How to Recognize the Signs of Sexual Addiction

Posted on March 18th, 2011

Excerpts from this paper regarding the nature of sexual addiction

About 3% to 6% of Americans have sexual addiction.

Sexual addiction often coexists with chemical dependency, and untreated sex addiction contributes to relapse to chemical use.

Milkman and Sunderwirth have classified sex addiction as an arousal addiction because its effects on the brain are similar to the effects of cocaine, amphetamines, compulsive gambling, and risk-taking behaviors. In contrast, addiction to alcohol, sedatives or hypnotics, and food are considered satiation addictions.

Like chemical dependency, sexual addiction is a family disease. Spouses of sex addicts, or “coaddicts,” usually grew up in a dysfunctional family, where they acquired a set of core beliefs that resulted in low self-esteem and difficulty in relationships. They may believe that they are not worthwhile, that no one could love them for themselves, that they can control and are responsible for others, and that sex is the most important sign of love.

Sexual addiction is often accompanied by other addictions. Physicians’ understanding of this fact is important because sex addiction contributes significantly to the AIDS epidemic and because efforts to control sexual addiction are often confounded by coexistent problems.

Since many patients are reluctant to talk about sexual problems, primary care physicians are not likely to suspect sexual addiction unless they ask the right questions

Excerpts from the paper regarding the treatment of sexual addiction

Unlike the goal in treatment of chemical dependency, which is abstinence from use of all psychoactive substances, the therapeutic goal in sex addiction is abstinence only from compulsive sexual behavior with adaptation of healthy sexuality. Sexual addiction treatment programs suggest that patients abstain from all sexual activities, including masturbation, for 30 to 90 days to demonstrate that they can live without sex.

The most important predictor of relapse after treatment of sexual addiction is failure of the spouse to be involved in the treatment program.

For patients who are suicidal or who need a change of environment to begin their recovery, several inpatient treatment programs for sex addiction are available in the United States.

Facilities that do not address sex addiction may refer patients to other centers or to therapists if sexual issues are detected during treatment for chemical dependency.

The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been adapted for use in programs for eating disorders, compulsive gambling, sex addiction, and other addictions. Attendance at a program dealing with sexual addiction can be extremely helpful in the recovery process.

Download the full paper

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