Sex Addiction
Sex addiction is challenging to overcome, but sobriety is possible. To have the best chance at recovery, you may need to seek professional help.
Seek professional help if:
- Your level of risky sexual behavior continues to escalate
- You’re experiencing negative consequences resulting from your behavior
- You’re having trouble getting things done
- You’ve tried to stop or control your sexual behaviors but can’t
You deserve support and proper treatment for sex addiction. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can lead an authentic life.
Getting Help at Begin Again Institute
Begin Again Institute is here to help when you’re ready for support. We focus on treating sex addiction. Our unique programs can help you stop your compulsive sexual behaviors and heal. When you’re ready to work toward having a healthy relationship with sex, contact us. We’ll be ready whenever you are.