Sex addiction is a psychological disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and behaviors that negatively impact a person’s life. As with other addictions, sex addiction often sparks destructive habits in which the person engages in sexual gratification, regardless of personal consequences and despite any detriment to personal relationships and daily life.
As a type of compulsive behavior, it affects an individual’s ability to engage in healthy relationships, work and school, and social activities. It causes a loss of control of sexual thoughts and activities, resulting in a destructive pattern of behavior.
Treating sex addiction relies on specialized knowledge of its causes and the various sex addiction symptoms and treatment options.
How is Sex Addiction Diagnosed?
There isn’t an official diagnostic criterion for sex addiction yet, but it can be determined by spotting the symptoms.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the official manual for diagnosing mental health conditions, doesn’t have a category for sex addiction. But it has a section on hypersexuality disorder and states that excessive sexual thoughts or behaviors can be considered an addiction if they cause “significant impairment” in your life.
If you feel like you have issues related to sex addiction — whether it’s because you can’t stop masturbating or watching porn or because you’re concerned about a loved one — there are certain symptoms you can look for.
Sex Addiction: Symptoms and Treatment
A mental health professional can recognize sex addiction. They will then help you understand the root cause of the addiction, understand and heal from it, then stop the behaviors.
Understanding the Symptoms
Understanding the symptoms of sex addiction can help you recognize it and begin to consider various treatment options. These symptoms include:
- Acting Against Beliefs. Indulging in sexual behaviors opposed to one’s own beliefs and that are considered sinful.
- Dishonesty. Lying to oneself, spouse, or other loved ones about sexual behaviors.
- Distress in Daily Life. Consistent stress or anxiety, guilt, and shame over the behavior.
- Feeling Remorseful. Regret over dishonesty, distress, and the behavior itself.
- Lack of Control. Inability to stop certain behaviors, regardless of the consequences.
- Obsession. Fixation on sexual content or adverse emotions which trigger behavior.
- Relationship Problems. Trust issues, fighting, and other relationship problems because of the behavior.
- Inability to Stop. Sexual behavior is increasing, and you can’t stop, even when you try.
- Unsafe Sex. Pursuit of intercourse with others without regard to personal health or relationships.
Addressing these symptoms, regardless of which ones you experience, is best done through structured support, such as psychological treatment.
Common Forms of Treatment
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treating sex addiction because everyone’s needs differ. Finding a licensed professional and recovery center that understands your specific needs and can offer personalized care and support for your recovery goals is essential.
When choosing treatment, consider:
- Co-Addiction Therapy. This type of therapy treats both sex addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder, like anxiety or depression.
- In-Patient Programs. These programs require patients to live at the facility for a certain period while undergoing treatment that includes group therapy, psychoeducation, and individual counseling.
- Intensives. Intensives, like Boulder Recovery’s 14-day Christian Men’s Intensive, help launch Christian men into recovery while restoring their faith.
- Partner Support. Sex addiction impacts marriages and partners may experience betrayal trauma. Partner support programs help the partner of someone with sex addiction heal.
- Psychotherapy. Individual therapy with a trained professional, especially with a faith-based approach, is critical when addressing sex addiction behaviors and habits.
- Self-Help Groups. Support is vital to restoring and healing the various causes of sex addiction. Regardless of the severity of any behaviors, self-help is ideal for ongoing support.
Various treatment options exist for sex addiction. Understanding sex addiction symptoms and treatment helps you consider the right options for you.
When to Seek Treatment for Sex Addiction
There are many reasons a person may seek treatment for sex addiction. For example, many people with sex addiction experience the inability to control their impulses, which can lead to serious consequences. Other times, people may need help with their physical or mental health to get back on track and lead healthier lives.
Sex addiction is a serious mental health issue. Matt Wenger, Clinical Director at Boulder Recovery, said treatment is necessary to heal from sex addiction.
“Treatment allows men to deal with the underlying trauma that resulted in the addiction and provides new and more effective tools for combating urges,” he said. “Sex addiction treatment can result in experiencing life in a more grounded, emotionally connected way. Clients who go through treatment often begin a new life more aligned with their values and authentic self.”
Find Help at Boulder Recovery
There are various forms of treatment for sex addiction. If you’re looking for help with sex addiction symptoms and treatment, consider seeking faith-based treatment that accommodates your beliefs – while still providing the professional help you deserve. Contact Boulder Recovery to learn more.