Sex Addiction Treatment at Promises
Sex addiction can take many forms and can be just as debilitating as a drug or alcohol addiction. Like treatment for other addictions, in sex addiction treatment, clients address underlying issues that have led to sexual compulsion as a coping mechanism, learn to recognize triggers and acquire healthier coping skills. They’ll also learn how to achieve and maintain healthy intimacy and loving relationships.
Promises’ approach to sex addiction treatment draws on a number of traditional and alternative therapies. Trauma treatment groups and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) are sometimes used to help clients heal from childhood physical and sexual trauma, while 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 work with clients to develop new coping strategies and alter behaviors.
Unlike treatment for alcohol and drug addiction, those seeking sex addiction treatment are not asked to abstain from sex entirely, but instead are encouraged to learn to control their behaviors and positively associate sex with relationships. In addition to individual and group therapy, 12-step support and psychiatric medications may be integrated into treatment plans.
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 his or her behaviors despite negative, life-changing consequences like divorce, health risks, financial troubles and even being arrested. The individual becomes so obsessed with sexual desires and behaviors that it negatively affects other areas of their lives, such as relationships and careers. Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not yet recognize sexual compulsivity as a disorder, it is a very real and serious problem for an estimated three to six percent of American adults.
For many people, sexual compulsivity is not about the pleasure one receives from sexual acts—instead, sex is often used as a way to feel less lonely, become numb to painful feelings and avoid boredom. When compulsive behaviors and thoughts begin to function with daily life, people should seek out sex addiction help from a specially trained therapist or look into residential sex addiction treatment centers.
Love Addiction and Sex Addiction
Love addiction and sex addiction can readily be viewed as different manifestations of the same misguided quest for an ideal form of relationship. Like all forms of addiction, they center on compulsive, recurring actions initially meant to bring a pleasurable reward. Chemically speaking, the pleasurable reward for sexual activity is largely the result of increased levels of two naturally occurring brain substances—dopamine and norepinephrine—that 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, which in turn produces higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. People with love/sex addictions persistently engage in behaviors that increase their levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and/or phenylethylamine, which eventually trigger changes in normal brain chemistry.
Diagnosing Sex and Love Addiction
The American Psychiatric Association periodically updates its mental health disorder definitions in a reference guide called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM. A previous version of this guide, called DSM-III, contained a definition of sexual addiction that doctors could use when making a mental health diagnosis. However, this definition was removed from the DSM-IV for stated reasons that included 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 real-world 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.
Similarities to Other Addictions
Research shows that 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, similar to the way many addictive drugs impact the release of dopamine. Like substance abusers, sex addicts may develop a tolerance to the effects of their behaviors and 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, especially if the sex addict has experienced early life trauma or pain or abuse in past relationships.
Signs You May Need Sex Addiction Treatment
Signs and symptoms of sexual compulsivity may begin with excessive masturbation, obsessive use of pornography, or partaking in phone sex services. As the disorder develops, the severity of the symptoms increases. Individuals may compulsively date, engage in unsafe sex and may have multiple or extra-marital affairs. These acts are harmful not only to the individual’s health, but also to their relationships with loved ones.
There is a clinical difference between someone who has a healthy interest in sex and someone whose life is spiraling out of control because of sexual behaviors. Indicators that you may need to seek out help from sexual addiction treatment centers include:
- Multiple affairs
- 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
- Legal, financial or personal problems due to sexual behaviors
Ready to Get Sex Addiction Help?
If sex addiction and intimacy issues are hijacking your life, we can help. Call one of our compassionate recovery experts for a free, confidential consultation: 844-876-5568
To learn more about Sexual Compulsivity, call 844-876-5568