We understand that sex addiction can be just as devastating as substance abuse. Get treatment for sexual addiction that helps you reclaim your life. Our mental health professionals are trained in approaches that get to the root causes of your issues. You’ll begin healing from mental health disorders, trauma and relationship issues. Learn how to achieve and maintain healthy intimacy and loving relationships.

What Is Treatment for Sex Addiction Like?

Sex addiction can take many forms and can be just as debilitating as a drug or alcohol addiction. In a sex addiction treatment program, you’ll address underlying issues that lead to sexual compulsion as a coping mechanism. You’ll learn to recognize triggers and acquire healthier coping skills. Promises’ approach to sex addiction treatment draws on a number of traditional and alternative therapies. Individual psychotherapy focuses on easing feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem, and depression that often fuel compulsive sexual behaviors. Therapists who specialize in intimacy disorders and sex addiction treatment help you alter problematic behaviors.

Residential treatment at a sex addiction treatment center may include:


We’ll assess your physical and mental health. Thorough assessments help us create treatment plans that tackle issues that may accompany sex addiction like:

  • Underlying mental health disorders
  • Trauma
  • Substance abuse
  • Disordered eating and other compulsive behaviors

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

It’s common for people with sexual disorders to have co-occurring disorders like substance abuse and mental illness. One study by Iowa University researchers found of people with sex addiction:

  • 42% had a phobic disorder
  • 39% had depression
  • 64% had substance abuse

Compulsive sexual behaviors are also often a symptom of bipolar disorder.

Our behavioral health specialists will identify and address any mental health conditions. If medication is appropriate, you’ll meet regularly with our psychiatric team. We’ll educate you about any potential side effects. We’ll make sure your symptoms are improving and adjust medication as necessary. You’ll learn to manage mental health symptoms and recover from substance abuse.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy for sex addiction provides a safe space to explore difficult topics. You’ll develop a trusting therapeutic relationship with a mental health professional. They’ll help you address issues that may surround sex addiction like:

  • Shame
  • Vulnerability
  • Trauma such as being sexually abused as a child
  • Unhealthy attachment styles
  • Poor sexual health

Our behavioral health professionals draw on different types of approaches. Some of these may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy and dialectical behavior therapy.

Group Therapy

Sex addiction treatment programming includes several small groups. You’ll connect with peers sharing similar struggles. Group therapy programs are an important part of treating sex addiction. It can help you address shame you feel around your behaviors. You’ll discover the gifts in vulnerability and open and honest interactions. Group therapy helps you get to some of the underlying interpersonal patterns that can contribute to poor sexual health.

Family Therapy

man and woman in bed and covered by sheets in a passionate embrace before they go to a sex addiction treatment centerCompulsive sexual behaviors have a profound impact on loved ones. Whether you’ve been unfaithful or have neglected loved ones because of compulsive sexual acts, they’ve suffered too. Sex addiction treatment options include couples or family therapy programs as appropriate. We’ll help you rebuild trust and healthy intimacy. With the help of a trained mental health professional, you’ll work to repair your relationships.

Alternative Therapies

Inpatient treatment for sex disorders may include traditional as well as alternative therapies. These approaches provide more ways to control sexual urges that are problematic. Practices like mindfulness help you manage thoughts that fuel compulsive sexual acts. Creative outlets like art therapy and music therapy give you alternative ways to deal with triggers. Therapies like EMDR and Somatic Experiencing can help you heal from past trauma. We offer an array of alternative approaches to help you recover.

Support Groups

Unlike treatment for alcohol and drug addiction, those seeking sex addiction treatment are not asked to abstain from sex entirely. You’re encouraged to learn to control your behaviors and associate sex with relationships. In addition to individual and group therapy, 12-step support and psychiatric medications may be integrated into treatment plans.

Aftercare Planning

You’ll develop resilience and healthy coping skills in residential treatment. You’ll also prepare for life after treatment with an aftercare plan that may include:

Treatment and recovery from sex addiction is often an ongoing process. Just like other addictions, you may have setbacks. These are opportunities to learn and move forward.

About Sex Addiction

The National Council on Sex Addiction and Compulsivity defines sexual addiction as, “engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.” In other words, someone with a sexual compulsion will continue behaviors despite negative consequences like:

  • Divorce
  • Health risks
  • Financial troubles
  • Legal trouble
  • Job loss

For many people, sexual compulsivity is not about pleasure from sexual acts. Sex is a way to feel less lonely, numb painful feelings and remedy boredom. When compulsive behaviors and thoughts begin to disrupt daily life, people should seek out sex addiction help from a specially trained therapist or look into residential sex addiction treatment centers.

Is Sex Addiction Real?

Sex addiction is just as real as substance abuse and other compulsive addictive behaviors. Like other addictions, people with sex addiction become so obsessed with sexual desires and behaviors that it affects their health, relationships, and careers.

Recognition by the World Health Organization

Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not yet recognize sexual compulsivity as a disorder, it’s a very real and serious problem. The World Health Organization classifies it as a legitimate diagnosis. They designate it as a compulsive sexual behavior disorder. Some research estimates sex addiction affects 3-6% of American adults. This number may actually be higher because some people may be too ashamed to seek treatment.

Similarities to Other Addictions

Sex addiction resembles many characteristics of drug addiction and eating disorders like binge-eating disorder. Compulsively engaging in porn, sex, masturbation and other behaviors can affect the reward center of the brain in similar ways addictive drugs impact the release of dopamine. Like substance abusers, sex addicts may develop a tolerance to the effects of their behaviors. They need to engage in more of the behavior (or more unusual behaviors) to produce pleasurable feelings.

Like people who abuse drugs, sex addicts might use compulsive sexual behaviors to cope with past trauma, symptoms of mental health disorders or life stressors. Compulsive sexual behaviors are sometimes used as a self-protective attempt to avoid vulnerable, close relationships with others. This is especially true if the sex addict has experienced early life trauma or pain or abuse in past relationships.

Brain Differences

Some research shows people addicted to sex have similar brain activity as people addicted to substances. Researchers in one study showed sexual stimuli to people with sex addiction. They also showed drug stimuli to substance abusers. Brain scans indicated the same regions of the brain were active in both groups. When people without substance use disorders or sex addiction were shown similar stimuli, they did not experience these brain changes.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Compulsive sexual acts change the brain. With regular heightened levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, the brain thinks this is the “new normal.” Sometimes people addicted to sex experience withdrawal symptoms in the absence of these behaviors. This is similar to how people who abuse substances experience withdrawal without drugs or alcohol.

Is Love Addiction a Type of Sex Addiction?

Love addiction and sex addiction are different manifestations of the same misguided quest for an ideal form of relationship. Like all forms of addiction, they center on compulsive, recurring actions to bring a pleasurable reward. Chemically speaking, the pleasurable reward for sexual activity is largely due to increased levels of two naturally occurring brain substances—dopamine and norepinephrine. They increase overall activity in a portion of the brain called the limbic system.

Similarly, the emotional experience of love comes largely from increased levels of a substance in the brain called phenylethylamine. It produces higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine when people feel in love. People with love/sex addictions persistently engage in behaviors that increase their levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and/or phenylethylamine. They do this so much that it may eventually trigger changes in normal brain chemistry.

What Are Common Co-Occurring Disorders with Sex Addiction?

Dual diagnosis research into sex addiction is still relatively new. Some research finds people with sex addiction sometimes have co-occurring conditions like:

Diagnosing Sex and Love Addiction: The DSM-V

The American Psychiatric Association periodically updates its mental health disorder definitions in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). A previous version of this guide, called DSM-III, contained a definition of sexual addiction. Medical professionals used this when making a mental health diagnosis. This definition was removed from the DSM-IV for a lack of agreement among experts in the field and insufficient supporting research on the subject. Despite the lack of official standing for love addiction and sex addiction in the medical/psychiatric community, psychologists still frequently use these terms when describing certain attitudes and behaviors in the people they treat.

Although the DSM-V does not include a definition of love addiction or sex addiction, it does include a recommendation to investigate a future definition for hypersexual disorder. If approved at some future date, this disorder will likely belong to a larger group of conditions known as behavioral addictions.

Signs You May Need Sex Addiction Treatment

Risk factors of sexual compulsivity may begin with activities like:

  • Excessive masturbation
  • Obsessive use of pornography
  • Partaking in phone sex services
  • Unsafe sex
  • Multiple partners
  • Compulsive dating
  • Uncontrollable sexual desire

If a compulsive sexual disorder develops, the severity of the symptoms increase. These acts are harmful to people’s health and their relationships with loved ones.

There’s a clinical difference between people who have healthy sexual urges and people whose lives are spiraling out of control because of sexual activity. You may need to seek help from sex addiction treatment centers if you experience some of the below:

  • Multiple affairs or frequent one-night stands
  • Compulsive masturbation with or without pornography
  • Losing hours to online pornography or traditional forms of porn
  • Frequent anonymous or casual sex with or without the help of online apps or websites
  • Prostituting oneself or obtaining the services of prostitutes
  • Risky behavior to obtain sex or risky behavior around sex (having unprotected sex with strangers or engaging in sexual offenses like voyeurism and exhibitionism)
  • Frequenting sex-focused environments like strip clubs and online sex chat groups and adult book stores
  • Using excessive alcohol and illegal drugs to enhance sex or cope with shame
  • Legal, financial or personal problems due to sexual behaviors
  • Negative consequences to health because of sexual acts such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like genital warts, HIV and gonorrhea
  • Sexual dysfunction as a result of compulsive sexual behaviors

Rebuild Your Life

If sex addiction and intimacy issues are hijacking your life, we can help. Call one of our compassionate recovery experts now. The conversation is confidential and free. Call our treatment facility today.

Posted on July 21, 2017 and modified on April 13, 2019